Saturday, October 29, 2011

Shanghai & Beijing CHINA

New Zealand TO China
This is an article I wrote for the University of Rhode Island Newspaper

Arthurs Pass, New Zealand

Hiking through the Southern Alps in New Zealand, strolling through the valley of the small town New Zealand culture, and then attending class at one of the smallest universities known to man were a part of my lifestyle and experience while studying Landscape Architecture at Lincoln University just outside of Christchurch, New Zealand. Going from a culture which feels that it is okay to walk a mile down the road barefoot to pick up some groceries (and it is okay, in fact it’s fantastic!) to a city of 20 million plus would definitely be a big change... a change I was not sure I’d be able to adapt to. Either way, I was headed to Shanghai, China.

                                                                    Flower Building, Shanghai

Shortly after arriving in Shanghai, I was greeted by Adam Bernadino and Jeff Scherr, two 2011 Landscape Architecture graduate at University of Rhode Island. I was there for 7 days, so I was quickly given a tour of where everything was, including a toolbox of Chinese words that I would need in order to get around. On the first day, we went to their Architecture Studio. Jeff & Adam work for LT Architects of Hong Kong, though their office is based in Shanghai. They were lucky enough to get a job straight out of College at a prestigious Architecture Firm in China. Though their original contract was only for 6 months, they were invited to stay at the firm for another 6 months plus. The guys are not sure what they will do since the language barrier is quite tough, and they are really missing their friends and family back at home. They are thinking about coming home for a bit, and then heading back, but have not made the final decision yet.
Tiananmen Square- Beijing, China

I met the principal of the firm, Paul, who is a genuine business man and Architect who was not only interesting to talk to, since he spoke fluent English,  but was extremely knowledge able in the fields of both Architecture & Landscape Architecture. Although Adam & Jeff are Landscape Architects, they have found thus far that most of their work at this Architecture firm have been related to Architectural details, interior design, and only a couple Landscape Architecture jobs. Both assistant Landscape Architects at this firm, they have found it to be quite interesting that a Landscape Architecture degree can be brought into the fields of Interior design and Architecture. They are currently working on a Lamborghini Dealership in Shanghai. I worked aside them on this for a day, and found myself researching how to design a dealership, and even had a bit of input on their designs. Being in my Junior year at URI, I found it interesting to see what is possibly ahead and I was able to understand the perseverance and leadership that is needed as Landscape Architects, especially in this economy. They seem to be enjoying the work that is coming their way, so I am excited to hear what’s next on their agenda.

Forbidden City- Beijing, China

They have been learning a lot of Chinese, so being with them in China was comforting, since they could translate what I wanted to say. Often I would wander off on my own, which isn’t recommended, especially alone, since once out & about  in Shanghai (which is absolutely massive)  the question is, how do you get back... especially when you cannot pronounce the address of where your staying.  I ended up using the subway system, since there were staff members who spoke just enough English to understand where I needed to get to.
Being in this highly dense urban fabric, after living just outside of Christchurch, at a school of only 2,000, I was definitely overwhelmed. Even coming from New York, I felt lightheaded when I looked up at all the skyscrapers around me. They were everywhere... in fact I took the new high speed bullet train (opened just a few months ago) to Beijing for one night, and it seems as though developers are taking advantage of this train line, and are developing along the edges of it... this means that in probably less than 50 years, you may see Beijing and Shanghai meet with each other (1200 KM apart)... the only development I saw going on, were skyscrapers being built in the middle of giant farms... and this was along the whole stretch of the journey.
Tiananmen Square- Beijing, China... Chinese Military March

University of Rhode Island & LT Architects of Hong Kong are working together to create a connection so that Graduating Landscape Architecture Students may have the opportunity to work at this prestigious firm in Shanghai, ensuring a great experience out of college. Since Adam and Jeff recommend 6 months to start off with, I believe this program will turn out to be a success since I am sure that most students do eventually want to return to the states to do design work. Although both Jeff and Adam agreed that they would like to have international firms one day, they would want to have their base located in the U.S. for personal reasons. They say China is a great starting point, and that if done wisely, can lead to great lifelong networking connections. This opportunity, they say, will increase your understanding of what is out there, beyond the walls of the USA so that one may understand how business is done elsewhere. I find it intriguing to have heard what they had to say about international connections so early on in their career. I believe we can all learn something from this, and that is- Do not be afraid to leave the country... head anywhere, China, New Zealand, Australia, Canada... anywhere!!!! You will understand what a difference it makes to understand what others have to say about America. I’ve spoken to a lot of people along the way in my travels and not one person has been un-friendly in welcoming me but will often include a few jokes here and there about our culture- mostly based upon what they see in the media. There were often critiques and observations that were expressed during the many conversations I’ve had throughout China, New Zealand and Australia, but always in a friendly manner. This is something you can use to your advantage for future decision making in your careers, not just in Landscape Architecture. May we come together and congratulate Adam and Jeff for representing our school, and being a part of creating a connection between URI and Shanghai, China. This will affect our whole community in a positive way, creating not only jobs but priceless experiences. Good luck to you all.
s  u  s  t  a  i  n  a  b  i  l  i  t  y .
                                                                                   Street Sweepers Bamboo Broom
I found it fascinating to see how sustainable China really is. When you think of China, you think of mass production, tons of people, and cheap products (unfortunately)... cheap products we use in our everyday life. Though, when you get to china, you see some sustainable practices... much more than we incorporate into our lives in the U.S.. Because most Chinese have literally come from nothing... and it sort of being a third world country, though it would be hard to say with all the technology and advancement they have had in the last several years... I would say in some ways, their culture and lifestyle is able to accept not every luxury we take for granted in the U.S. such as unlimed resources (or so we think). While we are buying brooms made of plastic and other harsh materials, they are going into their bamboo forests, taking the dead, dried bamboo scrap stuck in between the bamboo shooters, and using both thin growth and thick growth to create their broom. Throughout Shanghai and Beijing are bamboo scrap sheds, which store thin rods to add to your broom, when some break or fall out. This is possible because of the great amount of bamboo in China... but think, what could we do in our everday lives, that we could harvest straight from nature, rather than having to go through a production regime to produce something that only cleans up after us? Mother nature created us... so I am sure she created something to help us maintain our lifestyle... it may sound crazy, but it has to be true! We could grow a bamboo forest in an urban setting, and use it to supply brooms for street sweepers... perhaps this is too late, since workers in the U.S. have gotten used to automated machinery that they ride on to clean the streets and sidewalks...


The 400 year old Yuyuan Gardens, located in Shanghai China, is one of the most pristine gardens in Asia. One of the most impressive, extensive rock gardens I have ever wandered through in my life. They too, in their maintenance regime use the bamboo broom to maintain their garden. I have never seen such a well kept garden in my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment