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Fei Mo, University of Sheffield, Summer Fellow 2013

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

My research at Dumbarton Oaks contributed to my doctoral dissertation, which analyzes the development of Shanghai’s urban landscape during the modern era. My research intends to uncover the hidden stories of American contributions to the modernization of the living environment in Shanghai. I benefitted from the supportive environment and the valuable resources at Dumbarton Oaks, and I was able to extract evidence for several remarkable stages in 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 model was crucial to the development of a compact form of housing, thus triggering the establishment of communal, residential open spaces 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 center of Shanghai in the early 1920s; this proposal changed local perspectives on residential community planning. By exploring relevant books in the Dumbarton Oaks Library, I obtained an in-depth understanding of the contemporary context of municipal planning in America and linked it with planning in Shanghai.

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