Figure, Ground. Global, Local. A thesis project which looks to amalgamate two urban conditions pertinent to Shanghai’s identity: the Central Business District, and the Housing Enclave, and then unpick the resultant hybrid functions and spatial typologies of the new urban landscape. My work focuses on exploration of incredible spaces, and using these unlikely urban conditions to consider the future of cities under hyper-urbanisation and globalisation. To view Shanghai’s Central Business District (CBD) from across the Bund is to be confronted with a spectacular array of glittering financial towers; to stand in it is to become overwhelmed and disoriented by them. Understanding the global phenomenon of CBD typology, and unpicking the resultant problematic landscape of that in Shanghai, such as isolated introspective skyscrapers, or the disjointed, and often dangerous ways in which one is forced to navigate the area, underpins the project. It then defines an antithesis to this condition, in the form of the low rise, densely packed housing which is adjacent to the CBD, and uses this to create an physical synthesis of the two conditions. This condition is one of connectivity and ownership, where small businesses and family units operate within an overarching communal framework, which is echoed in the semi modular architecture. The project proposes a symbiosis of finance and working-class residence, and will partially subvert the role of the tower, from a symbolic institution catering to the macro world economy to a structural crux supporting the micro economies of the residential block. Beginning with analysis of figure ground plans, and creating concise definitions of ‘ground’ and ‘figure’, the project morphed into a landscape of overlapping residential blocks, absorbing the towers in their path, along with all of the functions of this landscape of finance, and re-imagining them in their communal agenda.
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