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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Day to Day

­The past couple of days have been our first unscheduled time in Shanghai. You would think that with my new abundance of ‘free’ time I would head out to the Bund, spend a day on the Pudong side, and maybe take some trips out of the city or in some cases the country itself. Yet I find myself heading back to the French Concession. I place that has been part of my everyday these past five weeks. There is something about having the ability to wander. No pressing deadlines, no obligations, just time to walk.

Most amazing is the fact that I never noticed a bookstore at the corner of one of the streets I walk by to get dinner. My mind set during earlier times was dinner, maybe a drink or two, head back to hotel, sleep, wake up early, eat breakfast, catch the morning tram to the train station, get onto line one, exit, walk to MADA, work for studio, grab lunch, class starts, class ends, then back to dinner. It is not to say that I did not notice strange and miraculous things on my trek to class but I definitely noticed more on my trek to nowhere.

In Henri Lefebvre’s The Everyday and Everydayness, he states, “The Everyday implies on the one hand cycles, nights, and days, seasons and harvests, activity and rest, hunger and satisfaction, desires and its fulfillment, life and death, and it implies on the other hand the repetitive gestures of work and consumption.” He than states further, “In modern life, the repetitive gestures tend to mask and to crush the cycles.” To be honest when I first read this I did not quite understand what Lefebvre was getting at but now, having the chance to begin to reflect on the past couple weeks, it’s becoming clearer. When we arrived in Shanghai, after our extensive travels, it was no longer about sight seeing and I began to experience the city not only as a traveler but somewhere in between that and a local; the daily rhythm of hotel then class and moving from A to B becoming the norm.

Lefebvre then continues with; “The days follow one after another and resemble one another, and yet –here lies the contradiction of the heart of everydayness –everything changes.” And as I continue to analyze my everyday the more I realize this is true. My everyday route to studio never changes yet the way I walk changes each day as I avoid spit and/or that biker squeezing through a crowd of people on the narrowest street possible. These minute things changing my morning walk, even just for a second.

It’s a strange balance between stationary/mobility and place/people. Buildings, in terms of structure, are typically static. You walk by the same built form each day yet the people walking by, the activities inside, the bikes parked along the side-walk, are never the same. These minute changes seem too small and in the moment but multiply these moments by the nth degree and you have an environment that is shifting and morphing constantly into something new and exciting. A great example of this is the alley we take to get to MADA. Here people’s everyday begins to influence me and the way I experience the city. The buildings in the background begin to vary in texture as families put their clothes out to dry. Who cannot forget a bright pair of orange underwear blowing in the wind? In the middle ground there are the cats that constantly strut atop the back wall. And in the foreground, the elementary/middle school students walking through, signaling an end to their day half way between studio as the delivery bikes constantly stream by as they take a short cut to the parallel street. And it all ends with us walking into that very alley to head off to dinner.

– Precious

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AAU FALL 2013:

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

Director:
Andrew Liang
Instructors:
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
Students:
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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