My favourite choc-mint neighbourhood

Much of the housing in Shanghai is arranged into complexes, ranging from smaller rows of terrace-type houses that are gated at one end, to huge modern estates, where a number of apartment towers are arranged within a landscaped site that is ringed by a security fence and patrolled by guards.

Our apartment is located within an Art Deco complex, typical of the surrounding neighbourhood (the former French Concession).  During the early 20th century, European immigrants developed the area using the architecture and landscape of their homelands, much of which is retained and celebrated as a unique part of Shanghai.   Later, as the foreigners were forced from China, these neighbourhoods were given over to the local Shanghainese.

     

Just around the corner is one of my favourite complexes.  We discovered it when we were looking at an apartment across the road (Fuxing Road) and were wondering if it allowed a short-cut through the block – saving us a lengthy walk around the block – to the Metro station.  Indeed it did, and we have been using it since to shorten the journey through the neighbourhood.

Along the main street frontage, there are two taller apartment buildings.  While fenced to the street, this fence is transparent and overlooked by windows, making it a physical, but not visual, separator.

I think my favourite aspect of the complex is the colour scheme.  Green and brown.  It is the colour scheme of a tree, or a frog, or choc-mint ice-cream, which I used to love as a child, but now makes me feel slightly disturbed for some reason.

    

And the managers of the complex seem pretty happy with it too, applying it to whole-of-building, brick patterns, signage, doorways and electrical boxes.

    

Through the front gate (the small gate for pedestrians is unlocked all the time, but there is a guard who jumps out of his seat to open the big gate for cars), there is a central “street” along which all of the buildings are arranged.

Very few people living here would own cars though.

Away from the street edge, buildings are generally 2 or 3 storeys, accessed along smaller lanes that run perpendicular to the main accessway.

These common areas are used for a variety of everyday functions – clothes washing and drying, motor scooter repair, herb growing, gossiping.  In complexes with a higher proportion of local residents, they are incredibly well used.  But now, as values have shifted from the communal to the individual, people now focus on their private, rather than shared, domain.   The activities of the laneway have been relocated to the laundromat, the repair shop, the supermarket and living room.

And, of course, the foreigners are moving back in.  These types of houses are wildly popular with the expats (us included…) and a local landholder can make a tidy sum out of renting their apartment.

My Chinese colleagues all wonder why we are living in an old style apartment, when for the same price, we could rent a larger apartment in a new complex with pool and gymnasium and manicured lawns.  My main argument – “I prefer something with character … preferably choc-mint” – seems to convince no-one.

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4 Responses to My favourite choc-mint neighbourhood

  1. bitbot says:

    (he he – “Fuxing”)

    Totally agree about chic mint ice-cream.

  2. Pingback: My favourite sponge-cake neighbourhood « That Look Crayzy!

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