Right after arrival, Uncle Yang showed me the environment around the area. It is near the Shanghai Gubei business center. The buildings are not too old - they were built in the 1990s. The roof and wall of the buildings look even older since it rains a lot in Shanghai. In the coming years, the government spent quite essential efforts in renovating the building roof - changing from the flat roof to a gothic roof so that the rain water won't stay too long on the roof that eats off the building. And that renovation project did help a lot. It lasts for several years - almost every other year before the raining season I could see through the windows the workers climbing on the building wall doing something. Before they start working, usually there will be announcements published in the front gate of the community to let the residents be aware of, so that they won't be too surprised while opening their curtains. Also, it is to let the residents put off their balcony racks outside the window. These drying racks generated so much trouble for the renovation work and eventually, the community withdrew all of them if residents left them there.
For the drying racks (sticks), it is a very reasonable and green tool for the wet area. The humidity is so high that the clothes can stay 2-3 days before getting totally dry, even in winter. This will never happen in north China :) In Beijing dry seasons, I can wear the T-shirt right after the laundry, not even need a 'drying process'. It gets dry after 10-20 minutes naturally. Therefore, the Shanghai drying racks were invented to let the clothes reach more air or wind outside the window. I myself never tried to put my clothes on the outside racks; I am not in a hurry to wear the washed clothes and I am always worrying about the clothes falling down in the yard in ground floor :D
Usually, the racks (sticks) are made of bamboo or stainless metals. It is easy to get one anytime in Shanghai - I saw the merchants carrying 4-5 sticks (just a long raw bamboo) across the buildings with their bicycle. During the Shanghai EXPO 2010, there were government calls recommending all shanghai residents to take away all drying bamboos from the buildings in order not to damage the Shanghai cityscape.