“Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction” – Visions of Modernity in Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy’s current issue on urban development focuses almost exclusively on China. Relying on research by the McKinsey Global Institute, the magazine delves into the 75 fastest developing metropolises on the planet, 29 of which are in China (Shanghai and Beijing top the list, respectively). It is well worth perusing the actual magazine, which features photographs from my Visions of Modernity project, and delves into the serious ramifications of China’s ambitious infrastructure projects. Many of these unprecedented developmental efforts appear more and more misguided. My panorama of clustered residential developments surrounding the Huilongguan subway stop in northern Beijing, seen above, accompanies a piece entitled Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction. The article investigates many of the issues I explore in Visions of Modernity, the foremost being the unsustainable nature of urban planning in China and how it effects consumer, transportation and leisure habits.
The Foreign Policy website also features a series from Visions of Modernity where I documented Ikea customers in Beijing who partake in leisurely afternoons settling into faux showrooms scattered throughout the store. Each photograph suspends the shoppers in their appropriated Ikea environments, as if they were in their own homes. Such nascent nesting and consumer habits are catalyzed by the proliferation of individualized apartments in towering residential developments. These are known as megablocks and have become the cornerstone of Chinese urban planning. The monotonous and imposing structures dominate metropolises across China, forming urban islands that extinguish any sense of fluidity within cities. Although Foreign Policy delves into transportation and architectural projects that give some cause for optimism, such stratagems simply don’t exist on a scale to keep up with the massive urban migration China is experiencing and the concomitant demands on natural resources and energy. In many ways, I must agree with Ai Weiwei’s dark assessment of the plight of China’s cities. It can all seem very bleak. More panoramas of Beijing from Visions of Modernity are below.