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Which world do we want?

June 9, 2012

Sleek and gleaming technology parks, soaring residential compounds enclosing lush gardens, a recreation and shopping center by the riverfront,  a cultural hall with architectural touches of the past: these are what city planners envision when they look at the crowded village encroached upon by urbanization, or the urban “slum.”  The money, the material resources, to make these visions come true is there, it seems, although there are fears some of it might be caught up in unfinanced loans and speculation. Still, for the time being it is only a matter of how quickly the old can be torn down and the new put up, and how the people can be repositioned to fit into this new reality.

That last may end up being the most difficult. Where do the displaced people go?  Migrant workers are simply driven out. For the minority of residents who are well compensated for having been removed, and who can now live off the value of the real estate given to them in the new housing project, how do they spend the rest of their lives? As a kind of long idleness in utopia? (Click on images for original size)

Shenyang 2007.  The density of people crowding the sidewalk, stores spilling over the sidewalk to the edge of the street, the street itself compromised by the amount of pedestrians: the slum is full of people.

The slum is cleared, it becomes a park. The people are replaced by greenery. The streets and sidewalks are clean and clear.

In the photo below, people have bicycles and motorbikes. Their lives are lived partially on the sidewalk, it is no longer traversable.
In an idealized rendering of the future, motorbikes are replaced by cars, streets and sidewalks are clearly delineated.
Which world do we want to belong in? This world:
or this one?

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