USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Walk the Walk

Infrastructure is essential to the operation of a city.  Without it, people would not be able to easily access urban nodes throughout the city fabric, causing development and density to suffer from a lack of activation.  So powerful is this element in the forming of metropolises, that it becomes one of the defining characteristics of the city’s identity.  Hong Kong is identified by its elevated walkways.  These causeways are so efficient at moving people between different city nodes because it removes cars, roads, crosswalks and other complications that slow pedestrians down at the street level.  They are also successful because of their connection to these nodes, and the major urban programs they service such as shopping centers and transportation hubs.

It is interesting to see this same strategy utilized at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, only at the scale of a micro-city.  The expo is situated across a large area bordering the Huangpu River on both sides.  Spanning the entire distance of the elongated site is an elevated walkway, serving as the main artery for people movement between different zones of the expo.  Like Hong Kong, this walkway is equally successful at achieving a lubricated system of movement through a larger fabric.  It bypasses the congested masses and long queues of expo-goers at the ground level, and also serves as an access-way to move between critical expo nodes such as food courts, subway stops, shopping malls and several major pavilions.

What’s left to consider is what will become of this walkway once the expo has expired.  Hong Kong’s walkways have been in place for some time, and as a result of the high rate of pedestrian traffic, new programs have began to attach themselves to these arteries, and use them as a host.  It is common to find small retail, food stands and convenience stores along the way, between the larger nodes that anchor the terminal points of the walkway.  Unfortunately in Shanghai’s case, the end of the expo means the end of many of the pavilions and other programs, which were only temporary installations.  If the site is revitalized post-expo however, it is probable that the area will be developed into high-rise housing structures, with mixed use at the ground levels.  If the walkway is left in tact, it will certainly be an integral part of the infrastructural network linking this new development with the urban node located at the waterfront, which encompasses our final design task.  Weather or not parasitic programs attach to this artery in a way similar to Hong Kong is dependent upon its linkage to the nodes which will arise out of redevelopment.  Of course, this will be a crucial element to grapple with during the next seven weeks.


Filed under: China, Hong Kong, Infrastructure, Shanghai, Urbanism, Walkway

Clock Work

Up on the 27th floor of the hotel, I sit at night and stare out my window at the city below. I sit there intrigued and occupied by the dynamic landscape that is constantly in motion. The scene is filled with trains, cars, people, elevators, buildings, and flashing lights. The cityscape reminds me of a clock, so many moving pieces that are constantly in motion, every piece important and vital for the overall composition to work.

Everything is organized at a larger scale, and this organization is apparent with how smoothly everything seems to be operating. I first noticed the smoothness of Tokyo’s infrastructure at the subway station the following day. Typically subway stations display signs of aggression and franticness of people trying to get to where they need to go. We have created the term “rush hour” to describe the influx of people and pandemonium in our city’s infrastructure, and a typical sight would consist of people plowing down the stairs to catch the train before it leaves the station. Not in Tokyo, although the subway system bares thousands of people, these people are not displaying the typical signs mentioned above. Their tranquility is eerie and very unfamiliar.

I believe that this shows when good systems are in play, and work with one another efficiency is achieved. After all efficiency is typically the bench mark for performance, and infrastructure in Tokyo may not be perfect, but it is pretty close. It is not just the subway system though that creates this smooth dynamic movement, rather it is the layers of infrastructure and sectional quality of the ground plane that are frequently used through out the city. This sectional life style becomes routine for the people living in Japan. Elevated sky bridges bring pedestrian traffic off the street to allow for cars to maneuver on the ground plane. Many buildings contain underground connections that connect to subway terminals to allow for a complex network of transportation underneath the ground surface. Lobbies and elevators are dispersed throughout the buildings to create successful nodes for each of these various circulation paths.

It is through these layers of circulation that efficiency is achieved, and the urban environment overall becomes more user friendly. When people can get where they need to go, in a punctual manner, it makes one ponder why more cities are not delaminating their circulation paths. With all of these systems working together it creates this dynamic landscape that runs so smooth that one might compare the city’s effortlessness to run like clockwork.

Ross Renjilian

Filed under: AAU, Architecture, Infrastructure, JR, Public, Rail, Renjilian, Ross, Tokyo, Transportation, Uncategorized, Urbanism, , ,


The views and opinions contained in this blog are solely those of the individual authors and do not represent the views and opinions of the University of Southern California or any of its officers or trustees.



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