Associate professor Piper Gaubatz, a geographer in the Department of Geosciences, was recently invited by the municipal government of Shanghai, China, to address the Metropolis Image Forum, a meeting of high-level government officials, academics and members of the press designed to analyze prospects for shaping the city’s urban image and the course of urban development in preparation for the 2010 World Exposition.
Gaubatz, whose research in China over the past 20 years has centered on the changing form of Chinese cities, was one of four international specialists and the only American invited to address the meeting. Her talk, "Urban Image and Urban Form: Globalization, Glocalization and Chinese World Cities," discussed key strategies through which cities in China and elsewhere have sought global visibility and economic prominence and the impacts this has had on cities, urban life and urban identity.
One theme of her discussion was that in the race by Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other large Chinese cities to embrace the creation of spectacular new high-rise central business districts, avant-garde signature architecture, and state-of-the art urban infrastructure, much of it now designed by renowned foreign architectural firms, it remains important to incorporate local culture, tradition, and character into new Chinese world cities.
She also gave television and newspaper interviews, accompanied members of the 2010 planning committee on site visits to places being considered for development in preparation for the Expo, and participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a monumental clock on the city''s famous "Bund" that counts down the time remaining until the Expo. Some of her remarks were reported in Beijing''s China Daily, the leading English language newspaper in China, as well as in other newspapers in Beijing and Shanghai.
Shanghai, China''s largest city with more than 16 million inhabitants, grew from a small fishing town to the foremost trading city in Asia in the 19th century, when it became one of the first of China''s "Treaty Ports." It has experienced a resurgence in the past decade, with phenomenal growth and development that may be unparalleled anywhere in the world. In 2003 the city won the competition to host the 2010 World Expo.
As an urban geographer, Gaubatz is a leading authority on Chinese urban morphology (the geography of urban form and design), and she has done extensive fieldwork in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou as well as other Chinese cities during 11 research trips to China since 1986. She has also carried out work on urban change and development issues in Japan and in the Silicon Valley region of California''s Bay Area.
She is currently working on a book on the transformation of Chinese cities during the past two decades and carrying out new research projects in China on new efforts to create "green" or eco-friendly urbanism in Beijing, Shanghai, and elsewhere; the impacts of the hosting of the 2008 Olympics on Beijing''s urban development; and a pioneering political ecological and urban environmental historical study of the environmental impacts of urban development on the northern Chinese frontier.