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Designing Shanghai, or Why East is the new West


..feeling tired, I close my Apple Powerbook 2.2 GHz Intel Core Duo and put away my iPhone. The small but perfectly legible print imprinted on the Powerbook's bottom side says »Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.« I wonder how many years it will be before my laptop label will have the same information in reverse: »Designed in Shanghai. Assembled in the US.« I imagine the future - maybe 25 years from now - there Asia and Eastern Europe dominate both knowledge and creative economies worldwide, with North America reduced to the role of a third world country used for manufacturing and outsourcing by Asians. (Of course, since California where I live will do fine: since California is already a part of Pacific Rim, it will continue to prosper along with the rest of Asia). I picture the former industrial buildings in the East Coast of the USA, which were converted to designed condos, restaurants, hotels, and malls in the 2000s; they are now being converted back to manufacturing plants. As for The Central Park in New York, it is now used to grow crops.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, Koolhaus's CCTV Headquarters skyscraper now appears as small and as archaic as the 1950s Shanghai Exhibiting Center appears today in comparison to 1990s hi-rises next to it. But this last image is not mine. It comes form the project by MAD architects entitled Bejing 2050. They propose a gigantic (from today's point of view) floating island over CBD (Central Business District). In line with the current design sensibilities, MAD imagines their floating island as a kind of shining super-blob. The island is so big that CCTV building looks like a small mushroom under a tree.

Article  2007