Society

In China, A Post-Pandemic City Model Built On Street Vendors

Chinese officials are realizing that the 'soul' of a city is key to strength and prosperity.

People buying food at a snack street in Haikou

-Analysis-

CHENGDU — In order to ease the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, authorities in China's western city of Chengdu have decided to temporarily allow impromptu stalls for food and other goods to be set up along local streets.

The measure was praised, rather unexpectedly, by Chinese premier Li Keqiang during the National People's Congress taking place at the end of May, celebrating that "the creation of 36,000 mobile stalls has solved the unemployment of 100,000 people overnight."

Just when the public was speculating that other cities would follow with similar measures, another central government decree announced that street vendors' occupation of roads and marketplaces won't be used this year in assessing the "civilized city" performance indicator implemented since 2005.

The announcement has sparked enthusiastic reaction from the public, and especially from lovers of street food.

But will these government initiatives also offer a real economic solution? "Guaranteeing employment" has been the number one official priority since China began to emerge from the coronavirus health crisis. Behind each employed person stands a family. And for small hawkers selling food or wares in the open air, the economic impact of the epidemic has been particularly severe.

Good news for lovers of street food — Photo: Guo Cheng/Xinhua/ZUMA

However, the reason why the Chinese public welcomes the government's measure goes beyond assuring employment and people's livelihood. This action has brought to people's attention the fact that our country's initiatives to make cities more orderly, standardized and cosmopolitan — and much of urban planning and management are founded on such thinking — those people making their livelihood selling on the street have been overlooked. Yet the work and lives of these people embody the idea of human dignity and decency and highlights an ordinary person's hopes and struggles when they come to live in a city.

After the lockdown, we couldn't be more eager to see the bubbling life of a city return.

The original meaning of city is a place where people come together to buy and sell. During the outbreak, the distance between people was rigorously spread as far apart as possible. Even when passing a stranger, we turn away our heads to avoid each other.

After experiencing the silence and emptiness of a city during the pandemic, we couldn't be more eager to see the bubbling life of a city return, including the sounds and smells of even more street stalls. When one stops to listen to the hawkers' yelling and selling, even if it's a wordless exchange, it remains nonetheless a real encounter between people.

Not only does a street teeming with vibrant business help those at the bottom of society to make a living, but it's also what touches people's hearts — it's their whole connection to a city. In the past few years, many Chinese cities have seen roads widened and an ever more modern skyline. We like the prosperity of what this symbolizes, but we know something is missing.

A city should be inclusive for all who live there and, in particular, the dreams of those at the bottom of society. Only cities that have a vivid life and a soul can truly count on a future.

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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