Posts Tagged ‘Hongkou


Office space

They all called me 小姑娘 or “Young miss”. This group of workers is by far the most cheerful lot since I started visiting construction sites and photographing workers around Shanghai.

“Come and take my picture!” the elder man, seen above, waved me over when he spotted me. A female worker paused from hauling debris and joked that I should take a photo for him to send home to his wife.

“Show her how hard he’s working!” she cackled, slapping her knee at her own joke.

This particular building was part of a key thoroughfare that connected one live neighborhood to the main street. Residents on their way out of the alleys had no choice but to walk through all the unsightly and dangerous activity. To get the worker’s attention, they would raise their fist and yell angrily at them to stop hammering so they can pass through, often shielding their head from debris dust coming down like a heavy mist.

So while some of the workers were having a light laugh, a handful of older residents at the end of the alley were scowling endlessly at the whole affair. For they knew that not only was their peace permanently interrupted, but their houses were next to suffer the hammer’s end.

November 2009


Bringing down the roof

You see them almost immediately as you emerge from the Dalian Road Metro (大连路地铁站) station along Changyang Road (长阳路), a jarring picture against the late afternoon sun.

Two men were perched precariously on top of a roof ledge, swinging their thin hammers to break up, brick by brick, yet another old house.

What was immediately disconcerting was the way the demolition was taking place. It was incredibly manual and alarmingly dangerous. Most building construction (ground up) have basic scaffolding and even if they seldom meet onerous Western standards in the same industry, efforts are made to provide basic safety beyond a rickety plastic helmet.

Demolition can be a different matter.

They are often outsourced with little proper supervision or regard for basic safety since the objective was to just flatten everything and have the debris carted away. Moreover, demolition of old houses is not done by bulldozers largely because they cannot fit into the alleys and it is not uncommon that there are still-occupied neighboring ‘hoods. An engineer would have surveyed the land to identify public water or sewage pipelines to avoid but otherwise, the task is left to workers with instructions to hack from morning to night.

This man was part of the demolition crew.

November 2009

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