I believe this duality is shared by many. As we are in one place, we tend to miss another. My exploration this summer was quite eclectic, to say the least. It is not easy trying to narrow it down to functional organization and its relationship to the sense of home a place cultivates.
Indeed, spatial familiarity is a strong factor in one’s identification of homeliness. Yet, my journey through the different cities, towns and villages tell me that language, people, food, culture and many more attributes (even a scent) create a bond between an individual and a place.
The recreation of traditional shops is more than just for tourism purposes. As much as I find marketing gimmicks disgusting, if the replication is faithful and respectful, it is also a way to preserve the heritage in an economically sustainable manner.
This stylistically retro street in Shanghai is actually underground, below the Urban Planning Exhibition Centre. It connects to a young and popular underground shopping street and houses some novelty shops selling street food and young fashion. While the replica is not exactly true to the European-Chinese fusion architecture of the 1910s-1920s in terms of material, it still strives to be educational. The street is lined with posters introducing Shanghai’s culture such as iconic street food, types of shops throughout history etc.
Here, in Suzhou, we have a less polished version of modern businesses (in the picture above is a xiaomaibu, little mart, which is in a way, a bodega.) using historical buildings; a version I much prefer. The buildings here, in the Pingjiang district, are no doubt protected by the government. However, there is no overt ornamental restoration of the buildings. Instead, modest maintenance is given to guard the safety and integrity of the architecture. I admire I.M. Pei’s tributes to his hometown Suzhou with the museum and this train station. He reconciled heritage with modernity, creating new spaces that people still find familiar. Spaces, that people still recognize and see as part of their home.