USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Rural Refuge

One cannot fully comprehend the characterizing qualities of a city without recognizing and engaging in the opposing aspect of regional genres: the rural territories.  This being a study abroad program aimed at expanding our knowledge on the traits and behaviors urban cities encompass, it becomes important that we delve out into the traits of surrounding, anti-metropolis areas.  Observing a concept outside of a major city which has opposing concepts allows for one to easily point out the unique attributes that apply exclusively to the city, and vice versa in a rural area.

Traveling to Xi’an for the weekend provided just this, and more.  It is becoming apparent how important it is to not only place myself in the opposite end of the spectrum of “city-life”, but also how much more susceptible to seeing and absorbing information I can be when placed into an area contrary from the cities we have been residing in for the duration of this program.  From a countryside winery to biking tandem around the city wall of Xi’an, this weekend provided a nice sense of relief from the city.

One of the most significant parts of this weekend for me was taking the bike ride across the 8.5 mile-long city wall.  The wall, being 12 meters tall, allowed for a bike ride which takes place above the streets, providing a different interaction with Xi’an than walking the streets or riding a bus.  Although a city like Shanghai (or any city for that matter) is more efficient due to the subway, it also provides such disconnect from the city itself.  The subway does not allow for the pure vision of an area that I was experiencing while riding across the city wall of Xi’an…a downfall of city-life for several people.  Not immersing myself in a rural area would not have allowed me to realize this idea.  It seems to me that life in the city would provide more of a connection to its surroundings and life in a more rural area, such as Xi’an would encompass large disconnect from its buildings, transportation systems, etc.  The bike ride along the city wall was not the only time I felt a connection and sense of place in Xi’an.  It was also experienced in the area where Dean Ma’s winery is located, where the picturesque landscapes provided the connection, regardless of my location.  For the most part, I knew my bearings throughout the weekend, which, even after all this time in Shanghai, does not happen nearly as often as it should.

In comparing the two extremes of the distinctions between the rural area and the city this weekend, I came to wonder…can rural areas, such as Xi’an, survive without the city and vice versa?  Or do the two regions feed off of each other?  I think at first glance, it appears that they are completely independent of one another. After all, they are practically polar opposites, but maybe that is what allows them to collide every once and a while.  Without one, I could not have become more perceptive to the other.  Even if that is the only way the two collide, it is certainly a worthwhile form of comparison.  Sometimes, being amidst a developed city, it becomes easy to forget the history and continue moving on with the new.



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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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