The Architecture of “Bike City”, Shanghai

While the spiralling Danish Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo was only a temporary building, it may be remembered the way Bramante’s Tempietto to Saint Peter in Rome is remembered, that is, as a precursor to something behemoth that followed. It has plainly inspired JDS Architects’ vision for a gateway building to Shanghai’s “bicycle city”. Of all the projects to overtly propagandise for cycling in recent years (The Washington Bike Station, Carlo Ratti’s unbuilt London Cloud, 8-House by BIG), this would plainly be the most ambitious, or “China-scaled” offering, if it came to fruition. It would also mark the birth of a new architectural [stereo]type, the double helix, ride-through museum. Part of the visual intrigue of this type stems from the way it invites viewers to imagine themselves moving through a building, by some means other than walking. It is the bike-type to match the car-type of the Turin Fiat factory, another building that invites us to imagine circulating by some means other than walking.

JDS Architect’s vision for a neighbouring hall doesn’t invite direct comparison with a precedent in quite the same way as their museum. To my eye, it looks like a jelly that has been popped out of an old Indian stepped pond, that was used for a mould—only the stairs of the stepped pond were so old and worn, they looked like ramps. And just like a stepped pond, the green roof of their hall provides users with a infinite number of possible ways to move (or ride) up and all over. While the scurge of car transport engulfs China without abatement, at least there will be a token place to escape. With luck, Bike City Shanghai will be a beacon.

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