Monday, June 2, 2008


Class was on hold for a week because Robert Mangurian had to be in L.A. 

Ted and I headed for Shanghai. We took a night train out of Beijing. We had the two top bunks in a sleeper cabin. Our neighbors down below were quiet and unassuming -a younger chinese couple. The train ride was about 12 hours, which wasn't bad when you sleep through most of it. The beds had fluffy comforters and two pillows. It was pretty nice, better than the sleeper trains I have been on in europe. A one way ticket cost about $80. 

We arrived in Shanghai 7:30am on a Sunday, and decided to wander around for a few hours to give our host a little more time to sleep. Ted and I strolled through People's Park and checked out all the tai chi and other activities going on. The whole place was bustling.
We called Adam Fox and got directions to his apartment just outside of Shanghai in Pudong. He and his wife Andrea, live in a really nice two-bedroom apartment above the international school where they both teach. After settling in we all went into the city and ate brunch at a restaurant tucked away in a densely packed retail development snaking between buildings. Storefronts carved out of old buildings house boutique shops and restaurants, making it feel like europe....which is probably the intent. Shanghai is very westernized and very international. There are tons of white people there, and many natives speak english, which is a stark contrast to Beijing. The restaurants cater to a western taste, and the menus are in english of course. 
We walked the city for awhile heading towards the pet market to pick up some crickets for the class lizard -a 12 inch bearded dragon. Shanghai feels much more urban than Beijing in that the streets are smaller and the buildings are more dense. It is easy to walk the city, and the public transportation is excellent. We went back to the apartment to regroup and refresh before heading out for dinner.

We ate at a Thai restaurant, and then went to a bar called Abbey Road, and had some drinks in the courtyard area. The weather in Shanghai is hot and humid, so the night is very comfortable. 

Ted and I went all over the city then next day, checking out a couple museums, the fabric market, and random shops along the way. That evening we met with an architect who came to BASE for a lecture the week before, Fei Wang, and his friend Matt (another chinese architect) for some drinks in a fancy tourist area. Then they took us to another bar that had some interesting design stuff going for it. To enter the the building, you walk up a half-flight of stairs to a landing with flat doors on the left and right sides. In front of you are 9 illuminated holes in the wall, and you have stick both of your fist inside two of the nine holes to "unlock the door". When you get it wrong the door on the right side slides open to reveal a mirror. We got it right on the second try and the left side door slid open. Fancy cocktails are close to US prices, about $8 or $9 for a martini, but these drinks were a little better. 

Tuesday, Fei and Matt took us around Shanghai. We visited the architecture school and a few buildings. One of the standout buildings was a slaughterhouse built in the 1930's by an unknown architect (maybe British?) which was in the process of being converted into retail. The building was made entirely of concrete. Inside stairs and ramps snaked up four stories, connecting the periphery of the building to central structure. This is probably the most amazing building I've ever been in. It was like walking through a giant sculpture because the structure was so monolithic -everything concrete. It is unfortunate that nobody knows who the architect was because it would be amazing to understand the design more thoroughly. The circulation was obviously very important, getting the animals in and up to the top, and then assuming the ramps acted like slides, they slid the slaughtered animal down to be shipped out. I'm thinking about heading back down to Shanghai when my program ends to spend more time at this building, drawing and photographing the space.
Ted and I had dinner with Adam and Andrea at a Brazilian Barbeque place, which was having a fundraiser for the earthquake victims. 100 yuan bought an all-you-can eat plate. They come around every few minutes with swords skewering a hunk of meat and slice a little off on your plate. A live band played brazilian music, plus some bob marley. 

On wednesday Ted and I taught two of Adams classes one-point perspective. Each class was an hour long, and Ted and I went through the basics, and then had the students draw a room and furnish it. The kids were in 7th-9th grade, and were very bright. The school is english speaking, but the kids are from all over the world. Their parents are mostly expats. They did very well with the lesson, and we had a good time attempting to teach. In between classes we ate lunch in the cafeteria. The food was far better than what I had in middle school. It was great to see Adam with the kids because he really has a good time with them joking around, but can also get everyone focused quickly, and give them instructions about an assignment. For me the whole thing was a little nerve racking because I imagined the kids turning on me, like I remember kids doing to substitute teachers, but they were a good bunch. 

Ted and I packed up and headed out of town. Initially we were going to go to Sunzhou but we decided to skip it and head back to beijing a day early. We tried to get sleeper tickets on the train but they were sold out, so we settled with soft-seats (essentially airplane seats). It was a bit rough. The other passengers were noisy -cell phones ringing, music playing, talking, vendor ladies yelling. We got into beijing the next day, stumbled into a mcdonalds and ate some strange croissant-like hot pockets filled with egg. We grabbed a cab and rolled into Cao Chang Di around 9:30am. I slept in my apartment for a few hours before heading over to base to begin work. 

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