Checking in From Shanghai

A GSAPP student relishes the opportunity presented by the pandemic to become reacquainted with his hometown.

Ziming Wang
November 11, 2020

This is part of a Columbia News series, titled Postcards, which invites members of the Columbia community who are living and teaching or studying abroad to send us updates on where they are, what they miss about not being on campus, and how they are making the most of their situation during this global pandemic.

I’m a first-year Historic Preservation student at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, writing from Shanghai. Currently, my program is conducting research studio and courses mostly online, which is a novelty both for the faculty and the students. The program is intense, and remote group presentations and time differences are indeed challenging.

Nevertheless, there are some silver linings: This fall, I’ve been researching several historic structures in Shanghai, and doing a lot of street walks here, taking shots of architectural materials to hand in for my building technology class. Sometimes it’s difficult to locate a material corresponding to what we’d usually see in New York, but I appreciate this opportunity to see what my hometown is built of. I also find a surprising resemblance in the early 20th-century architecture of these two cities that are half a world away from each other.

Ziming Wang: a man in a dark shirt and white pants stands before a door.

I didn’t attend undergraduate school in Shanghai, so I treasure this year, as I’ve been able to rebuild some intimacy with my family and the city I grew up in. I was in New York City (and on the Columbia campus) several years ago, and there are many places I’d like to revisit. But as a graduate student, at this moment, I’m thinking more of catching up on all the case studies discussed in my classes. I want to take a look inside St. Paul’s Chapel, schedule time to see a rare book in Avery Library, and visit Central Harlem, where my research project is based. 

Recently, I attended the Halloween gathering at the Columbia Workspace in Shanghai. It’s a Wework facility designated by the university, where local GSAPP students have occupied a room to do studio work. The space really looks like a studio in an architecture school. I hope you are all doing well around the globe!

Ziming Wang is working on his M.S. degree in Historic Preservation at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.