New City ON HOLD

Construction of a city center on hold, Sunnyvale, CA

Recent global phenomena and by-product of the economic recession:: The unfinished project.

Around the world, the construction of new buildings has halted, and these edifices, or “monuments to failed investment” remain erect in various forms of completion/annihilation.  Many are just the foundations, or cleared and surveyed landscapes, that have become the voids of well-established urban fabrics.  Others are the secured and inaccessible construction sites, severed and obstructing desolate parts of a city.  New York (and Boston?) are keeping running tabs on these arrested developments.  See Curbed NY for the city’s latest count.

In the US, the unfinished project is often a building or two.  And while Las Vegas probably has the largest conglomeration of these domestic paused developments right now, what happens in Asia…where the building of cities occurs at speeds comparable to single building construction here?

Existing Ordos south of the river, New orthogonal superblocks of Ordos City North of the river

Main arterial view, Ordos City

AlJazeera documented Ordos City, China in this November video segment.  It is an entire new city that stands built, yet empty.  A ghost town pre-inhabitation.  This is a pattern, though, that isn’t too unlike the empty spaces of Dubai and Shanghai.  Dubai’s Burj Khalifa opened this past week with loads of available office and hotel space and people wondering if it will ever be fully occupied.  I visited other places entertaining similar ‘on hold’ scenarios: New Songdo City, South Korea and Astana, Kazakhstan.  A view down an arterial road in Ordos makes me think of identical views across central Asia and reveals that city building today hasn’t changed much over the last 50 years.

Astana, Kazakhstan

Does this mean that cities around the world are rethinking their once audacious building agendas as large-scale projects have been consequentially delayed, halted, or cancelled?  This pause in city building presents an opportunity for a deliberate and thorough investigation of the built realities of the past decade’s experimental construction era.  It also begs for a realistic and sensitive vision on how to proceed once the gears of progress begin to turn again.


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