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Going Native—American Gardens and the Modernization of Residential Landscapes in Shanghai (1843–1949)

Fei Mo, The University of Sheffield, Summer Fellow 2013

My study at Dumbarton Oaks is part of my PhD research, an analysis of the development of Shanghai’s urban landscape during the modern era. The proposed research intends to uncover the hidden stories of American contributions to the modernization of the living environment in Shanghai. Benefiting from supportive environment and valuable resources here, I was able to extract evidence for several remarkable stages in the landscape development in Shanghai. For instance, I was able to identify the original American housing model that was introduced to Shanghai in the 1850s; this was crucial to the development of a compact form of housing, and subsequently triggered the establishment of communal residential open space on an industrial scale. In addition, according to early accounts of Shanghai residents found here, I discovered that some American dwellers created their housing in a Chinese courtyard style in the early 1920s, which meant that they contributed to preserving the local garden tradition as well. Furthermore, an American civil planner developed a proposal for the new city centre of Shanghai in the early 1920s; this changed local perspectives on residential community planning. Through exploring relevant books here, I obtained an in-depth understanding of the contemporary context of municipal planning in America, and linked it with planning in Shanghai. This fellowship provided me with abundant resources not only within Dumbarton Oaks, but also from other libraries and E-resources of Harvard University; this was enormously helpful to my research. 

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