Tag Archives: construction

Peering through gates – the construction zone that is Fuxing Road

15 Sep
Peering in

Peering in

I don’t remember when I first started to notice the changes.  I don’t walk down that stretch of Fuxing Road every day, but at least once every couple of weeks.

It must have been two years ago – the first signs.  Second story windows were boarded up – the businesses started leaving to be replaced by itinerant watermelon stands or pop-up fur coat sellers.

Then last year – the bricks started to appear.  I now understand that is the beginning of the end for the low apartment blocks that line Shanghai’s streets.  When the bricks appear, the complex is doomed.

The bricks...

The bricks…

Slowly, the street turned from a pretty tree lined home into a ruin.

Six months ago a good friend pulled me into the still living complex at night.  It was a rainy evening and the rain gave an other-worldly feeling about the place.  We wandered and gawked, feeling slightly guilty at intruding into an area which was obviously dying.  Now, things have deteriorated even further.

Tricycles line up each day to cart away the parts of the houses and their contents that still have value.  Sometimes it is foam, wood, even wire.  Men are dwarfed by the enormous loads.

These are small loads on the carts - some can be triple or quadruple this size.

These are small loads on the carts – some can be triple or quadruple this size.

From the street the buildings don’t look inhabitable, but among the wreckage I can sometimes see laundry drying on a line or a bicycle carefully parked by an abandoned doorway.  The final squatters won’t go until the heavy equipment comes in.  How long that will be, I don’t know.

A view on the other side of the fence - would you guess this is Shanghai?

A view on the other side of the fence – would you guess this is Shanghai?

Some people call photos like these “ruin porn” – I can understand why.  It is so difficult to look away and so easy to imagine that that was once your home – now turned into a shell of its former self – soon to disappear forever.

And what will they build?  Likely something like what is across the street – a complex with guards and pretty landscaping and tall buildings.   It looks very nice.  A place with fully functional plumbing, a place that is clean and safe and costs millions of dollars to buy a unit.  The rent for one month could be six months salary for those who originally lived across the street.

The future - a very nice place to live?

The future – a very nice place to live?

Where will those people go?  Where have they gone? Is this progress?


This is my Shanghai.


Waiting and waiting and…

10 Jan

I try not to rant on this blog very much.  I use it as an avenue to recognize the positive and make sure that I notice the beautiful – whether that beautiful is a great meal, a sunset or just something that makes me smile.

Sometimes though, it is hard to stay positive.

My office building is still under construction.  When I was home for Christmas they made marked progress, taking away most of the scaffolding and in general sprucing things up.  To great fanfare the main doors opened a week ago so an entrance that has been closed for nearly two years is now available.

And yet, that is only the outside appearances that they care about – the Chinese building owner equivalent of “saving face.”  Our office head told me that there is an opening ceremony on January 18th.  There is a long way to go and inside, it is mutiny.

The elevators have been under construction for months and now that they have unveiled the “new look” there is no way to tell which elevator door will open and so you have to scurry towards the door with the rest of the crowd and hope there is still space.  One day two of the four elevators that serve our floor were broken and I waited 15 minutes to go to lunch and then another 10 minutes to come back upstairs after.  I feel like I should be reimbursed for the wasted time.

Our office administrator has joined an action committee with other tenants for the slow moving construction.  There have been construction people during business hours standing on our desks, they have turned out the lights, there are power outages and phone outages.  We have been informed that shortly (though they said it at the beginning of December initially) the bathroom on our floor will be closed and we will have to go to another floor to use the restroom.

Our bathrooms here have been used by the floor below us for nearly two months.  There are only three stalls for probably over 200 women (hence the title of this post).  It makes me want to cry and scream and resort to physical violence – my yoga toned body has given me a pretty strong kicking leg, but who to kick?  There are no other options except I suppose getting dehydrated and not using the facility at all, but my body has not reached that level of self control as of yet, though give me another year and it might.

Coming to work physically makes my stomach turn and emotionally puts me in an extremely negative frame of mind.  I have tried re-framing, I have tried working from home (which I did for a period earlier this year, one day a week), but every time I enter my mood darkens.  What power the place where we spend our time has over our mood and life!

At this point everything the building management says is now met with skepticism by me.  I don’t believe our office committee, the doormen and especially the announcements that the building sends out (unless they are indicating the power is going out – those announcements always seem to be about two hours before).

So what do you do?  What do you do when there is nothing you can do?  I know that I need the courage to accept the things I cannot change, but I lack it, I really do.  How to keep positive?

Any suggestions welcome.  I’m sure I’ll get out of this funk eventually – it has been exaggerated by the fact that I have to work 8 days in a row under China’s lovely annual holiday reorganization plans and I am just over 6 days in.  I would guess that it is also post-holiday let-down as well.  More positive posts to come.

Please share your advice on how to get through this period.

Breathing easy?

2 Dec

When my mother visited China several years ago she said she thought that she could live here, except for the pollution.  I know that Shanghai is better than Beijing, but there are still days here where if I really thought about it, I wouldn’t go outside.  I also have developed an obsession with blue sky days over the last five years as you’ve probably noticed from the photos that I post.

That said inside the house or office there are still things to be scared of.

Over a year ago I wrote that the office building where I work was under construction.  It is still under construction and is an absolute mess. The elevators are periodically closed, one of the temporary entrances is the freight entrance where they store garbage and no matter where you are in the building the smell in the office is terrible.

Sometimes there is a smell of paint or paint thinner, sometimes it smells like something is on fire, sometimes smells from people smoking in the stairwell.  The smells change by day – some days are ok, others really disgusting.

It has gotten so bad that we have given the team the option to work from home – assuming they don’t have meetings.  However, this time of year (our busy season) there are meetings just about every day so it is not really a realistic option.  I really respect my coworkers and their coping mechanism has been to buy face masks and wear them in the office.   Last week I finally bought one as well.

3M may have a captive market!

3M may have a captive market!

I’ve worn it several times, though can’t do conference calls with it as it muffles my voice and doing meetings where half the folks are wearing a mask is still weird.  The hour or so in the morning when I’m alone though – the mask is there and I believe it makes a difference!  I’m not sure if it is the placebo effect or not, but at this point I really don’t care.

As I’ve dealt with this issue over the last few months it has made me angry and it also makes me sad.  Anger that a building management company could be so incompetent and careless about the people inside the building and sad that my coworkers and I really don’t have much other choice.  It is a microcosm of the larger issues in China about quality and construction and whether people are most important or the bottom line.

My new accessory

My new accessory

Our office is looking for another building, but the way contracts go, that will likely be another year.  For the time being – I’m wearing my mask and trying to breathe easy.

What do you think?

Red room hospital photo montage – 上海红房子医院

26 Aug

At the beginning of this year I published a photo from my bedroom window where one day I happened to look down and the roof was missing from the administration building of the hospital across the street.   Over the next several months, I kept an eye on the hospital.  They gutted the entire building and then started putting it back together.  When I thought of it, I snapped a picture, thinking that it may be interesting to see the progress of the build.

Then I went on vacation in May and forgot about it.

The original photo – no roof!

Putting it back together – March 2012

I thought this was nearing the end because of the red roof, but I was wrong (April 1)

Then they covered the beautiful red roof with what looked like concrete (Apr 7)

Then they sealed the roof – it wasn’t red anymore (April 17)

And the finished building (August 2012) – with the red roof

The hospital building is now completely finished and has flags fluttering on the flag pole in front.  I can see people entering and exiting regularly which is more than I can say for the now over a year long construction on my office building.

Shanghai’s red room hospital (红房子医院) is a famous OB-GYN, maternity hospital in Shanghai.  It has several branches and the one right out my window is one of the more centrally located ones.  My friend who had the second baby also went to a branch for her delivery, though closer to her home, not the one across the street.  It is  traditional hospital setting for China, meaning that you have to wait in line and sometimes in the morning there will be a line of expectant mothers or their representatives stretching through the courtyard, waiting to get a number to see the doctor.

I like the counterpoint of the idea of hospitals as a place of birth and new beginnings as opposed to the end, with pain and suffering.  Having a bright new red roofed building also helps.

Have you watched some place change – be renovated or renewed recently?

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