After last week’s post Comparing Urban Form and then seeing these amazing comparative maps by French artist Armelle Caron I was inspired to investigate urban form a little deeper. One description of Caron’s work says,
Caron strips cities of their spatial context. Roads and rivers become irrelevant, districts and parks disappear. The relationship between built-up areas and empty spaces is obliterated. The city is hung out to dry by its smallest constituent parts. The cartographic compact – maps, however imperfect and partial on paper, are reliable real-world guides – is nullified. The city is un-mapped.
As a New Yorker that spends a large portion of my time studying Asian cities, and traveling to them whenever the opportunity arises, I am always curious as to why some of my favorite artistic interpretations of comparative urban form never seem to compare Asian cities with western cities. This stark contrast based on shear size of Asian cities compared with Western cities seems an exciting enough reason to further explore their urban patterns. So I decided to use Open Street Maps and some basic Photoshops skills to compare city blocks in Shanghai’s Pudong district (on the eastern side of the river) with lower Manhattan, since both serve as financial districts. Of course my maps are not as in depth of a study as Caron’s deconstructed cities but you can still notice a striking difference between Shanghai’s massive new development in Pudong (east portion) with the Bund and other historic development in Pu Xi (west portions). Even more striking though is that even the blocks of Pu Xi seems large compared to lower Manhattan.
After walking the massive blocks of Pudong this summer I was not that surprised when I realize that one block in Pudong was the same size as about 6 blocks in Lower Manhattan. What is surprising though is to consider what the size of these city blocks may mean about the density of these cities if future development mirrored these sections.