Tag Archives: China

How Chinese Urbanism Is Transforming African Cities

This article from Metropolis explores China’s urban development of many African cities, and the effect this has had on the architectural quality of those cities. Chinese contractors and architects are able to propel a city’s growth at lower cost and on schedule, but in doing so, they out-compete local companies and ignore cultural context. Is this an acceptable trade-off? Read the full article and decide for yourself.

The factory of the world has a new export: urbanism. More and more Chinese-made buildings, infrastructure, and urban districts are sprouting up across , and this development is changing the face of the continent’s cities.

Or so says Dutch research studio Go West Project , who have been tracking this phenomenon for their on-going project about the export of the Chinese urban model to Africa. Since 2012, the group, made up of Shanghai-based architect Daan Roggeveen and Amsterdam-based journalist Michiel Hulshof, have visited six African cities to do research. Roggeveen and Hulshof recently released their preliminary report in an issue of Urban Chinaa magazine focusing on Chinese urban development.

According to the duo, ’s growing economic and political might have made them a significant player in the continent. Not only is it Africa’s single largest trading partner today,’s practical investment diplomacy—offering buildings, roads, railways, power plants and other infrastructure—has emerged as a powerful alternative to Western development aid that is geared towards reducing poverty instead. This has led to Chinese companies successfully funding and building many new developments in African cities ranging from the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos, Nigeria.

The Lekki Free Zone (LFZ), a collaboration between a Chinese company and the Lagos government. Image Courtesy of Go West Project

While many Africans appreciate this much-needed development, it is not without its problems, says Roggeven. Many of them fail to relate to the local context, such as the Great Wall Apartments, a residential development in Nairobi, Kenya, consisting of residential blocks that look exactly like housing units found across China. Through interviews with inhabitants and journalists from each city, the team also found that the Chinese urban model presents a paradox for its people.

“On the one hand, China is able to deliver projects, within budget and on time and propels urban development forward. On the other hand, Chinese companies are able to undercut all other competitors, including locals,” Roggeven explains. “This means African companies are unable to compete. This leads to loss of local jobs and businesses—not only in construction but also in low level jobs like street sellers and construction workers.”

The LFZ, currently beginning construction, was planned in China.. Image Courtesy of Go West Project

And the impact of Chinese development in Africa is only growing bigger. While Chinese companies used to be involved mainly in construction work, Go West found that they have an increasing say in actual city development today.

“More and more the Chinese are moving up the value chain, where they also design and even develop buildings and parts of cities. These interventions are very often not aligned with the local context, but rather planned top down,” says Roggeven. “Constructing a building is one thing, but the one initiating the building and designing it is decisive in how a city develops.”

Lagos youth playing soccer along the new Blue Line, the light rail built by a Chinese contractor. Image Courtesy of Go West Project

It is not a one-way street for Chinese development in Africa, however. Not only does China face competition from the firms of other countries such as India, Brazil, and Turkey, its influence is also curbed by the political and economic strength of each African country. Roggeveen and Hulshof note that the Chinese have only been able to pull off bigger projects in centrally led countries that are less democratic thus far.

Phase III of the Great Wall Apartments is currently under construction.. Image Courtesy of Go West Project

But even as the influence of the Chinese in African cities grows, Roggeven is hopeful that such developments will become more sensitive to the needs of the continent.

“It seems the Chinese way of operating will change through time to be able to connect more to local political, economical, social and cultural conditions,” he says, “We have an educated guess this will be essential for the Chinese interventions to be able to survive in Africa in the long run.”

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China’s pollution problem, everyone’s problem: Peggy Liu at TED2014

Our world is constantly changing, and it is bold ideas that push this forward. The speakers in session 3 of the TED2014 conference were all big thinkers who are working to reshape the ways we see, think about, and interact with the world.

One of the lead sustainability activists in China, Peggy Liu is a key player in the race for green growth worldwide, and shared her vision of climate change and China’s ongoing battle against pollution.  Peggy emphasizes the point that “pollution crosses boarders”; therefore, “China’s problem is everyone’s problem.” In her talk, Peggy refers to the China’s pollution crisis as an “airpocalypse.”

Today, China is urbanizing at an astonishing rate, and it is expected that an estimated 350 million people who live in China’s rural areas will move into cities over the next 20 years. Peggy points out, “in many ways, this is a great thing, offering opportunities for Chinese children to go to school nearby and for parents to find employment,” but these changes will put unprecedented pressure on our Earth’s limited natural resources.


The decisions China makes in the next few years will determine if China will be ecologically sustainable or a disaster, but Liu focuses on six advantages that she believes will enable China to make small changes that add up quickly due to the size of China’s population:

  1. China has centralized control.
  2. China has just a few key decision makers.
  3. China is willing to learn from others.
  4. China is willing to experiment.
  5. China is willing to change.
  6. China is highly motivated.

“It only takes a few passionate individuals to make transformative change,” Liu says, and through Shaw’s commitment to sustainability and our efforts to creating a better future for our customers, our associates and our communities, we are certainly contributing to this positive change in China.

As part of the ongoing process to make Shaw Contract Group a brand across the globe, we opened our first manufacturing facility in China last September. In keeping with our dedication to sustainable buildings, the Nantong facility is LEED certified and the first manufacturing facility to create Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM products.

TED2014 happened in Vancouver and Whistler, BC, Canada, March 17-21, 2014. Designer David Rockwell relied on Shaw Hospitality Group for the carpet for the design. On the floor is “Crease” from the Layered Luxe collection, which was designed in collaboration with Rockwell himself.

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2013 Market Winner: ‘International Investment Firm’ by Robarts Interiors and Architecture

As the winners of the 2013 Design is … Award Market Award, Shaw Contract Group winning firms interviewed as part of a section of Shaw Contract Group blog which will last a year. Throughout the year, readers can learn more about the 48 winning projects and the individuals who perform them. These are their stories.

Yaching Hsueh, Associate Director & Senior Interior Designer, talked with us about international recognition, adding richness to the space and creating better results than expected.

What was the happiest moment of the project?
The happiest moment of this project is when we received a notice from IIDA that this project has won honorable mention in IIDA Global Excellence Award Corporate Space Small category last December. This is the first international award for our company and myself. Getting international recognition is definitely rewarding as a designer. It is amazing we won the second international award for this project.


What are you most proud of?
We are very proud of our team work. This was a design build project with our own MEP design, project management and seamless collaboration between our Beijing and Shanghai office. Professional performance from all team members with trust and support from the clients make this an outstanding project. The clients are also very proud of their office.

Think about a situation when things turned out different than you expected. How did the outcome impact the end result of the project?
We specified grey tinted glass for meeting room glass partition. However, since that was double-glazed partition system, the two layers of grey tinted glass become almost black glass. This was different than our expectation but it turned out the effect is even better. It created more contrast for the client area and the black glass went very well with the polished aluminum frame. This is fortunately a lesson learned with greater result.

 International investment company (5)

Do you have any stories you want to share about project?
When we did our first presentation to the client, one design element he had strong concern was the onyx slats being cheap hotel decoration. We convinced him that with delicate designed details, high quality materials and lighting, it will be exquisite. It proved to be one of the most successful features in the space and the client loves it.

Tell me more about the use of onyx in the space.
Nature has been our inspiration for design. The onyx we used for this project are so rich in pattern and colors, it is not only the feature of the space but also the color palate for the whole project. All materials from wood veneer, carpet, to upholstery on sofa were taken from the colors on the onyx.

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Shanghai from 600 Meters High

crane-operator-aerial-shanghai-photos-wei-gensheng-2Professional photographer? Not really, but professional crane operator, Wei Gensheng’s, breathtaking photographs of Shanghai taken from his job site 600 metres above the ground have managed to win him the second place prize in the Shanghai City Photography Competition.

Gensheng was working on what is going to be the second highest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower.  Slated to be completed this year, the tower will be 632 metres high (121 stories), and is only topped by Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, which is 829.8 metres high.

Take a look at these remarkable images!!


crane-operator-aerial-shanghai-photos-wei-gensheng-14 (1) crane-operator-aerial-shanghai-photos-wei-gensheng-7 crane-operator-aerial-shanghai-photos-wei-gensheng-5 crane-operator-aerial-shanghai-photos-wei-gensheng-8

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Regionalizing Local Manufacturing

Every day, Shaw Contract Group translates global design into flooring solutions that enhance the interior environments of people around the world. With products installed in 80 countries – and global reach that includes showrooms, offices, sales people and service providers worldwide – we are accustomed to delivering style and service to a diverse community of customers.

From multi-national organizations to healthcare and educational institutions, to commercial facilities and offices, we have the capability of delivering and recycling flooring to and from every corner of the world – including yours.


Our new manufacturing facility in Nantong, China, increases our ability to deliver the same Shaw Contract Group style, quality and performance our customers expect with speed and efficiency to the Asia Pacific region.  Shaw’s expansion into Asia was recently profiled in the most recent issue of Cubes Indesign Magazine (Issue #65, Dec/Jan 2013/14), one of the top contract publications in Southeast Asia.  The article provides insight on how Shaw Contract Group positions itself in the market, featuring interviews with John Stephens, Vice President of Marketing, and Jeff Galloway, Divisional Vice President of Asia Pacific. Jeff also discusses the company’s game changing moves in Asia with journalist Yvonne Xu in a featured interview on the IndesignLive Singapore website. Read it here!

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