guomao: how quickly we forget

The image that many have of Shenzhen is a collection of state-of-the-art buildings because for years, these towers have represented the city and its progress. These buildings, of course, not only represent important state-owned enterprises in the Shenzhen landscape (China Merchants and China Resources, for example), but also provide a particular map to the city: the downtown investment area, Huaqiangbei electronic markets, Overseas Chinese Town, the recently opened Hi-Tech area along Shenzhen Bay, and the Dameisha beach. The latest skyline montage includes architecture from all over the city (labeled to the best of my ability):

If this skyline montage is to be believed, offices, high finance, and leisure consumption comprise the city. Here’s the rub: anyone who knows the city, knows that the use of architecture and its associated infrastructures to represent Shenzhen’s ongoing rush to the future is as old as the city itself. That’s why its so surprising that Shenzhen’s original landmark building, the Guomao (International Trade) missing from this skyline montage. After all, the construction of Guomao gave us the expression “Shenzhen Speed” and it was a destination for Deng Xiaoping on his 1992 Southern Tour.

As far as I can tell the oldest buildings in the montage are the Window of the World glass pyramid (1994), Diwang Building (1997), and the Dameisha statues (1999). I take the glass pyramid as post- or at least transitional after Deng because Jiang Zemin wrote “Window of the World,” the characters that grace the Louvre-inspired building  on his 1995 inspection tour. What’s more, while the montage does mention China Merchants, it does not include any of the iconic Shekou buildings, including the the Minghua, which Deng Xiaoping boarded on his 1984 Tour. So this montage does not simply represent Shenzhen through its landmark buildings, but also (intentionally or not) presents us with a post-Deng take on Shenzhen’s history.

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