Over the past two decades, I have bought more than 10 bicycles, all of which are now nowhere to be found. Although the theft of a bike is no more than an inconvenience, the frequency of theft has become a shared annoyance for city dwellers longing for green travelling. Now, this annoyance is gone! Outside the door of my home and nearly every gate of Peking University are shared bicycle services. They are in bright colors and easy to use with QR codes. Averagely the rides cost me about CNY 1 daily, and while this might add up to enough money to buy my bicycle over one year, the peace of mind of not worrying if the bicycle is stolen makes the cost worthwhile.
When ownership becomes a burden and utility an objective, sharing becomes a better option. Although social status is still tied to what and how many one owns, the sharing economy is pushing us toward more communist engagements. The city itself was born as a place of sharing: in cities we share the air and the water, the streets, the infrastructure, the parks and gardens, languages, and codes of behavior. In many ways, sharing indicates the level of urbanization or even civilization. As a result, “urbanization” is to some extent a process of sharing. Today, urban places are places of shared resources, and the Internet has been indispensable in developing access to shared resources, such as cars and homes.
If it is more proper to define urbanization as a process of urbanizing of people, or the civilized and technology-powered lifestyles, rather than centering on constructing high-rising buildings in cities, then urbanization or sharing at the scale of the national land would be inevitable. The concept of a “sharing farm” has been proposed in southern China’s Hainan Province. This represents an advanced stage of urbanization where the dream of returning to idyllic country life is achieved by connecting urban folks with the most picturesque natural environment. It is also the dream which had been pursued for 2,000 years by scholar-bureaucrats, the first “urbanized” population in ancient China.
I most want to express what the sharing city — or more precisely the sharing lifestyle — can mean for Landscape Architecture. Landscape Architecture is in many ways the product of sharing cities, and the discipline and profession developed in response to urban dwellers’ needing spaces within the city where their body and soul could be healed in the industrial age. About 15 years ago, I proposed a set of strategies related to sharing for constructing the urban ecological infrastructure. These included demolition of enclosing walls, opening-up of green belts for special purpose, the establishment of continuous bike networks, dissolving parks, dissolving cities and the introduction of farmland into cities. At the time these sound futuristic, but they are currently becoming a reality. It is not that I am a foreseer, but the inevitable trend for our discipline and profession if the track of human civilization and the path of social development are to be followed. As new sharing resources are developed, Landscape Architecture will face more and more new questions about how to address the demands of sharing, including the need of urban space within a shared transportation network and how design might plan for sharing farms. The sharing lifestyle has expanded the possibilities for how Landscape Architecture might intervene in urban spaces.