Supermarket Auchan had an activity with a high fun factor last month. Customers could grab their own crabs at Auchan from baby tubs : )! Plastic nets would prevent the crabs from climbing out. One month later they prepackaged the crabs, and closed the nets on the tubs. Maybe the the nets proved to be too inconvenient. The crabs don’t give up without a fight!
Starting from my hotel in Suzhou New District, I cycled to Mudu. According to tourist guides this used to be an small old town favoured by aristocrats and even the emperor himself. Nowadays it is swallowed up by Suzhou. Is it a sight worth seeing?
Old Mudu basically consists of a three canals lined with houses. Along the canals there were small shops offering food, jewellery and silks. Although I passed on entering the tourist attractions–consisting of a few small villa’s and temples (many of them look the same)–Mudu as a town was much less interesting than Jinxizhen which I visited this spring or Zhouzhang. Less atmosphere, less restaurants, and less interesting walkways and bridges.
Much more interesting–if only in terms of diversity–was the Suzhou entertainment park– that I passed on my way to Mudu. Many of its buildings referred to different countries. I saw English and Italian buildings, and to my surprise also Dutch canal and gable houses! If only the decorations were more subtle…
Initially it was my idea to go hiking in the hills directly behind behind Mudu. But the cloudy skies made this less attractive: I would not be able to catch the nice panorama of the city as was my intention. Maybe next time.
Last Sunday something extraordinary happened: Suzhou had crystal clear skies! A good incentive to explore the surroundings, so I though it would be nice to go cycling to the other side of the city, and maybe go hiking there. I booked a hotel in Suzhou New District–the western counterpart of Suzhou Industrial Park where I live–for one night and off I went!
Normally visibility is limited due to the high humidity and the air pollution. But this day sky was very clear. I brought along my camera to make a few pics of downton Suzhou. Perfect opportunity to try out my good old Pentax lens (Pentax-M 28mm f3.5). It did not disappoint me, great detail! Too bad that the next day was rather cloudy: remnants of a tyfoon that turned into our direction. As with all images here: click on them to load larger ones!
After living for one year in my Suzhou apartment I though it might be time to move to a new place. Currently I live in a student complex. Although being surrounded by students all day does make you feel young, one also is prone to lossing touch with society as a whole.
My apartment was recommended to me by XJTLU. It is 1 of the 4 main apartment complexes that are used for housing students and some staff. According to the human resource office I was very lucky to be able to get into ‘Parfait International Apartment’. It has two major advantages. Firstly it is only 3 years old. It was not degraded that much, as is so typical of many Chinese developments after a few years. Secondly there was heating in the living room and in the bed room!
The city I live in is below the Chinese heating border that runs near latitude 33 degrees north. Above this the state provides subsidised central heating, since it freezes there in winter. Below this–which also means Suzhou–people have to make do with individual electric heaters, when it gets cold. Remarkably even at my university it is not uncommon to have (out)doors open all the time in winter and windows wide open, while at the same time running airco in the heating mode.
I was motivated in my search for a new apartment by one of my colleagues who lived in the same complex. My colleague had made an appointment with a real estate agent, to show him two apartments near the university, one new, one old. I was going with him, as was another colleague.
The first apartment being shown was previously used by three students. It was in an apartment block, that was not older then 10 years. Sadly it was totally run down! The window frames were almost falling out of the wall, the kitchen looked like a stable . . . Price 3500 Yuan. The second apartment we were being shown was brand-new. But again, the finishing and detailing were horrible, also it was rather pricy (5000 yuan).
The bottom line was that for the price and quality we were looking for it was rather hard to find something better. So for the moment I decide to stay at my current place!
For my last day in Hong Kong I made a small hike to Big Wave Bay. For this I walked again through the cemetery, but instead of going right to Shek-O Beach I went left, a shorter route to the Bay. Such a nice bay it is! The village looks like it is totally isolated, but in fact it is also easily reachable by bus. Its peacefulness made for a big contrast when I went to dinner with a friend later on the day in a busy shopping centre! Suzhou is very relaxed compared to all this.
At the time of my visit The Hong Kong Polytechnical University held its annual design exhibition of work of graduating students. The work of the design department looked great. Something to aspire to for our own Industrial Design department at XJTLU.
I was also interested in the Communication Design Ba students. In their projects they had taken on some interesting themes, such as the neon light heritage of Hong Kong, Chinese calligraphy and health data. The design of the accompanying poster presentations though, looked like they could need a more firm typographical hand. They are only means of presentation for a project but still, you are a designer or not ; ). But I might be all to critical as Dutch guy with the large interest in typography in my country.
A dissappointment, if not maddening was the new design building, designed by the late Zaha Hadid. Officially called the ‘Jockey Club Innovation Tower’–after its major sponsor–its sculpted shape looks great on the outside, a beacon of progressiveness, a shiny example of image building for a university wanting to draw in students and researchers. But. I do pity the staff and the students who have to work inside of it. Its cramped and angled spaces made me feel slightly claustrophobic. White walls and ceilings can compensate for this only to a certain degree. Way finding was a nightmare for me. The general layout of a building should be clear.
This view is also inspired by my own involvement with the design process of our new combined Architecture and Industrial Design building at the South Campus of XJTLU. The overall architectural concept–roughly rounded and angled buildings, designed by the provincial planning office–came at the expense of a practical and efficient use of spaces for teaching, research, office space and workshops. Thankfully a joint redesign helped by the head of Architecture–on our own initiative–was able to compensate for that at least partially. Ideally teaching spaces should be designed so that they match the teaching and learning methods that you use. And that goes much further then just a division between lecture and seminars, especially in a discipline like design. Labs, teaching and office spaces should be spacy, flexible and should be designed in cooperation with staff to make them useable.