How would you describe its inhabitants?
As a port city, Shanghai has always had a great mix of people living in the city; the original Shanghainese, but also a lot of domestic migrants and expats living here. I have been mostly surprised by their flexibility and entrepreneurial mindset.
Why do you love your city?
Shanghai does not have a lot of highlights like Beijing, but you have to feel and bike through the city to experience it. Shanghai is a city of contrasts: you see Maserati’s next to people collecting trash, you can eat for 2 euro on the street and spend thousands on one night, there is always life, everywhere you go, and you can see the past and history next to new shiny high-rise skyscrapers. And importantly: I have never felt unsafe.
What’s the best place in your city and why?
What we enjoy most in Shanghai is going to the old town, by foot or bike and walk around the small alleyways and get a glimpse of how Shanghai used to be, people washing their hair, selling fish on the streets and drying laundry on bamboo sticks out of their windows. And then bike back home surrounded by skyscrapers and realize what a huge and amazing city this is.
What can we learn from your city in terms of city making?
How to deal with high-density and especially the infrastructure: the streets are busy, but you can still find enough quiet places and the roads are not always congested. Only small electric scooters are allowed, and quite some people already have electric cars, a huge improvement for noise and air quality. And don’t forget the subway system, it’s amazing.
What’s the biggest challenge your city is facing?
Keeping the city liveable with enough greenery, places to retreat and keeping the history of the city alive. Many old neighbourhood are disappearing, and therefore old neighbourhoods with strong community relations are disappearing. Despite electric scooters and cars, the environmental quality like air pollution is still not desirable and despite the urban parks, accessible greenery is not sufficient.
Why should BRAND open a flexible office in your city and who would be our first client?
I guess Shanghai and in general China could use some positive (city) branding. Often you hear negative things about China in the media like human rights, Tibet or air pollution, but China has so much more to offer: Amazing nature, cities, and so many different people, it’s so big and very diverse.