JT Singh gets the Internet ‘shanghaied’


A few months ago, JT Singh and Rob Whitworth shook the Internet with their lively city-branding portrayal of Pyongyang, a city otherwise known for its totalitarian, robot-like population as always perceived by media influence.

This time, Internet gets ‘Shanghaied’, as the word implies, from this China’s most populous metropolis. Once a city with empty skyline three decades ago, today, the number of skyscrapers has surpassed 4,000 – according to Whitworth, twice the number of those in New York City, the pioneer of ‘corporate cathedrals’. Even with 4,000, this is already a breathtaking fact. Welcome to the future.

Hmm, they should try Hong Kong next time. It even has 8,000 skyscrapers, no match for the world ranks.


Ingenious homes in unexpected places

torre david


Torre David, one of Venezuelan capital Caracas’ tallest skyscrapers, is now mostly known for being the world’s most well-known epitome of a typical vertical slum. Originally intended for use as an office tower, the unexpected death of the edifice’s developer has since left an unprecedented, and painful, mark on the fate of this huge building: it subsequently ran out of funds, and many of the city’s poorest inhabitants now hinge on this building as homes, factories, shops, and even places to gather with other fellow inhabitants.


What are the similarities of:

1. A skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, that is unexpectedly used as ‘safe haven’ for a city’s poorest rank-and-file

2. An abandoned ‘dream city’ in Chandigarh, India (a Utopian project by Le Corbusier), that for the city’s most impoverished, is a ‘brand-new huge office space’ to find new dreams upon?

3. A slum city (Makoko) on the suburbs of Lagos, Nigeria, that is entirely built above water and houses up to 150,000 people, and even supports a lively and vibrant economy despite decrepit infrastructure?

4. A densely-stacked town (Zabbaleen) on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, that wholly depends on mounts of waste and garbage, and that for its inhabitants, are the primary sources of income?

5. And lastly, houses built underground that are scattered throughout China, for the reason that ‘governments are overlooking their housing needs’, when in fact more and more ghost cities are built in perpetuity across the whole country?

For Iwan Baan, a globe-trotting photographer, the answer is plain simple: ingenious.


And this is the similarly ingenious, and truly original, TED talk by which he presents the illustrations of real human ingenuity.

An uneasy home named Hong Kong

crowded hk.gif

Were it not for its mountainous terrains, Hong Kong would not have been dubbed the world’s most vertical city.

Occupying an infinitesimal carve out of Chinese land, and a few hundred outlying islands, all of which are no larger than 1100 sq km, Hong Kong can only afford to provide to its 7.2 million inhabitants approximately one-fifth of its total areas, given the geographically steep contours, virtually on all its entire spaces. Even the skyline on Big Apple, the first major city on Earth to proudly attest its nature-defying abilities with supertall skyscrapers, is no match to the enormity – and the monstrosity and all its narrow-gauge compactness – of the skyline in Hong Kong. New York City, in a century, has built over 4000 high-rise buildings, mostly in Manhattan; Hong Kong has put up to 8000 in half a centenary, scattered all over Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and New Territories.

Sum it up, in historical sweepstakes, with its integrated 99-year rule by British Empire. Firstly concentrated on manufacturing, the government, realizing the potential impacts China’s open market reforms could impede on its economic growth, created a brand-new experiment to jack up its popularity as a global city: laissez-faire market, mainly on financial and trading sectors, with government intervention almost null-and-void. Thus is the brand-new Hong Kong we recognize today: glitzy skyscrapers, burgeoning elites, vibrant streets and markets, beyond-excellent infrastructure, and highly flexible bureaucracy.

Nevertheless, the environment simulated by the laissez-faire system has also procreated ruthless competition among individuals to achieve paramount success, enforced the people’s appetites to far-reaching extents, and pushed them for more recognition upon their higher social echelons. Driven even further by China’s economic boom, by which numberless mainland Chinese, mostly parvenus, have begun to enter the competition, the contest has been itself increasingly arduous. This is evident, particularly, from one major detail: more and more mainland Chinese are buying up apartments and condominiums, the already-exorbitant prices of which having been marked up by major real-estate developers bulk of the locals, self-dubbed ‘Hongkongers’ can barely afford in their lifetime.

As a consequence, social gap has increasingly exacerbated in the last decade. Despite the fact there are up to 100,000 millionaires and multimillionaires living lavish lives in over-sized condominiums, or to a lesser extent, mansions on mountain peaks, it is also estimated that more than 170,000 people in Hong Kong are struggling to live in cubicle-sized, stacked boxes they call ‘homes’, most of whom are former construction and industrial workers having been displaced due to the city’s dwindling industrial sectors.

In short, the race itself is not going to stop anytime soon.

The New York Times has published an article and a slide show to document the plight of Hong Kong’s poorest, each of whom is struggling to find a better home for oneself.

Remember this? The world’s fastest-built skyscrapers

The wording that ‘nothing is impossible in China’ seems so correct when you take a deeper look at these videos.

This 15-storey hotel, based in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, China, was constructed in a little less than one week (imagine 6 full days). The hotel was opened in 2010.

And, another record was accomplished: a 30-storey hotel, built in the same city as mentioned above, was completed in a little longer than two weeks (‘merely’ 15 full days). The building was made to public in 2011, only approximately one year after the building described above.

As though unsatisfied with the self-record-breaking attempts, Broad Group, the Chinese real estate  behemoth behind this hoop-la, is planning to build the world’s tallest skyscraper (slated to be nearly 840 meters high, somewhat taller than its 820-meter sister, Burj Khalifa, in Dubai) in only 90 days.

That shindig stirabout you read on previous paragraph was last reported on February 2013 in Forbes. No progress is then ever noticed. Or it ain’t that fast.