urban flesh and bones: huaqiangbei

On Saturday April 27, Handshake 302 led fifteen curious guests on a full-day discovery of Huaqiangbei from perspective of the historic Shangbu Industrial Park. The organization of the tour emphasized the intimate stories behind the emergence of Huaqiangbei as a global landmark. After all, Huaqiangbei did not emerge as fully formed nexus in a global network of technological innovation, but rather formed in the ongoing evolution of Shenzhen’s cultural geography.

At the intersection of Shennan and Shangbu Roads, for example, we recall that Luohu, Futian, and the Hong Kong New Territories were the original “Shen Kong” because “Shangbu” refers to a ferry crossing point, where for centuries villagers crossed the Shenzhen River to conduct business, to shop, and to visit family and friends. We remember that Shangbu Administrative District was the prototype for integrated urban planning in Shenzhen because its cultural geography included a new seat of government, a complete infrastructure grid, and an economic model based on electronics manufacturing, as well as residences, schools, and hospitals. We also rediscover the practical meaning of “reform and opening up” in the 1980s because we find traces of the early demilitarization of industry for civilian uses and the 1990s emergence of Huaqiangbei as a commercial and entertainment center. Finally, in the area’s repurposed factory buildings, we meet the entrepreneurial families who sell the components which launched Shenzhen to the front of hardware innovation.

Handshake 302 would also like to give a shout-out to TroubleMaker, the maker space that hosted our afternoon DIY experience. We made a small car with light sensor eyes that followed a flashlight like a dog on a leash. Only some of us successfully were able to “walk the car” on the first try. Instead, most of us discovered the most important step in innovation: keep tinkering until you get it right!

Impressions from the tour, below:

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