I was so close to missing this trip at the very beginning! My visa got refused the first time, and I re-applied only 3 weeks before this trip, but here I am, how lucky! My first essay was done in three nights, and of course the result wasn’t good.
I remember 4 hours before we went to Melbourne airport, I handed in my last report, and around 14 hours later, I was in Dubai! First impression, unreal! I have never seen so many tall buildings like that; I have never seen a city front door is ocean back door is desert; I have never seen bus stops with air con 24/7 etc. But shortly, when I observed closer, my impressions changed. Shining buildings only exist in certain areas, outside those areas, places are pretty normal, some even pretty run down. Dubai doesn’t feel like a city in a whole, it is more like a symbolized place where it attracts wealth and power. Dubai is an odd place to me, bus stops with air con 24/7 even with no one using it, just unbelievable!
Another weird place is Sheffield. Sheffield is the 4th largest city in UK, but in terms of shopping, Sheffield is 64th (a local told me, figure may be wrong, but the idea is there); Sheffield is large, but no one feels it is large, it is quite easy get to the countryside in 15 mins from CBD; Park Hill was an almost demolished site, but got heritage listed, so it stands there and no one wants it; even locals cannot tell where the city centre is, the ring road seems physically outlined to the city centre, but there is no clear focus of city centre; Sheffield is a product of industrialization, but it also ruined because of it.
‘You want to shopping, you go to Leeds; you want history, you go to York. Why do people want to go to Sheffield? Sheffield has nothing to offer’ said a local resident to me. Indeed, local residents don’t have strong will to improve the condition that Sheffield has sank in, and local council didn’t do very well. ‘Many facilities are only 20-40 years of age, they got demolished, they were quite decent, but people just towed them down.’ Planning is a mess in Sheffield, ‘it’s like an unfinished warehouse… and it is an unfinished warehouse.’ Sheffield was built as a giant factory, and when the factory closed down, everything went down with it. ‘We feel forgotten.’
We went to Leeds, York and Liverpool, compared to Sheffield, they have much more to offer. Leeds is very attractive, the city centre is one of the most successful combinations of history and modernity, full of shops and shops are full of people. I do like York, it has lots of stories to tell, it has so many historical legacies. Liverpool waterfront is amazing, it is full of possibilities, shops are there, recreation spaces, attractions, everything is in a perfect setting.
Port Sunlight is another very interesting story. Apart from its history and housing style, the whole system was actually built by one man, it was quite impressive, and not like the land fell apart when empire was dead, his system was passed on by later generations. It is a very interesting system, power was transferred into different hands, but overall outcome is quite positive. From planning point of view, Port Sunlight was planned very well. Soap factory provided major employment; hospital provided good health care; school provided good education; everything is not in a large scale, but everything works. On some level, Port Sunlight is doing much better than many famous cities.
Anyway, we can only count the time we stayed in Sheffield in hours. Our group will have a very long meeting, and we are pretty confident of having a wonderful presentation in the end!
- Yunhao Guan (Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning)