Shanghai (1927-1937) / Civic Center- Manifestation and Problems

As what has been discussed in the post of the Greater Shanghai Plan’s political environment, we already know that the Republican government had a strong intention to build a new civic center in the Chinese region in order to defeat the concession in the future. The government finally selected Jiangwan as the site for the new 467-hectare civic center. The government believed that picking up this flat barren land can save the cost spent on the renovation of old city. At the same time, Jiangwan was considered as a pivot area to link up the current commercial center and the new wharf to be built in the future[1].

Though documents such as maps and photos on the condition of Jiangwan before the Greater Shanghai Plan could hardly be found, this picture could still tell that either the original condition is barely constructed or the Republican government demolished the original buildings to lauch a totally new project ignoring the previous urban fabric. From: Shanghai Special City Works Bureau,上海特别市工务局, Shanghai Shi Gong Wu Ju Zhi Shi Nian上海市工务局之十年, Shanghai, 1937.
Though documents such as maps and photos on the condition of Jiangwan before the Greater Shanghai Plan could hardly be found, this picture could still tell that either this area was barely constructed or the Republican government demolished most of the original buildings to launch a totally new project ignoring the previous urban fabric.
From: Shanghai Special City Works Bureau,上海特别市工务局, Shanghai Shi Gong Wu Ju Zhi Shi Nian上海市工务局之十年, Shanghai, 1937.

Synthesizing parameters such as land price, distance to the harbor and concession as well as accessibility to the present road and railway system, the Republican government finally framed the new civic center within Songhu Railway (W), Pujiang (E), Zhayin Road (N) and Xiangyin Road (S)[2]. From the birdview rendering of the civic center, it can be seen that the design is featured with the symmetrical layout based on the north-south axis and the hierarchical road system of both grid and radiant pattern. Grand and utopian as it looks like, the planning for the civic center was actually comprehensive and provident[3]. From 1929 to 1934, a systematic scheme covering road system, zoning, architecture style and construction schedule was developed under the efforts of both indigenous and foreign intelligence. Apart from the design of superstructure, projects on supporting facilities were planned as well. These projects include setting up the sewage system, linking up the wharf and railway system and building up Qiujiang wharf as a transitional facility before the completion of the new wharf[4]. Though with lots of research and discussion in a modernist context, the proposed civic center still bears a lot of symbolic function. This can be seen from the arrangement of grand avenues and large portion of administrative land to the naming of the roads[5].

Aerial view of the administrative center of Shanghai 上海市行政区鸟瞰图, Chinese Architecture 中国建筑, 01(1932):10
Aerial view of the administrative center of Shanghai 上海市行政区鸟瞰图, Chinese Architecture 中国建筑, 01(1932):10

However, some of the reasons for the site selection are just the disadvantage of this new civic center. As a city center started from scratch under a very tight budget, the facilities such as hospital and fire-fighting station was barely developed[6]. The inconvenience of living in the new center became more apparent with government’s poor performance on road construction. A large portion of the officers still live in the better-developed Chinese towns such as Zhabei and the South Market though dormitory was provided in the new center. Travelling between the workplace and home is very time-consuming[7]. From the invasion of Japanese in 1932, another shortcoming of this location can be easily spotted. The barrack of Japanese army located in Sichuan Road North, just in the middle of Jiangwan and the concession. Residents of the new civic center would have no access to the concession for protection if any military action happens[8].

The Japanese army stationed in the Sichuan North Road, blocking the way from the civic center to the concession. From: 1.Shanghai Special City Works Bureau, 上海特别市工务局, Shanghai Te Bie Shi Gong Wu Ju Ye Wu Bao Gao Di Er Qi Di San Qi Liang Qi He Kan, Shanghai, 1929. (edited by the author)
The Japanese army stationed in the Sichuan North Road, blocking the way from the civic center to the concession.
From: 1. Shanghai Special City Works Bureau, 上海特别市工务局, Shanghai Te Bie Shi Gong Wu Ju Ye Wu Bao Gao Di Er Qi Di San Qi Liang Qi He Kan<上海特别市工务局业务报告第二期、第三期两期合刊>, Shanghai, 1929. (edited by the author)

Though the new civic center in Jiangwan has a lot of problems in design and was largely destroyed by war in 1937, it still has a profound impact on the urban fabric of Shanghai as well as later urban plans. Wujiaochang area is a prominent example to show the long-term influence of this civic center, which will be discuss in details in later post.

 

Endnote

[1] The report of Mayor Zhang and Director Shen 张市长沈局长之报告, Dao Lu Yue Kan 道路月刊, 33(1933), 2

[2] Interior Ministry Archive 内政部档案, Cheng Wei Jue Ding Shanghai Te Bie Shi Zhong Xin Qu Shi You 呈为决定上海特别市中心区事由, (Shanghai, 1933)

[3] Wei Shu魏枢, <The Greater Shanghai Plan> Qi Shi Lu—Jin Dai Shanghai Hua Jie Du Shi Zhong Xin Kong Jian Xing Tai De Liu Bian《大上海计划》启示录——近代上海华界都市中心空间形态的流变, (Southeast University Press 东南大学出版社, 1995), 86

[4] Government of Shanghai Special City 上海特别市政府, Shanghai Shi Zheng Zhai Yao上海市政概要,(Shanghai, 1934), 6-11.

[5] Shanghai Shi Zhongxin Quyu Jianshe Weiyuanhui 上海市市中心区域建设委员会, Jian She Shanghai Shi Shi Zhong Xin Qu Yu Ji Hua Shu 建设上海市市中心区域计划书, (Shanghai, 1930)

[6] Shanghai Shi Zhongxin Quyu Jianshe Weiyuanhui 上海市市中心区域建设委员会, Zhi Yuan Su She Juan职员宿舍卷, (Shanghai, 1932)

[7] Shanghai City Archives 上海市档案馆, 王国贤等(上海市参议会)关于请市府将繁荣南市以拓展本市中心区减低人口密集程度作为实施大上海计划之初步的提案(提字第二百卅五号), (Shanghai, 1927)

[8] Yu Shien 俞世恩. “1929 Nian Da Shanghai Ji Hua De Te Dian Ji Qi Shi Bai Yuan Yin Chu Tan 1929 年 “大上海计划” 的特点及其失败原因初探”, Li Shi Jiao Xue Wen Ti 历史教学问题 003 (2014): 118

 

 

Bibliography

  1. Interior Ministry Archive 内政部档案, Cheng Wei Jue Ding Shanghai Te Bie Shi Zhong Xin Qu Shi You 呈为决定上海特别市中心区事由, Shanghai, 1933.
  2. Shanghai City Archives 上海市档案馆, 王国贤等(上海市参议会)关于请市府将繁荣南市以拓展本市中心区减低人口密集程度作为实施大上海计划之初步的提案(提字第二百卅五号), Shanghai, 1927.
  3. Shanghai Shi Zhongxin Quyu Jianshe Weiyuanhui 上海市市中心区域建设委员会, Zhi Yuan Su She Juan职员宿舍卷, Shanghai, 1932.
  4. Shanghai Special City Government上海特别市政府, Shanghai Shi Zheng Zhai Yao上海市政概要,Shanghai, 1934.
  5. “The report of Mayor Zhang and Director Shen 张市长沈局长之报告”, Dao Lu Yue Kan 道路月刊, 33(1933):2
  6. Shanghai Shi Zhongxin Quyu Jianshe Weiyuanhui 上海市市中心区域建设委员会, Jian She Shanghai Shi Shi Zhong Xin Qu Yu Ji Hua Shu 建设上海市市中心区域计划书, Shanghai, 1930.
  7. Wei Shu魏枢, <The Greater Shanghai Plan> Qi Shi Lu—Jin Dai Shanghai Hua Jie Du Shi Zhong Xin Kong Jian Xing Tai De Liu Bian《大上海计划》启示录——近代上海华界都市中心空间形态的流变, Southeast University Press 东南大学出版社, 1995.
  8. Yu Shien 俞世恩. “1929 Nian Da Shanghai Ji Hua De Te Dian Ji Qi Shi Bai Yuan Yin Chu Tan 1929 年 “大上海计划” 的特点及其失败原因初探”, Li Shi Jiao Xue Wen Ti 历史教学问题 003 (2014): 116-120.

1 Comment on “Shanghai (1927-1937) / Civic Center- Manifestation and Problems

  1. Official accounts of urban development often say that their plans are built upon tabula rasa, yet this is not always the case, as we find in other cities such as HK or Shenzhen. Are there, say, maps from even earlier historical periods to suggest whether the official statement is true or not? Or can we induce from anomalies in the contemporary condition?

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