Disappearing neighbourhoods of old Shanghai

Razing the Chinese commercial capital's rundown areas to make way for luxury high-rise condos and shopping centres.


Shanghai, China - The longtang communities of narrow interconnected passageways in this old city are fast being replaced with high-rise apartments and shopping malls.

Prior to 1990, Shanghai mainly consisted of alleyways interlacing basic low-rise houses, and according to Shanghai's Fudan University the number of these homes shrank 60 percent from 2000 to 2008.

The number of luxury villas, meanwhile, rose more than 10 times. Simultaneously, some of the world's tallest skyscrapers emerged over the city's skyline, signalling Shanghai's return as an economic powerhouse.

Life in Shanghai's working class longtang neighbourhoods is a stark contrast to that in the luxury condominiums that often take their place. Many longtang buildings pre-date World War II, and most are in a state of utter disrepair. Residents still use chambre pots as the areas are only connected to the sewage system via public toilets. 

While many residents welcome the demolition of their old homes and the promise of relocation to new high-rise apartments on the city's outskirts, some refuse to move and become involved in stand-offs with the authorities, demanding more compensation even as the homes of their neighbours are razed.