How China is Building Africa

I very distinctly remember my visit to China in Summer 2006: the vast cities wreathed in smog, the highways and ring roads snaking through them, the clusters and stand-alone generic skyscrapers. Shanghai was almost like New York City, Beijing a wholly unfamiliar, spread-out, kind of city. I recently had the chance to revisit those memories when reviewing a recent exhibition: Facing East: Chinese Urbanism in Africa, at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City.

The exhibit explores how Chinese corporations are financing, planning, and building African cities and economies. While my review touches on urban design, economics, politics, and culture, it’s important to remember how these new African cities will be viscerally experienced by their inhabitants – through car rides, through dirty air, through homelessness, through business trips, through tourism. These places aren’t just intersections of abstract or global forces – they’re very real and there’s nothing quite like being there.

Link to the Article on Core77

PS. See this recent New York Times article for more on this subject.

Top Image: Facing East: Chinese Urbanism in Africa, 2015. Curated by Michiel Hulshof and Daan Roggevan. Storefront for Art and Architecture. Photo by Qi Lin.


When the Park Comes to You: San Francisco’s Unique ‘Parklet’ Program

From crowdfunding to super-rich donors and other more scandalous methods, the means to fund new public spaces are proving to be diverse. But why the sudden rush for public space? Put simply, its rewards of public space appeal to a broad range of constituents: better quality of life for residents, increased real estate value, amplified tourism, and even the glory of architectural iconicity. Yet not all public space need be expensive or grand.

That’s just one of the reasons I like San Francisco’s ‘parklets’: these street-side hyper-miniature parks are temporary, keeping the city’s visual landscape diverse while giving young designers fresh opportunities for acclaim. They’re also surgical, with each location identified by the city as a prime parklet opportunity. Their specificity can also highlight the potential of design to intelligently meet local needs. Lastly, while some architects never study their project’s success (or failure) in the long term, the city monitors the impact of these installations over their lifetime. It’s a fascinating mix of characteristics; read to learn how they came about!

Link to the Article on Core77

Top Image: The Sunset Parklet designed by INTERSTICE Architects. Photo by Cesar Rubio via Contemporist.