The glory and shame of factories and engineering sites that I saw in China.
A big concentration of some very cool civil engineering projects and large, impressive industrial facilities is around Shanghai, so when I used to live there, I went to check out some. Shanghai is divided by the Huangpu River - and to connect its shores, there are many tunnels, ferries and importantly, some neat bridges, too. The first bridge in central Shanghai opened in 1991 - Nanpu.
The bridge's central span is 423m / 1388ft, which is impressive, but the coolest bit is the spiral-shaped access junction at its western end. It is easily my favorite Shanghai bridge.
About 3km / 2mi up-stream is the Lupu Bridge (2003), an arch bridge with once the world longest span (550m / 1804ft). It is second now, as it was surpassed by another Chinese project.
Keeping the direction, the next one is the Xupu Bridge (1997).
Leaving Huangpu River, further south is another bridge worth visiting: the 32.5 km / 20.2mi long Donghai Bridge.
It connects Shanghai with the Yangshan Deep-Water Port, another great sight:
Speaking of engineering, I can not go without mentioning the super tall skyscrapers in Shanghai's downtown.
The tallest, the Shanghai Tower, includes interesting sustainable solutions. For example, its roof captures rainwater for internal use, there's double-layered insulating glass façade and near the top, the building is equipped with 200 vertical-axis wind turbines to help with the tower's power consumption.
There are, in fact, quite a few of rather impressive green projects across the country:
But, here's the other side of the coin: While you can see some admirable renewable energy projects in China, it seems like many of these ecological works are only for a good press, instead of actual effort to improve their pollution levels. Because when you look at the average factory or a power plant in China, the image is more like a historical postcard from 19th-century Europe.
Smoke covers the sky, and the soil around is penetrated with oil stains. All these make you question the priorities of the Chinese government.
They are building one of the world's biggest wind turbines, but aren't able to install the same ultra-efficient emissions filters that are commonly used across Western Europe. Because of which, the Chinese air is by far the worst I've experienced.
It's not that China wouldn't want to import western technologies. In fact, most of the infrastructure that works in modern China is brought from the west. Many Chinese buildings are designed by western firms - all of Shanghai's skyscrapers above 400m height are done by American companies; the world's fastest commercial train, Shanghai Maglev, was developed and constructed by Germans.
The Maglev, like all those bridges and buildings is an amazing achievement. However, the Maglev alone was $1.2 billion to build - which brings a question: "How come there's $1.2 bn for a short train; yet, there is no money to cover basic human needs?
You can't get drinkable water from the tap in China, so everyone's buying water in plastic bottles. There are some 1.4 billion people there, you can imagine the amount of plastic wasted just on these bottles every day. And it goes beyond the bottles, many restaurants give you plates and cutlery warped in plastic, some hotels even warp towels in plastic...
...and then you walk in a forest in the middle of mountains, and there's WiFi coverage.
Many people in western countries see China as an equal economical player, while Chinese would classify themselves as a developing country. This was interesting to me, as usually it would be the other way around. Although China has indeed a long way to go, given by the achievements they have, it seems like they are using the "developing" label only as an excuse to close eyes at the damaging behavior.
Anyway, behind all that oddities, it offers plenty of visual goodness - here are some unsorted pictures of China's industrial
And to end on a positive note, many former industrial sites are beautifully converted for the public:
Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Collections