Design Thinking


World’s busiest pedestrian street

Nanjing, Shanghai, China

Posted on June 19, 2019   |   By Kanwal Thareja Architects

While travelling to Shanghai, my local friend recommended that a visit to Nanjing Street was a must. Upon inquiring what so special about it, he simply replied that it would be a memorable shopping experience.

I reached Nanjing Street in the evening, just before sunset. It was an October evening so the weather was quite pleasant. My driver escorted me till the Jingan temple and advised I walk down from there to enjoy some street shopping. I could sense that there was something exciting in store. These streets are famous for selling fashion merchandise and are fully fully pedestrianised. It was close to 6 p.m. and not very crowded.

Nanjing road - China’s premier shopping street – is about 5.5 kms long. It starts at the Bund in the east and ends at the junction of Jing’an Temple and west Ya’an Street in the west. As a century old shopping street, it has undergone significant changes. There are numerous traditional shops, shopping malls and speciality stores mushrooming on either side, in addition to cinemas and international hotels. One can see countless popular fashion brands fighting for your attention.

The tree canopies lining the street provide some welcome shade and softness, not to mention a place to take a break and relax. Coming from India, you can’t help but notice the contrast - proper light signals to control pedestrian movement at street crossings, fully paved streets and textured walkways for the differently abled. Stone benches, planters and telephone booths, street lights and lots of CCTV cameras at every junction makes the space safe and enjoyable. But during daytime, under natural light, the signage on stores and other places look hideous with lots of visible steel fabrication. Once the lights come on, it becomes difficult to read expressions on people’s faces under all the glare.

Once the sun sets, signage lights start dazzling with the orange sunset behind the towers. It looks like the start of a new day, as the colourful signage grab your attention inviting you into the store. There is a good mix of visitors, young and old, majority are locals but there is a good sprinkling of foreign tourists from Europe, Southeast Asia and the US. Local office goers take a shortcut through this market and spend their evening here at local eateries.

All fabrication chaos hides behind the darkness, while the brightly lit graphics take over. They look astonishing as each tries to outdo the other and impress you enough to walk into their store.

At night pedestrians fade into the darkness in the foreground as brightly illuminated multi-storeyed buildings look out at the world. Colourful brands against Darkness and yellow lights look dazzling. A multi-storey building at the edge of the street has a temperature reader installed on top, which keeps reminding you how hot or cold it is. Classical And contemporary style of architecture complement each other. Shining and colourful light hoardings do hypnotise you and you can’t help but keep staring at the world’s busiest pedestrian street. A few English letters in signage add warmth, shows China is opening doors to foreign language.

Not to miss, there are small spaces dedicated for performances. Age is no barrier, as you see people in their 60s dancing around on contemporary numbers, having fun and even get rewarded in return. Dancers dressed in local ethic wear perform and move on the street with you. Even a Scandinavian band was playing on the street, piping out soft music in this hustle bustle and they do expect tips in return.

Entry and exit gateways are well decorated, making you feel comfortable and safe.

It is a must see metropolitan destination attracting thousands of fashion seeking shoppers from all over the world. Shoppers immerse themselves in the joy of purchasing here.

We are impressed that even Delhi government is planning to pedestrianize four markets. Although It is still a long way to go, we can surely learn from our neighbours on this count.