Title:
The Hyperstationary State: Five Walks in Search of the Future in Shanghai
Author:
Owen Hatherley: United Kingdom
DOI:
10.3384/cu.2000.1525.12435
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Full article (pdf)
Year:
2012
Volume:
4
Theme:
Theme: Shanghai Modern: The Future in Microcosm? Edited by Justin O’Connor and Xin Gu

Pages:
35-80
No. of pages:
46
Publication type:
Article
Published:
2011-01-30


Shanghai is invariably used in film sets and popular discourse as an image of the future. But what sort of future can be found here? Is it a qualitative or quantitative advance? Is there any trace in the landscape of China’s officially still-Communist ideology? Has the city become so contradictory as to be all-but unreadable? Contemporary Shanghai is often read as a purely capitalist spectacle, with the interruption between the colonial metropolis of the interwar years and the commercial megalopolis of today barely thought about. A sort of super-NEP has now visibly created one of the world’s most visually capitalist cities, at least in its neon-lit night-time appearance and its skyline of competing pinnacles. Yet this seeming contradiction is invariably effaced, smoothed over in the reigning notion of the ’harmonious society’.

This essay is a series of beginners’ impressions of the city’s architecture, so it is deeply tentative, but it finds hints of various non-capitalist built forms – particularly a concomitance with Soviet Socialist Realist architecture of the 1950s. It finds at the same time a dramatic cityscape of primitive accumulation, with extreme juxtapositions between the pre-1990s city and the present. Finally, in an excursion to the 2010 Shanghai Expo, we find two attempts to revive the language of a more egalitarian urban politics; in the Venezuelan Pavilion, an unashamed exercise in ’21st century socialism’; and in the ’Future Cities Pavilion’, which balances a wildly contradictory series of possible futures, alternately fossil fuel-driven and ecological, egalitarian and neoliberal, as if they could all happen at the same time.

Keywords: Shanghai; China; Architecture; Urbanism; Contradiction; Modernism; Socialist Realism; Uneven Development; Neoliberalism; Communism; Expositions; Futurism

Volume 4, Theme:: Theme: Shanghai Modern: The Future in Microcosm? Edited by Justin O’Connor and Xin Gu

, Article 4, 2012

Author:
Owen Hatherley
Title:
The Hyperstationary State: Five Walks in Search of the Future in Shanghai:
DOI:
10.3384/cu.2000.1525.12435
Note: the following are taken directly from CrossRef
Citations:
  • Justin O’Conno & Xin Gu (2014). Creative industry clusters in Shanghai: a success story?. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 20(1): 1. DOI: 10.1080/10286632.2012.740025
  • Jennifer Hubbert (2017). Back to the future: The politics of culture at the Shanghai Expo. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 20(1): 48. DOI: 10.1177/1367877915597495
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