17 March 2013

Shanghai farewell: Chenshan Botanical Garden

View to the Quarry Garden from Chenshan.

Taking advantage of an extraordinary mild weather, I spent my last Saturday in Shanghai in the Chenshan Botanical Garden. This 200-ha botanical garden opened in coincidence with the 2010 Shanghai Expo, after 3 years of construction. It is located in Songjiang district, which used to be a town  more important than Shanghai (at the time a fishermen's village), in the western outskirts.
As we can read in this project description, the first known botanical garden (and zoo) in Shanghai dates back to the 1930s, located in Jessfield Park (renamed Yaofeng Park and currently Zhongshan Park). During the 1950s plans were laid-out to create a botanical garden in Songjiang, but they never came into being. In 1974 a new garden was established on the grounds of the Longhua Nursery, and it developed into the Shanghai Botanical Garden, covering an area of 81ha. Finally, in 2003 Songjiang district was granted permission to build a new botanical garden.

View to Chenshan.

The garden was designed by the German offices Valentien + Valentien, Straub + Thurmayr and Auer + Weber. Inside a somewhat circular, elevated path, a number of biotopes are to be found. Past the massive (and seemingly over-sized) entrance building you can visit the garden, which unfolds in a series of different "episodes", including water gardens, ponds, thematic plant collections organized by place of origin, the Chenshan mountain, a quarry garden, 3 greenhouses and an education center. The Botanical Garden boasts Asia's biggest greenhouse (12.000 sqm), containing tropical, sub-tropical an desert species. But the main attraction is unmistakably the quarry garden.

Inside the greenhouse.
The dramatic corten steel pathway and wooden platform.

Designed by Beijing's Tsinghua University, the project restored an old quarry, active between the 1950s and 1980s. The designers linked, by means on a curvy corten steel walkway, a dramatic cliff and the water pool in front of it. This path continues on a wooden platform on the water, before entering in the mountain and emerging to the surface again, in a very cinematic composition.

Entering the steel walkway.

The Garden is very popular among Chinese, but it was rare to spot foreigners around. And even though crowds line-up at the entrance, they get dispersed quite quickly once inside, given the sheer size of the area. The best way to reach the Garden is to take metro line 9 to Dongjing station and then hop into a taxi for a 5 minutes ride. For great pictures of the park visit this Chinese blog.

08 March 2013

An urban, industrial cruise

Pudong with the Shanghai Tower under construction.

Last weekend, taking advantage of the sunny weather, I hopped into a cruise departing from the Shiliupu ferry terminal (south Bund), reaching the meeting point of the Huangpu and Yangzi River (Wusong Kou) and coming back. A total of 3,5 hours. This cruise is by no means a classic one: in fact, it features the world's busiest port and Asia's longest river.

The route is highlighted in red.
Cranes to load and unload cargos.
Yangpu Bridge.

After passing by the familiar profiles of Pudong's towers, the banks of the Huangpu present a typical skyline of residential and office buildings for a few kilometers. But as one reaches the impressive structure of the Yangpu Bridge (the only bridge you encounter - there are five underground tunnels though), the landscape is exclusively constituted by cranes, ships, containers, arranged in a linear port. Shanghai's Harbor is split into two parts, the recent Yangshan deep water port and the Huangpu River port. Together they form the world's busiest port since 2010.

An industrial landscape.
Please don't eat that fish...
A relic of old Shanghai?

When our boat reached the meeting point of the Huangpu and Yangzi River it gently turned around to come back to the Bund, offering a glimpse of the many ships transiting. Though not a beautiful cruise in the usual sense of the word, it gave a hint about China's import-export scale. The river is still very much used as a crucial piece of infrastructure, but, with the rising importance of the deep water port, it could slowly be reconverted into a more natural and appealing environment.

At Wusong Kou.
The Yangzi River at last.