USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Highway to Development

Urbanism; the focal point of our entire semester abroad.  Twelve cities, nine hotels, seven flights, six high speed trains, subways, taxi rides, countless miles covered on foot, and most recently an eight kilometer bicycle tour.  From infrastructure to infratecture, urban sprawl to hyper-density, developing to developed, the city has been our life.  With the feeling of total immersion beginning to set in as we approach the four-month marker, our weekend trip to Xian could not have come at a better time.  A rare opportunity to experience the rural country towns provided a much-needed release from our daily routine in Shanghai.  As our bus edged further and further from our hotel in downtown Xian, the density of the city center began to fade away, along with every other sense of the urban.  City blocks were replaced by farming plots, dense fabric with crumbling residences, highways with dirt roads.  Our final destination was the Jade Valley winery, at which a private tour and wine tasting awaited us.  As we stepped out of the bus, and began ascending the hillside towards the vineyards, thoughts of endless fields filled my mind, entirely devoid of structure, of concrete, of man.  I was expecting nature, I was expecting vastness, I was expecting tranquility.  I was not expecting what actually was.

There, staring me in the face just beyond the vineyard, was the beginnings of an enormous piece of urban infrastructure; a multi-lane superhighway that will eventually link Shanghai with Xian, providing an express land route.  This was the last thing I expected to see.  What was equally impressive was the development beginning to sprout up atop and beneath the vineyard hillside, and more so that it is largely the result of a single man… our Dean Qingyun Ma.  With plans for a sixty-room hotel, expansion of the winery facilities, and soon a major expressway passing through, Ma is slowly building the small town of Yushan into a potential destination.  Granted the town has a long, long way to go, it is still intriguing to speculate about the beginnings of an urban agenda.

This situation reminded me of a previous instance along our journey; the highway linking Hong Kong and Shenzhen.  As this infrastructural route is firm in place, new developments have already arisen along the way.  Like Yushan, these destinations were relatively rural, and fall within Hong Kong’s under-developed expanse between the two larger city centers.  As an urban model, this example speaks to the power of infrastructure, and its ability to spur growth in otherwise undeveloped areas.  Whether or not Yushan and other peripheral towns of Xian develop similarly after the superhighway link to Shanghai is completed is hard to say.  The dedication to development is there, and the infrastructure is fast approaching.  Time is the only remaining factor.




Filed under: About, China, Uncategorized, Urbanism

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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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