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“I lived in Shanghai, in a 28 story building, for a year from 2013 to 2014. From our living room window we could see the construction of Shanghai’s tallest building and the world’s second tallest building, Shanghai Tower (632m). Right next to our building was a district comprising old reconstructed mid-19th century shikumen (stone gate) houses on narrow alleys, and behind our home was another old neighborhood, which was demolished during the time we lived there. So just by looking out from our windows, we could see the history, the present, and the future of this amazing city.
But living in Shanghai opened my eyes to many burning issues related to urban development. In the beginning, the sight of taller, smarter and futuristic-looking buildings on the city’s skyline was fascinating. After the initial wow-period, I started seeing things without ‘rosy filters’. I realized none of the fancy development matters if it is not happening in a safe a reliable way.
My daughter was a year old then and life in Shanghai with a small child can be quite challenging. Due to high pollution levels, we had to stay inside. Traffic was chaotic and for example crossing the road was always a challenge even when there was a pedestrian crossing and a green light. On the other hand, I have not experienced any other place globally, where people are so friendly to children and always having time to focus on them. It is a city of paradoxes.”