Land, Ruins, and Paper – New High Density

Mingdi Zhou

Reassembling the Earth


Jazairy El Hadi


Shanghai is undergoing an era of fast development. Since the 1980s, more than three thousand high-rises have been built. And there would be more than three thousand more to be built in the future twenty years. People are making wonders in terms of height and speed with the help of concrete and steel. The wildly growing city endows these strong and lasting materials with the highest validity. However, the neglect of the capacity of our fragile land is letting us paying the price. Shanghai is subsiding, and it has already subsided for more than eight feet since the 1980s mainly because of the heavy load on the surface and the construction under the ground which is destroying the geological structure. Concrete and steel are helping us reach for the very high, but are also dragging us down to the very deep.

Shanghai is facing great danger. As a coastal metropolitan, land subsidence could do great damage to everyone in different ways. However, Shanghai is not born with skyscrapers. Shanghai became densely populated and international far before the Shanghai Center (the highest building in Shanghai) was built. There are many Shikumen communities (traditional dwellings) in Shanghai. They are low-rise but still dense, which can give us a lot of inspiration, and help us to question the authority of the spatial typology and materiality in today’s method of urbanization. The thesis is a design test in East Siwenli, a very traditional Shikumen community located at the very center of the urban environment in Shanghai. By making a low-rise but high-density community using the material of paper, the thesis aims to learn from the history, rethink about the relationship between us and our land, and arouse necessary care for the earth throughout the public.