Sub Urbia

Shanghai sprawl
Shanghai sprawl from JinMao Tower. 

Create. Own. Inspire
Creative Commons License
Shanghai suburbanization photo by Elizabeth Aab is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. .
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Ozmo


“Most of the building… is being done by people who don’t like cities.  They do not merely dislike the noise and the dirt and the congestion.  They dislike the city’s variety and concentration, its tension, its hustle and bustle.  The new redevelopment projects will physically be in the city, but in the spirit they deny it –and the values that since the beginning of civilization have always been at the heart of great cities.” 
— William Whyte, The Exploding Metropolis, 1958.  Talking about New York.


This quote was in an exhibit I saw when I was in NY at Columbia University on Robert Moses, the (in)famous developer of New York during the mid 20th century. But it could just have well been used to describe Beijing (or Chengdu, Shanghai, Kunming, Xi’an, Chongqing, Qingdao or any major Chinese city) today.


New York is an eminently walkable city, built Continue reading

The ruse of law

So you want to do business in China, but you keep hearing about the fact that there is no “rule of law,” or that it’s “unsafe.” Well, last night I sat down with a lawyer friend of mine, and listened as she told me the biggest potholes in the road of China Opportunity.

At one point, my stomach full of Korean food and my brain stuffed with terms like “judicial review” and “normative law” I asked her to stop. “I don’t get it,” I said. “This doesn’t make any sense. Can you explain it again?”

She smiles and says, “No, if you don’t get it, that actually means you get it.”

So what is fishy about the Chinese legal system? I don’t know law from a chicken leg, but here are three things I’d be careful about: Continue reading

City dreamers

The rents for one-bedroom apartments in Manhattan average $2,567 a month, and two-bedrooms average $3,854 a month, according to data from Citi Habitats, a large rental brokerage company, but rents tend to be far higher in coveted neighborhoods like the Upper West Side and TriBeCa.

Because landlords typically require renters to earn 40 times their monthly rent in annual income, renters of those average apartments would need to earn at least $102,680, individually or combined, to qualify for a one-bedroom and $154,160 to afford a two-bedroom.

— Christine Haughney, “New York City Renters Cope With Squeeze.” The New York Times. May 10, 2007.
I read articles like this about NY rents, and I wonder what will happen to the City of Dreamers — a city built on the energy of young guys with aspirations to invent, create, change and build.  Will NY instead become a city of people who aspire to pay their rent?  Who swap out of jobs in journalism and culinary arts and teaching and non-profits in order to go for the more solid banker/doctor/lawyer slots? Continue reading