Saturday, July 14, 2007

Density, squared


The walled city
Shanghai, China, May 2007 [Click to enlarge]


It's difficult to explain just how densely populated this city is. The kind of image most often used to tell this story is typically a people-choked streetscape. And not to worry, I've got plenty of those in my archives. But it was this image, taken at 5:44 a.m., that will forever sear the incredible density of this place into my brain.

I remember sitting in my quiet perch on the very top floor of the hotel after taking this picture, trying to understand how such an architectural monstrosity could have been conceived. In the end, I gave up: I doubt any of this was a clean sheet design. It was likely added to in haphazard fashion over the years as needs grew and available space shrank. It was a set of constraints that the average North American likely would never understand. Which was why I was glad I got to witness something like this first-hand.

At that moment, I felt my understanding of the broader world expand just a little bit more. One doesn't judge this kind of discovery, after all. Rather, one must understand how it came to be.

Your turn: What do you think when you see a building like this?

26 comments:

PI said...

Who's a naughty boy then? We love you just the same. This post reminds me of when MTL and I had a cottage in Yorkshire and to get to it we had to drive through industrial Lancashire where I was born. One day I was regretting those 'satanic mills' and he made me see them in a totally different light - as part of our history and which gave employment to thousands of people who otherwise would have been on the dole. Michele says hi!

Jadedprimadonna said...

I agree with you - it couldn't have been planned this way... surely not! When I see it, I feel like I did when I was lying on my back, getting an MRI... a choking feeling...

~Cathy~ said...

Are those houses on the inside of the outside of the building (did that make sense?! LOL)?

What a neat shot... haven't ever seen anything like it.

Michele sent me today...

gautami tripathy said...

What do I think? Nothing!

India too has has dense places like this. Denser at some places. We ar so used to looking at those that it has stopped having any effect.

BTW, thanks for your insightful comments.!

PS: You must not neglect your kids. We DON'T want that all.

And no, michele did not send me here.

PPS: You are always welcome to India..

craziequeen said...

Aw honey........you know I'ma country girl......
That picture makes me feel nauseous...

[gulp]

Michele sent me to see the man she called 'wonderful'.....[chuckle]

cq

Mr. Althouse said...

It looks like everything was built without any consideration of future growth. It reminds me of some very old cities that just popped up - boom towns, really. No rhyme or reason - just build.

Michele sent me,

Mike

R. Sherman said...

Hey Carmi.

Here on my own. I've a friend who just got back from a three week tour of China and he voiced the same thoughts. For us who live in less densely populated areas, it is so difficult to wrap our minds around the sheer numbers of people that exist in some areas of the world.

Great pics, as always.

Cheers.

Lisa said...

Looking at that picture makes my claustrophobia kick into high gear. I can't imagine living like that. Of course, when that's landscape of where you're born and raised, its your "normal".

But seriously, it makes me want to go outside and run around in the grass...

Lisa said...

p.s. Michele sent me!! (I always forget that part.. lol)

utenzi said...

I was fine with the small version of the picture, Carmi, but I got a little jolt of claustrophobia when I viewed it in the large format. I can't imagine having to go home to that everyday. It'd be like living in your neighbors lap everyday. Eeeek!

Michele sent me over.

rashbre said...

Incredible,; a set of houses within houses. Every square metre being used. Amazing and well observed.

Bernie said...

This reminds me of Conway Castle in Llandudno Nth Wales (I was there in 2005). The city of Conway, was built within the outer wall of the Castle. Very tight inside, and the typical double decker bus (famouse in the UK) only just manages to fit through...
Always a pleasure stopping by.
Here from Michel's this Sunday morning...

BreadBox said...

Carmi,
This is reminiscent, for absolutely no reason whatever, of the prison on the river Neva in St. Petersburg in Russia, seen from a completely different angle. Scarily so. Weird.

N.

Oh, yes, Hello, Michele sent me!

BreadBox said...

Hmm... I tried to leave a comment and it wouldn't show. I'll try again.

This looks strikingly, perhaps scarily like the prison on the Neva river in St Petersburg, Russia, albeit from a totally different angle.
Actually, I suspect they look nothing alike, but this reminds me of that place, nonetheless.

Not that I've been inside it, or anything...
n.

BreadBox said...

D'oh. Comment moderation.
N slaps self on head in stupid mode.

N.

Tiffany said...

WOW!!!!! Thats just crazy! I always enjoy your pictures! Here via michele

jsdaughter said...

I think of how grateful I am to live in 'the land of cornfields!' Though I often complain about the scenery where I live, I am truly blessed to be where I am.

surcie said...

It seems so claustrophobic to me. But I need s-p-a-c-e. Just ask my husband, who's always teasing me about sleeping on the edge of my side of our king-sized bed.

gautami tripathy said...

As I michele insisted I sing lullabies to the munchkins, I am back.

This post of your set me thinking for yet another poetry. When I finish the last one and this too, I will let you know...

JC said...

Makes me think how fortunate I am to have plenty of room between neighbors.

Makes me feel a bit claustrophobic, also.

Musing said...

My first thought? Pretty blue roofs.

My second thought: where do they park??

Catherine said...

It's not so much the sense of claustrophobia that bothers me, as the feeling that the sunlight just has no chance to penetrate those inner buildings. Since it's winter here, I cherish every scrap of sunlight that makes its way through my windows.

b13 said...

I'm feeling claustraphobic just looking at that shot. Great angle you got on that. Walking past it one would never know.

Anna said...

Wow that is packed! :) It makes me want to panic when I see it.

Joy T. said...

One word. Claustrophobic!

Crafty Green Poet said...

That looks, well words don't describe. Thanks for sharing.