USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Not as dumb as a Dumbbell

The Dumbbell operational strategy has been touched upon more and more now during our time in Shanghai and with good reason. The Dumbbell operational strategy can be understood the easiest when using the example of the modern-day American mall. If an American mall can be understood as a horizontal linear organization, with a prominent clothing company anchoring each end, whether it be Louis Vuitton, Prada, or Gucci, and a variety of medium to low-end stores lining the area in between. Essentially, the two anchor points attract shoppers from one end to the other, with the real estate becoming more and more sought after as it gets closer to the ends.

We have seen this operational methodology put into practice in a vertical configuration at Tokyo Midtown. At Tokyo Midtown, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel occupies the top of one of the plaza towers while the basement program consists of general food and shopping. The in-between program consists of shopping, food, and office space, with the two opposing program of general food and the Ritz working as attractors to pull people up or down through the building.

Another instance of the Dumbbell methodology being used is in the Bund area in Shanghai. The Bund is European-style historical district along the riverfront that houses high-end shopping, entertainment, and dining, as well as a prominent view of the Shanghai waterfront across the river. On the other end of the ‘dumbbell’ is the People’s Square, which is a cultural city landmark. In between the two locations is a highly dense area of shopping, shopping, and more shopping, with the People’s Park and the Bund drawing people through the retail area.

What happens when you apply this operational methodology on a macro urban scale?

That question is going to be answered soon as result of the initiative being put forth by the Chinese government in Shanghai. This proposal includes the creation of a second city center around the Hongquiao airport, which will be primarily a commercial and convention urban center. When the project is completed, the area will contain an international airport that will cater mainly to other Asian countries as well as Chinese domestic flights, while the Pudong airport will cater to the rest of the international community. In addition to the airport, Hongquiao will also have a high-speed rail, a magnet train, local metro-lines, and a bus terminal that will turn the area into a major urban node. In the area west of the airport there will be a convention and commercial district similar to the one near the historical part of the Shanghai. The idea is that by creating two commercial centers, the dumbbell effect will come into play and create growth along the linear trajectory between the two centers, which will also alleviate tension on the historical district. It will also allow for the kind of growth to occur that the historical district cannot accommodate.

A proposal like that has never done before, so no one is sure what the results will yield. There are more questions than answers for me:

Can a city center operate successfully in close proximity to an airport?

Can there be successful residential in the area near the airport that would serve the commercial center?

Could this new center in Hongquiao become bigger than the current historical center?

If it does, what will happen to the current center?

Can the Dumbbell methodology work on a large macro-scale?

If you look at the success of the Dumbbell, all signs point to yes.

-Christopher Glenn


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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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