A Brave New Modernism, Part 1 : Shanghai

Modernism is a broad and complex subject to define especially in the context of design and architectural movements and trends. A basic form or definition of modernism can imply some degree of celebration of our times and the processes through which we build and define our environments, habitats and products. The industrial revolution triggered the development of objects and environments created by the machine, heralding the era of mass production. This in turn redefined the fabric and structure of society, often with unforeseen consequences.

Literature is full of voices that did not share the initial altruistic sentiments of the early pioneers and supporters of ‘advancement’. Karl Marx observed in great detail how the shift from craft based economies to the industrial sector created alienation in the worker as they became “separated from the product of their labour”. 20th century writers such as Orwell and Huxley both projected their views of future dystopias based very much on the path we have taken and the forces unleashed by industrialization and its respective social change.

The 20th century was certainly the era of ‘isms’ especially in the field of architecture and design. These ‘isms’ ranged from the ideological to the reactionary but they without doubt redefined our landscape at a pace not seen before. Today we live a rapidly changing world where most of the change is happening in the emerging markets. A new industrial revolution is happening before us and change is occurring at an unprecedented pace. This new ‘industrial revolution’ defines the future in a new way, from the endless skyline, the brand ladened shopping malls, the high-speed rail networks to the theatrically emphasized illuminations.

These photographs reflect a visceral response to Shanghai as one of the world’s fastest developing cities. Shanghai sits at a cross roads where modernity is rampant but the vestiges of the old remain. From colonial port city to a thriving center of industry and commerce, a brave new modernism is emerging.

Zhong Yuan Liang Wan Cheng apartment complex, translated in English as 'Brilliant City'.
The endless skyline
In amongst the Zhong Yuan Liang Wan Cheng apartment complex, translated in English as 'Brilliant City'.
Zhong Yuan Liang Wan Cheng apartment complex, translated in English as 'Brilliant City'
An apartment inside the Brilliant City. High density living for migrant workers.
Zhong Yuan Liang Wan Cheng (Brilliant City) consumes the old
The theatrical illumination of the night time landscape
Frogs at the market
Shared living spaces in the old section of town
The old town being consumed by the new
The recycling man
Apartments
A resident in the old part of town
Recreation in the old part of town
McDonalds, fun for all generations.
Tourists flock to photograph the historical landmarks on the Bund
The Peace Hotel
Jazz band at the Peace Hotel
DJ at a rooftop bar by the river
Apartments and offices by the river
Traffic on the river
HongQiao high speed rail terminal
HongQiao high speed rail terminal
Brand ladened shopping malls, HongQiao high speed rail terminal
Maglev airport link
View across the 1933 slaughter house, now renovated to accommodate shops and restaurants
Shanghai World Financial Center
Gazing to the future, multimedia exhibition at the visitors entrance lobby, Shanghai World Financial Center
Elevator to the 100th floor observation deck at the Shanghai World Financial Center.
View from the 100th floor observation deck, Shanghai World Financial Center.
The Shanghai Tower (tallest building in China) nears completion.
The endless skyline
All images © Shaun Fynn