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The Flaneur Looks Up: Reading Chinatown Verticalities


While verticality seems intrinsic to the fabric of the modern city—a concrete second nature—understanding this dimension involves negotiations of people, functions, scale, and representations, especially as mobile people transform existing cityscapes. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in Chinatowns worldwide, where generations of Chinese, interacting with complex cities around them, have created places for varied immigrants and dispersed descendants in public and private spaces above and below the street. Verticality here is both intimate and performative, internal and external, “real” and imagined, as this walk through the Chinatown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA) illustrates. Deciphering layers and dimensions of verticality, at the same time, expands our perceptions of both Chinatowns as places and the growth and structure of modern cities.

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