NYC –> Shanghai, 24 days: Eight Days a Week

August 17th, 2013. 24 days.

The consummate 24 hour city.

2013-08-16 22.34.16I’ve always been an annoyingly observant “appraiser” of the built environment – likely a product of growing up in a place that was devoid of street life at best and antagonistic toward pedestrians at worst. It’s no wonder that when tasked with compiling an exhaustive list of any and all street characteristics that could impact our physical (and mental) behavior over a decade ago, that I did so with meticulous gusto. Some of the features I was quickest to note during my steadfast observations where not necessarily related to the physical environment but to the people inhabiting it. For example, street vendors are a critical part of what brings streets to life. Last night, I came across this book seller in the East Village. It was nearly 11pm. New Yorkers take this for granted. But they shouldn’t. This scene is a unique one for the US. Not many other American cities can boast this same sense of conviviality, of magnetism. And for me as a woman, street vendors and other late-night street “activators” make me feel safer. They provide not just eyes on the street but eyes in the street. And in China…street vendors take on a whole new meaning. Night markets have to be one of the most fascinating displays of somehow organized chaos I’ve ever witnessed. It’s one of the lessons I’m hoping to bring back from China to the US (as by no means do I believe my role will solely be a holier-than-thou didactic one! – both countries have tons to learn from each other!). For these reasons and more, street vendors and other outdoor activities are an important part of the “inventory” of features for which State of Place – both in the US and China – accounts. Personally, I also love that they offer the opportunity to pick up a random book or a unique memento or even better – a scrumptious snack – at any time, day or night!

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