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The Ugly Cities of Asia - Any hope of beauty for cities built after 1950?

post #1 of 53
Thread Starter 
Clearly, there will be those who find skyscrapers, concrete, and glass to be attractive. I don't. I think Tokyo is ugly and Hong Kong is only helped by its natural setting. The cities of China are ugly as sin outside of the part of Shanghai built by foreigners and the hutong area of Beijing.

Visiting Europe again and even Istanbul - not even a fully Western city - and seeing the beauty of the nineteenth architecture, even when it is crumbling, is always a painful reminder of just how unpardonably ugly the cities of Asia are. I suppose they were doomed by the materials used in their traditional architecture. Coming to Europe always depressed because of this.
post #2 of 53
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Some see history as grandeur; Others see the future as advancement.
post #3 of 53
It's a different feel, that's for sure. Asian cities to me feel more new, more fresh. European cities are weighed down by their heavy histories - you can actually feel this in the air. I do enjoy European architecture more, but this isn't to say that I like those cities more. Another thing to keep in mind is that much of the mid-to-late 20th century was the dark ages of common urban architecture - and this is the period that many of the buildings in several Asian cities were primarily built during. From what I have seen, high-traffic parts of modern cities are blooming with lots of very interesting modern buildings as of late. While they may not be as visually pleasing as classical-era facades and structures, they are certainly very interesting and fun.
post #4 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by MetroStyles View Post
It's a different feel, that's for sure. Asian cities to me feel more new, more fresh. European cities are weighed down by their heavy histories - you can actually feel this in the air.

I do enjoy European architecture more, but this isn't to say that I like those cities more.

Another thing to keep in mind is that much of the mid-to-late 20th century was the dark ages of common urban architecture - and this is the period that many of the buildings in several Asian cities were primarily built during. From what I have seen, high-traffic parts of modern cities are blooming with lots of very interesting modern buildings as of late. While they may not be as visually pleasing as classical-era facades and structures, they are certainly very interesting and fun.

Yes, Europe has lots of history, and most evocative of the old days are the ever-present classical structures of centuries before. Eastern Asia (that's what we're talking about right?) has had a similarly rich history, but the past few centuries that came with European conquest had led to systematic destruction or cease in development of most of its architectural landscape. The most recent havoc as a continuation to this trend is without a doubt Russian fed communism. As someone of Cuban heritage, I can tell you that even Havana boasted beautiful Art Deco architecture before Castro came to power. Much of Europe and Asia were on equal grounds technologically up to the late 16th and early 17th century. It was not until the early 19th century with industrial development, notably in England, that catapulted Europe way ahead of Eastern Asia. I think this gap is becoming smaller in the 21st century. The rise of truly apocalyptic weaponry has led the major military powers to seek resolutions for long term political stability between nations. This level of stability which is happening in most countries in East Asia today will lead to further industrialization of the landscape and new buildings to foster community development and commerce. I think if I were to travel Asia 40 years into the future, things would look very different. This is good, because there will be more places to pick up Lobbs and those fancy limited edition Haldiman watches.
post #5 of 53
^ Agreed. I was not implying that Asia does not have a rich history, but rather that many of the structures that stand in its cities today were not there during that history.
post #6 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by babygreenspots View Post
Clearly, there will be those who find skyscrapers, concrete, and glass to be attractive. I don't. I think Tokyo is ugly and Hong Kong is only helped by its natural setting. The cities of China are ugly as sin outside of the part of Shanghai built by foreigners and the hutong area of Beijing.

Visiting Europe again and even Istanbul - not even a fully Western city - and seeing the beauty of the nineteenth architecture, even when it is crumbling, is always a painful reminder of just how unpardonably ugly the cities of Asia are. I suppose they were doomed by the materials used in their traditional architecture. Coming to Europe always depressed because of this.

Perhaps you forgot that Tokyo and several other cities in Japan had the shit bombed out of them during WWII. In fact, the Tokyo air raids killed more people than both atomic bombs did. Hong Kong has so many people that they are forced to build upwards.
post #7 of 53
Thread Starter 
I wasn't talking so much about why East Asian cities are ugly. There are plenty of reasons ranging from bombing to wood structures, to population pressures.

I was more bemoaning the fact and commenting that this reality makes me awfully depressed. This was an emotional comment more than a rational one.

Also, if East Asian cities looked more East Asian, they wouldn't be ugly. Hence, I noted that Beijing's inner city is nice (though clearly impractical due to the . The problem is that they are an nearly endlessly repeating city scape of concrete, glass and steel. Even the construction minister of China bemoaned the fact that China was "a land of 1,000 identical cities" in 2007. These are the places that matter in the future.

The comment about East Asian cities having more energy is absolutely true though. It's too bad. I wish the beautiful places also had the vitality. I fear the places with the vitality have no hope of becoming beautiful.
post #8 of 53
I can only speak of Hong Kong.

But it's hardly ugly ( at least what I saw of it ).

From the Kowloon side looking across the bay out the windows of the Intercontinental or Peninsula Hotels, I though it was beautiful.
post #9 of 53
Bangkok is the most beautiful city I've ever seen.

I'm half English and London may be my favorite city in the world, but I think it's pretty damn far from beautiful.
post #10 of 53
It's interesting because when I talk to some people about London, Paris, or Rome they say that they didn't like them because they thought of them as "dirty". However I love them and the "patina" that they have on themselves and actually celebrate. The people in Europe in the past enjoyed great wealth and used that wealth to build structures (buildings, streets, bridges, homes, monuments) that would last a long, long time. I admire the Europeans that practically still use this infrastructure that reflects various design periods in both the overall form and their ornamentation.

Buildings, like in Frankfurt or Tokyo (both bombed the fuck out of in WW II) are modern and lack that superfluous ornamentation. I guess these cities are living their daily lives in a different, not necessarily blander environment. But I would think that these people I talked to about the other cities, like Rome, would find these more modern cities "cleaner".

But the cities that conduct their daily lives within the infrastructure built long ago by their ancestors are, to me, just as forward-looking as the modern cities. Thank God we have the variety on this planet for both.
post #11 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by MetroStyles View Post
It's a different feel, that's for sure. Asian cities to me feel more new, more fresh. European cities are weighed down by their heavy histories - you can actually feel this in the air.

I do enjoy European architecture more, but this isn't to say that I like those cities more.

Another thing to keep in mind is that much of the mid-to-late 20th century was the dark ages of common urban architecture - and this is the period that many of the buildings in several Asian cities were primarily built during. From what I have seen, high-traffic parts of modern cities are blooming with lots of very interesting modern buildings as of late. While they may not be as visually pleasing as classical-era facades and structures, they are certainly very interesting and fun.

When I'm in those cities like Paris or Rome, I definitely fell it in the air. When I've taken walks alone at night, it's almost like I feel a presence.
post #12 of 53
Historical Manila, such as the walled city of Intramuros, is very beautiful. Relics of a bygone age and traditions which may or may not have made it through the moral slackening of the rest of the city. Speaking of the rest of the city and its environs, it's covered in soot and ash and, egh. Still feels like home though.
post #13 of 53
Singapore is a very clean city but I don't consider it beautiful. There is a charm to their old Chinatown and a nice view from a bridge where you can see the boats, specially at night. Someone mentioned Paris and it is one of the most beautiful cities I've been lucky enough to visit on a regular basis. Paris though is a planned city and that in itself is an advantage.
post #14 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by HORNS View Post
It's interesting because when I talk to some people about London, Paris, or Rome they say that they didn't like them because they thought of them as "dirty". However I love them and the "patina" that they have on themselves and actually celebrate. The people in Europe in the past enjoyed great wealth and used that wealth to build structures (buildings, streets, bridges, homes, monuments) that would last a long, long time. I admire the Europeans that practically still use this infrastructure that reflects various design periods in both the overall form and their ornamentation.
Bern is the most beautiful city on Earth IMO because it's so clean, well preserved, and somehow feels modern despite its age. "Antigua" without being "vieja".
post #15 of 53
^^ Lovely!
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