Urban renewal continues to play a major role in shaping the contemporary Chinese city. Old and run-down neighbourhoods either disappear to give way for new developments, or maintain their existence in immediate proximity to the latter. This small-scale ethnographic study, undertaken during 6 weeks on site in March and April 2007, examines the particular condition of spatial collision between the poor and the rich, the old and the new, the past and the future. It looks at an area of adjacent neighbourhoods in Shanghai, with focus on one recently redeveloped neighbourhood and one awaiting demolition prior to redevelopment. Their distinct spatial layouts and the lifestyles typical for their residents are found to join in a collage-like manner, thus forming an urban space of diversity and fragmentation. The very joint lines between those complementary neighbourhoods appear as rather dynamic entities, subject to continuous alteration in spite of their commonalities with static barriers. The paper proposes that collision between contrasting socio-spatial settings is – and will most likely remain – archetypical for the emerging Chinese city, as the poor, the old and the past are integral parts of the whole rather than diseases in need of eradication.