URBAN GORILLA

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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Which came first?

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Urban and life system are generating and shaping different mentalities. We shop based on our needs, and these needs totally depend on our lifestyles. What I have experienced in Asia so far is that the American mentality is not even close to that of these Asian countries. One of the most common activities in day to day life around the world is shopping. When shopping in China, the differences in size, quality, and quantity between these two nations becomes very easy to see. Seeing these differences, I have begun to question whether our mentalities and needs create the system, or whether the system shapes the citizen’s mentality and needs.
Shopping in general doesn’t have the same meaning for everyone. In Los Angeles, when we talk about shopping, we are obviously mentioning a destination. Wherever we go, a car is a necessity. We must get in the car, choose a destination, drive, deal with traffic, find a parking spot, and after this long process finally shop. The way the city is organized on the urban level works for us; we don’t have any other way. Even for a simple trip to the grocery store, we have to consider the time we will have to spend on it. In order to reduce it as much as possible, we avoid traffic by choosing not to make the grocery trip during rush hours. Additionally, a second strategy we use to save travel time overall is to buy bigger quantities and store them at home. (Costco is definitely a good example of this.) Therefore, the fact is that both are true; the urban system shapes the American mentality while this type of mentality encourages businesses like Costco to open, thus generating the system.
Our experiences in Hong Kong and Shenzhen are totally different than what we have experienced before. We were walking through central Hong Kong for hours. The entire time, I was amazed by how people shop by walking on the street. Most of them use public transportation and even carry their groceries by hand. I explored the Sam’s Club in Guangzhou. Even though it is an American brand, the products were totally different, especially in size. Even the quantities weren’t anything close to those in the US because it has to be possible to carry the items.
At one point, we were walking outside in Shenzhen when it began raining really hard. My classmate Julia’s shoes were slippery so she wanted to buy another pair, but we were all walking on a very busy street and didn’t really have time to stop somewhere. Nevertheless, she kept looking for new, cheap shoes in every store we passed. I was amazed when Julia appeared with new shoes less than two minutes. This would definitely not have been possible in the US, where shopping for shoes is a much more involved process. But the way Shenzhen is organized gives us the opportunity to shop like that. The mentality and system both play big roles in our lives. They are working together and shaping one another as they go.

Shahab Rahimi

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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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