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Stitch Morphologies: Shanghai

Formerly such infrastructures such as wetlands, sewage systems, transportation highways, and civic utilities have been regarded as tertiary, ‘service’ space. The process of activating this residual milieu by transforming it into habitable, public space can provide more effective use of available resources and advances opportunities of creating a more resilient environment.

Northeast Asian cities are exploding in both population and land area, and are ideal sites for a focused research project on contemporary urban growth. These megalopolises are growing, not according to a master plan, but rather through a self-generating, ad hoc process that some urban theorists describe as ‘organic’ or ‘urban metabolism’. This ‘organic’ process, noted for the unprecedented speed of its development, has produced a heretofore, unstudied urban condition – namely the particular moments of intersection between the public realm and infrastructure. Documenting and analyzing these moments of intersection provide a new understanding on how cities of the 21st century developed new public models. Successfully, these models are responding to the realities of an existing infrastructural condition.

Particularly for this research project, through investigative strategies of landscape urbanism, the work focuses on evaluating where the opportunities for infrastructure to become part of the public realm in Shanghai have occurred. Specifically, this development sequence transpires in three phases: search, reveal, and invert the lessons learned as both evaluative tools and methods for employing heightened populated interactions between infrastructure and public events. After examining further Shanghai’s highway infrastructure, various moments of public ‘stitches’ present themselves. These public, pedestrian interchanges operate on, in, below, or between hard edges of large-scale urban infrastructure as evidence of contemporary methods of re-thinking the usefulness of the public realm. The findings are documented, organized, and defined as a systematic series of existing urban negotiations. As the stitch matrix is discovered, a speculative inversion of networks and urban stitch morphologies populate, embedding themselves back into the hyper-urban strata.