Today Gutierrez and a team of Arup specialists from Europe, North
America, and Asia are finalizing a plan for a scratch- built metropolis
called Dongtan. Anywhere else in the world, it would have been a thought
exercise, done up pretty for a design book or a museum show. But
Shanghai's economy is growing three times faster than the US economy did
at the height of the dotcom boom. More than 2,000 high-rises have gone
up within city limits in the past decade. The city's most famous stretch
of skyline, including the jewel-box-like Jin Mao Tower and the purple
rocket-shaped Pearl TV Tower, was a rice paddy just 20 years ago. Now
some 130 million people live within a two and a half hour drive of
downtown. Even the wild ideas get built here.

Dongtan breaks ground later this year on a plot about the size of
Manhattan on Chongming Island. The first condos and commercial space
will hit the market by 2010, around the time a 12-mile bridge and tunnel
combo and subway extension will link the city to Shanghai's new
international airport (45 minutes away) and financial district (30
minutes). By 2050, Dongtan will have a half-million residents, more than
Miami or Atlanta today.

That may count as a cozy little town in a country of 1.3 billion people.
But Dongtan is a dramatic gambit, and not just because a whole city will
rise, fully realized, from nothing. With Dongtan, Arup is testing a
radical new approach to urban design, one that suggests cities across
China and the rest of the developing world can actually get greener as
they grow. "Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, SOM, HOK are all doing better
or worse design," Gutierrez says, subtly dismissing some of the
architecture world's biggest names (inmcluding at least one that angled
for the Dongtan job). "But they're not addressing the central problem of
this age — resource efficiency — and how it relates to cultural, social,
and economic development."

Mao Tse-tung believed the natural world was all that stood between
Communist China and its industrial future. His country, he said in a
1940 speech, "must use natural science to understand, conquer, and
change nature." And conquer it did. Forests were razed, up to 90 percent
of the trees in some provinces. The government, in a scheme to
accelerate steel production, forced Beijing residents to smelt metal in
hundreds of thousands of polluting backyard furnaces. New factories
dumped untreated waste into the rivers until they turned a deep, noxious
black. When China's economy began to take off in the 1980s, conditions
got worse. Foreign firms put their most toxic manufacturing operations
in China. Sudden prosperity, and a rush to boomtowns like Shanghai,
drove energy demand well beyond what the grid could provide. Today,
China opens an average of one new coal-fired power plant per week, the
main reason it will pass the US in the next two years as the world's
biggest source of CO2 emissions. Since 2001, China has increased its
emissions more than every other industrialized country in the world
combined.


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