my epic subway ride
The post title might be a little dramatic, but on Tuesday I traveled about 40 stops by metro! The remarkable thing about it is that 40 stops only covers a sliver of the city (see circled area). I didn’t get off the train at 40 stops–in that case I’d still be out there–but I was able to watch the scenery go by, and ended up late in the afternoon near ships and freight containers and and old cotton factory.
The first mission of the day was to visit the very cool studio and living space of Jonas Merian and Nina Chen. Jonas makes furniture out of reclaimed materials from around Shanghai, and Nina is a photographer. I met Jonas at TEDx, and I met Nina for the first time on Tuesday, as well as their sweet and playful kitten. It was really inspiring to see their live-work space, which they built out from an empty shell. (If you want to see it in person, they rent out a great room within the space on airbnb!) I didn’t take any photos inside their studio because you can see tons of good ones at the links in this paragraph. Jonas has a full-on woodworking workshop and it was exciting to be around saws and tools and–a “real” work space! Not that I don’t love my little desk. . .
Of course I was running late to get there, having never traveled so far by metro before. When I finally entered the Wu Wei Creative Garden complex, I was excited to see all the old warehouse buildings–it reminded me a lot of Northeast Minneapolis or the good ol’ Ivy Building. But then I saw a giant tree made out of red hearts (which I also loved, you can imagine). Then I saw an almost-costumed couple, with heavily-sprayed hair in a retro convertible, with young men with light bouncing shades running around them. I soon realized that I was walking through a series of fake street scenes (an old-school phone booth, a hello kitty cafe, a European storefront) used for wedding photography! Pretty awesomely kitsch and amusing amidst the warehouses and construction. Wandering around later, I also found a couple galleries to check out–one with some interesting installations reflecting on ink painting. A funny blend of businesses are making their home at Wu Wei. It seems that the developers in these types of areas are all hoping to ride the wave of success that happened with the artist areas in Beijing–but it remains to be seen which ones, if any, will mimic adequately. I found the area entertaining and a nice mix of bigger warehouses and smaller old buildings.
While chatting with Jonas and Nina about life as artists in Shanghai, they suggested I check out a space called 1919, that is “not too far away.” Since I wasn’t sure when I’d next schlep that far from home, I decided to seek it out. I hopped in a cab thinking it would be a little faster and and also prevent me from getting lost for an hour, which it did. I also enjoyed the wind in my hair, the view of the ships, and thought to myself, “Wow, riding in a car is such a luxury!” But if you want to get there for a mere 5¥, just take line 3 to Songbin station–it’s not far at all from there, and you get to walk by some great street food carts–and you get the same view of the ships from the metro car.
At the 1919 area–or at least I was pretty sure I was there–I couldn’t quite tell where to go. It was just a big area full of old buildings. The cab driver looked concerned, but I convinced her I was okay. I ran into some security guards, and through word fragments and gesturing we came to a sign that said “art street” or something like that, and we all figured I should head that way. Luckily in Shanghai, there is almost always a security guard or someone to ask for help. And often a sign with a little bit of English.
I wandered and entered a complex of old cotton factory buildings that are huge, cavernous, gorgeous, inspiring. Again I was reminded of Minneapolis, along the Mississippi. Along side this complex is the Huang Pu River, where ships are loaded with cargo, and on whose shores older folks walk their dogs in their PJs. It definitely crossed my mind (repeatedly) that it would be a very cool place to live and work. But. . . so far away! I asked Sean if he’d mind commuting a good 18 or 19 stops to work each way, and. . . well, you can guess what his response was!
I have a good many photos below that I hope you’ll enjoy, including a few shots from the Subway platform before I took my 19-stop ride home.
P.S. Do you find the old factories as inspiring as I do? What is it about them?