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The masterplan

I estimate there are 100,000 people living in my square mile. Xuhui Province, which this is a part of, has a population of 900,000. The toal population of the city is 17 million and growing. Then there are the people in transit, those just arriving at Shanghai South Bus Station or Shanghai South Railway Station, several thousand a day, and the people working here, including the tricycle trailers laden with materials to recycle for cash, and the taxi drivers. The first time arrivals from the South are easy to spot with their wide eyes and large plastic containers. Like in every place, there are locals waiting opposite the bus station to sell them accommodation or rides on the back of scooters.

One day I’m planning to stand and count the people passing by.

So the question for the socially engaged artist is how to work with a community of this size, how to engage with them, how to reflect their culture and their ecology?

In this square mile I’ve so far found: my partner organisation Shanghai E Arts, The Botanic Gardens, Kangjan Park, a university, several schools, six rivers, the place where the taxi drivers hang out, The Humin Elevated Road, some major roads: Longcao Road, Shilong Road, Laohumin Road and Longwu Road, a thriving indoor market, an outdoor market, a grass roots recycling zone (cash in hand), factories, businesses, a disused hotel, a centre for people’s culture, two Metro stations (Lines 1 and 3), Shanghai South Long Distance Bus Station, Shanghai South Railway Station, two shopping malls, supermarkets, tea houses, restaurants, hundreds of shops and bike/scooter repair sheds, and countless neighbourhoods.

Yesterday I made a visit to Shanghai Urban Planning Museum to see the Masterplan for the city. My square mile was just outside the limits of the vast model, in the south west, but there’s no doubt that it’s in the thinking somewhere. This is a big plan.

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