Futian CBD: Shenzhen’s Meta Cultural Geography

On Saturday June 15 and 16, Urban Flesh and Bones: Futian Edition visited one of the most important cultural geographies in the city—the CBD central axis. As with previous editions of Urban Flesh and Bones, neither the heat nor the rain deterred participants from coming out to rediscover Shenzhen. This edition emphasized the importance of urban planning and how we imagine urban cultural geographies. As this edition coincided with National Mass Innovation and Entrepreneurship Week, our tour explored how the CBD central axis became the steel and concrete manifestation of the work and dreams that launched Shenzhen from a manufacturing city to world leader in technology and innovation.

Since the earliest efforts to plan and build the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, the area that would become the CBD central axis has played an important role in the creation of the city’s imaginary. In the earliest pictures of Shennan Road, for example, Futian is the suburbs of Luohu-Shangbu. As Shenzhen urbanized rapidly, the formal city “filled up” the Luohu-Shangbu area, expanding west in the area between Shennan and Hongli Roads. In other words, building westward was the geographic expression of the future as housing estates, cultural areas, and industrial parks replaced rice paddies and fish ponds.

Our tour included iconic spots like the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone 30th Anniversary Memorial, Guan Shanyue Museum, and the statue of Deng Xiaoping. We also talked about the importance of landscaping, urban planning, and modern architecture to the city. These conversations allowed us to delve into the meaning of the city as a place, as a symbol, and as a cultural geography.

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