Out of the darkness a hazy grey midday’s light crept into the lift as it made its way up the outside of the swish Hyatt on the Bund. This swanky hotel sits in an area of Shanghai – the North Bund – that is only now receiving the full attention of property developers. The scene from the ascending lift was all too depressingly familiar. Scars – 50 feet deep – were all that remained of huge plots of land where once had been characterful close knot sixty-year-old dwellings. The odd island of yore remained surrounded by blue fences, cranes and construction noise and mud.
In Shanghai the local government has protected many of the large old buildings while totally bowing to the avarice of property developers when it comes to old style accommodation. The city is a mess right now as it hurtles towards hosting the World Expo next year. Once locals have had time to look around after the dust settles, they might just regret the out and out pursuit of new dizzying skyscrapers. New office blocks I am reliably informed are only 35% taken up at the moment. This rash of overbuilding has also hit the sprawling hotels with occupancy rates at leading five star establishments now hovering dangerously low around 30%. Some day, someone will learn: less is more.