Cities for Social Beings
Leaving Jiaju,China's most beautiful village located in the remote regions of southwestern China's mountainous area, we travelled along the Xiaojinchuan Valley,across the snow-capped Balang Mountain, and through the Wolong National Natural Reserve that had been shattered by the devastating earthquake in 2008... After the eight hours, long of jalting and bneliness, leaving behind the dangeraus clifts and valleys, we suddenly arrived at the Chengdu Plain as thrust back into this warld fram the domain of the gods of mountains,rivers,winds andsnows. A real relief. However, as the car circled the outer ring of downtown Chengdu,the relief was replaced by an inexplicable terror: the urban sky is shrouded with haze, the gigantic distorted buildings stand with dreadful expressions. Crawling on the elevated expressway that linked the tremendous structures of flyovers were cars of various sizes,but any trace of human beings was nowhere to found; nor was there any smoke fram kitchen chimneys. This is like the devildom in the Lord of theRings. Then we reach the downtown area. On the similarly broad roads, cars, like iron monsters, rush about madly, ignaring the poor old people and young kids who risk their lives running across before the traffic lights turned red. The urban aristocrats reside behind tall walls, who, thaugh speaking the same local language,are not able to communicate with each other.Rivers built with reinforced concete had become death traps for living creatures,induding the children. And in the immense squarethere are vendors selling things you did not need... Where is the most livable city? Where is the so-called Oriental Eden? Is this the urban landscape and city we have been pursuing?
This is Chengdu; Shanghai, Guangzhau -and Beijing is no different!
I would rather that children carrying schoolbags walked freely in the urban streets and aleys with their friends, without their parents driving them to school, that they could be like the kids in the countryside who do not need to worry about the speeding cars and passing strangers.
I would rather that mothers washed clathes by the urbanrivers on the layered banks,children playing in the water,as those do by the canals in Lijiang,the Tuojiang River in Fenghuang,and the Erhai Lake in Dali,than to see people stand by white marble railings boking at the river water flowing by.
I would rather that children sat in the shade of large tres listening to the old people teling stories passed down fram their grandfathers,as the tales were told under the tall camphor tree atthe gateway of my home village,than to see old people sent to the nursing hames,and children locked in schools.
I would rather that girls returning from schoal plaved ho pscotch or swings in the public courtyard, even if it were anly a dirt playfield,as the children do in the sodalist compaunds,than to see them meet anly in the eleva tors.
I would rather that people fram afar be gathered in the bustling fairs, displaying their fresh fruit and vegetables and handifcrafts,the matured men bantering and bargaining,thanto see shappers take down plastic-packed produds fram the shelves in the air-conditioned supermarkets and pay without taking about the prices.
I would rather that a young man and a young waman sat by a well looking at the reflected moon in the water and dreaming about their beautiful future,than to see loverssit in front of their computers making out in virtual space.
Human beings are social animals,and cities are the places for socializing. Because of love, friendship and common interest, comvenience and communication,peaple choose to live in groups, and thus enabling cities to come into existence. However. people find out today that,thaugh they have in cities splendid buildings extensive traffic netwarks and delicate squares with decorations,they no langer communicate,nor can they findthe places for exchange: by the waters, under the trees at the side of the bridges, in the streets, marketplaces or courtyards. Gties should be places for cammunities,and now that we have the space,but have lost the sense of sodal community.
One of the core missions for urban landscape architecture isto restore the urbanism of the cities,which mears recovering the real cly as netwarks of communication instead of the virtual city of anine games which anly has the appe arance of cly, without the essence of urbanism.