[Image> pink car in shanghai, by deconcrete 2009]
“It may well be that the car is a kind of placebo for freedoms yet ungained in China. An automobile also provides a luxurious measure of privacy and personal space. In China […] an automobile is a piece of real estate as well as a means of getting about town.” As Campanella describes it in The Concrete Dragon, cars acquire the function of cocoons in aggressive megacities, providing climate-control, high-tech sound system, shelter from noise and air pollution, and a kingdom where the driver is the absolute sovereign.
During the cosmopolitan urban 1920s-30s in China, some projects already envisioned reusing medieval city walls as elevated highways, anticipating a huge demand of automobiles in society. After the lapse of Mao-era, where bicycles were almost as numerous as citizens, cars seem today to have long overtaken other sustainable means of transport. Whereas Western cities regard bicycles as the future for urban mobility, Shanghai bans its use in many old district streets for the sake of luxurious cars. Nonetheless, it is in this framework of anti-bicycle city policy, that World Expo 2010 brings with it paradoxically the marketing of bike-renting initiatives. In spite of this masquerade, Biking in Shanghai nowadays leads one to get stuck at most crossings without being able to keep on riding, but to ride back again and try next street.
Automobile City malls are blossoming in every Chinese coastal city, together with Drive-in cinemas (where carless people could even rent one to watch the movie), Mac-Autos, and pay-per-lap Formula Three tracks (where drivers can race against each other in their own vehicles).
[Image> city wall as elevated highway, china ca. 1930 in The Concrete Dragon by T.J. Campanella]
[Image> Maple Garden drive-in cinema, beijing, with reused concrete pavers from Tiananmen Square as flooring, by Robert Worby via bbc]
[Image> elevated roads, shanghai, by deconcrete 2009]
[Source> The Concrete Dragon, by J.T. Campanella]