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Shanghai is its people. Like many global cities around the world, Shanghai’s people have become its most important asset, proving more valuable than natural or pre-existing resources. As London, Singapore, New York, Sydney, and others have all realized, a people-centered development approach is vital for the sustainability of their economic development, social cohesion, and urban identity. Global cities have turned toward their rivers, using their once natural resources now as social resources. Shanghai is no exception – its municipality is giving the Huangpu River back to its residents.

In the Master Plan 2040[1] and 13th Waterfront Five Year Plan, Shanghai has called for 45 kilometers of continuous public space from Yangpu to Xupu Bridge. Not only will the riverside now be accessible, but each district’s riverfront will also have a variety of new functions from research & development and education hubs in the “East Bund” (Yangpu District) to water transportation and finance along the “North
Bund” (Hongkou District) and media and cultural functions in the South Bund. The West Bund will carry on building itself as a art and leisure district. The 45 kilometers are intended to be fundamentally a public space. How they will be accessible – open, inviting and engaging people remains to be seen.

While still a basic sketch, this plan implicates an inherent shift in how Shanghai residents are able to interact and engage with the Huangpu River. The average Shanghai resident will have the opportunity to experience their city and river in a profoundly different way. For the first time since Shanghai’s birth, a full cross section of the city will be linked through a walkable, bikable riverfront public space. Residents will be able to move from the Oil Tank Art Park in the West Bund to the Cool Docks in the South Bund up to the Yangpu District, all while enjoying the river and observing the regeneration of older industrial sites. Soon many new and unexpected views will represent the city of Shanghai.

The most identifiable cities are often the ones that gaze upon themselves – San Francisco’s hills allow views of Victorian row houses, London’s Millennium Footbridge allows views of St. Paul’s Cathedral. And as for Shanghai, the banks of the Huangpu River will soon provide unprecedented views and engagement from Pudong to Puxi and Puxi to Pudong.

[1] Public Riverside, Shanghai 2040, www.supdri.com/2040/
[2] Riverside 13th five year plan, www.shanghai.gov.cn/