A WALK TO RE­MEM­BER

Packed with el­e­ments of art, cul­ture, his­tory and nature, Shang­hai’s newly opened 45-kilo­me­ter water­front trail along the Huangpu River is the city’s lat­est land­mark

China Daily European Weekly - - CHINA NEWS - By XING YI in Shang­hai xingyi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Al­most ev­ery ma­jor me­trop­o­lis in the world has a river run­ning through it. There is the Thames in Lon­don, the Seine in Paris, the Hud­son River in New York and the Neva in St. Peters­burg.

Shang­hai is no ex­cep­tion. Di­vid­ing the city into halves, Puxi and Pudong, is the Huangpu River, a trib­u­tary of the Yangtze that ex­tends to the East China Sea. It is af­fec­tion­ately called Shang­hai’s “Mother River” by res­i­dents. Af­ter all, the river has through­out his­tory played a sig­nif­i­cant part in the city’s de­vel­op­ment.

From the late 19th to the early 20th cen­tury, the Huangpu was where ship­yards, fac­to­ries, ware­houses and banks sprouted, fu­el­ing Shang­hai’s trans­for­ma­tion from a sleepy back­wa­ter into a vi­brant trad­ing hub.

At the turn of the new mil­len­nium, Shang­hai be­gan the re­struc­tur­ing of its core in­dus­tries, mark­ing a shift in fo­cus to ser­vice and fi­nan­cial in­dus­tries. This was also the time when the lo­cal gov­ern­ment started to re­think the river’s role in society.

The plan to trans­form the river­front into a pub­lic green space was listed in the city’s de­vel­op­ment plans for 19992020. The am­bi­tious plan was again in­cluded in the city’s three-year ac­tion plan for build­ing pub­lic spa­ces along the river be­tween 2015 and 2017. Some of the docks and ware­houses from the past grad­u­ally dis­ap­peared from the land­scape and were re­placed by river­side parks and walk­ing trails. Some fac­to­ries along the river were turned into art gal­leries.

In Jan­uary, the re­de­vel­op­ment plan reached a mile­stone when the river­fronts on both sides of the Huangpu were con­nected with a scenic 45-kilo­me­ter trail that is open to the pub­lic. From its north­ern end at the Yangpu Bridge, the trail me­an­ders through five dis­tricts to its south­ern end at Xupu Bridge.

“The con­nec­tion of the two trails is great for run­ners,” says Xie Chuntian, 66, a run­ning en­thu­si­ast who lives near the west bank of the river in Xuhui district.

“There used to be many dead ends on the trail and I had to exit and run along the in­ner-side road or turn around when the trail ended. Now I can run along the river all the time, free from traf­fic and al­ways in sight of the ter­rific views.”

Bian Shuowei, an ur­ban de­signer at the Shang­hai Ur­ban Plan­ning and De­sign Re­search In­sti­tute, says that the most chal­leng­ing task was con­nect­ing all th­ese dead ends.

“There were around 100 ar­eas that were oc­cu­pied by dif­fer­ent own­ers, in­clud­ing many State-owned com­pa­nies and fac­to­ries. In or­der to link the sep­a­rate trails, we had to ne­go­ti­ate with many par­ties, re­quest that some com­pa­nies be re­lo­cated and build many sky­walks and bridges,” he says.

Qian Xin, a pro­fes­sor at the in­sti­tute who was in­volved in com­pil­ing the guide­lines for the trail, told Xin­min Evening News that the ob­jec­tive was to pre­serve the unique fea­tures of the river­front while cre­at­ing a sense of unity along the route. The plan­ners also so­licited the opin­ions of the pub­lic for the pro­ject.

The route fea­tures three lanes ded­i­cated one each to walk­ing, jog­ging and cy­cling, and the route is al­most al­ways flanked by flora and fauna. Trail users can also find pub­lic re­strooms ev­ery 500 to 1,000 me­ters.

Qian says the water­front can be gen­er­ally di­vided into three zones — a his­tor­i­cal area that fea­tures the city’s in­dus­trial legacy, a cul­tural space with mu­se­ums and gal­leries, and a nature spot.

The 2.8-km sec­tion of the trail in Yangpu district is where a num­ber of in­dus­trial build­ings are lo­cated. There is a cot­ton mill as well as Shang­hai’s first wa­ter and power plants, all of which have a his­tory of al­most 100 years.

In Xuhui district, the 8.9-km trial links an ar­ray of mu­se­ums and art gal­leries. The Yuz Mu­seum was for­merly a hangar, the Long Mu­seum used to be a coal-load­ing dock, and the Star Mu­seum was a rail­way sta­tion.

Chen Zi­han, a land­scape de­signer at the West Bund Group, the main de­vel­oper of the river­side in Xuhui district, says there will be 10 mu­se­ums open to the pub­lic along this sec­tion of the trail by 2020. He adds that the West Bund group has also signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with France’s Pom­pi­dou Cen­ter to hold an art ex­hi­bi­tion at the West Bund Art Mu­seum, sched­uled to open by the end of this year.

Over at the 2.5-km sec­tion of the trail in Hongkou district, peo­ple can take in the view of sky­scrapers in the city’s Lu­ji­azui fi­nan­cial area. This is con­sid­ered the main at­trac­tion of the trail.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

As of this year, the river­fronts on both sides of the Huangpu River are con­nected with a scenic 45-km trail that is open to the pub­lic.

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