impressions, futian

The other day, I walked from Huaqiangbei through Gangxia and Xinzhou, where I hooked back to Shuiwei via Huanggang Park, a wonderfully unexpected urban oasis. Today, I’m uploading impressions of the diverse complexity that characterizes Futian Distict, which is home to Huaqiangbei, the central business district, and some of the most well-planned urban villages in the city.

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墙迫症–my white wall compulsions

302 will start a new project–my white wall compulsions. The title is a pun: 强迫症 means obsessive compulsive disorder, while the characters for strong (强) and wall (墙) are homonyms.

The project itself is quite simple. 302 is a one room efficiency with four white walls. We’re looking for four individuals and or teams to transform one wall in the way they have always fantasized. And you know who you are. Staring at a white wall imagining all sorts of paint and bas-relief interventions! The project begins September 27 and ends with a party on November 21. Right now we’re accepting project proposals. We will also provide 500 rmb to pay for materials. If you’re interested in claiming your white wall compulsions and in Shenzhen contact me.

For those who’ve been wondering what’s up with community art in Shenzhen, the pictures below are from an August 29 performance in Shuiwei. The workshopped performance piece “feeling stones to cross the river” was part of the opening ceremony for the Futian International Images Festival, which celebrated documentary images and films.

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so where did 1.35 million rmb go?

Yesterday, Nanfang Urban Daily (南方都市报) published an article on corruption in the renovation and upgrading of pedestrian overpasses, a topic near and dear to my heart. Reporter Zhao Yanxiong (赵炎雄) paid 300 rmb for a tip on the extent of corruption in repairing and upgrading pedestrian overpasses. The six overpasses in question are in Futian District on the Shenyan Road between the Wutong Tunnel and the Shatoujiao Bonded Area.  The Shenzhen Road & Bridge Construction Group Corp got the bid. The gist:

Eastern Area Bureau of Traffic spokesperson, “Every square meter cost 400 yuan, the total price was 1.6 million. The project could not be subcontracted out. We required Shenzhen Road & Bridge to do the job themselves.”

Subcontractor, “The construction costs per square meter were 115 yuan. The total area was 2,300 square meters, bringing the project cost to 250,000 yuan. We were contracted by Female Boss Cao.” Continue reading

渔农村: border lives

Connecting the Shenzhen Metro and the Hong Kong KCR, the recently opened Futian Checkpoint has provided incentive for building higher end real estate for those who live in, on and from the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border. The area teems with residential and leisure developments that target variations of Shen Kong lives.

Yunongcun (渔农村) is one of the closest urban villages to the checkpoint; simply exit, turn right, and walk 500 meters or so. The walk from the checkpoint to the village area reveals layers of history, both in the making and the discarding. One sees, for example, a soon to be razed 90s food street and mid 90’s housing, and then buildings from roughly ten years later, including a large spa and even newer shopping mall, as well as the Shenzhen river, which is guarded and sealed off from pedestrians.

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What one does not see on this walk is Yunongcun’s important place in Shenzhen’s village renovation movement (旧村改新). Over five years ago on May 22, 2006, the Shenzhen government began the movement with a nod to Shekou’s “first explosion (circa 1979),” by detonating “the first explosion” of the village renovation movement and bringing down fifteen illegal buildings all at once. Villagers had put up these buildings as part of their negotiation for a better settlement package. A kind of holdout, but at a much larger scale than the individual family because the area only became prime real estate with the completion of the checkpoint. Continue reading

Xiasha “Old village renovation”

In point of fact, the phrase “village renovation (旧村改造)” is a misnomer. What many Shenzhen villages are renovating is not the old village, but a village that was “new” in the mid-1990s. Images from Xiasha’s recently completed renovations suggest possible tradition-socialist-early reform-contemporary mashups or postmodern post-villages, so to speak.

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binhe road pedestrian overpasses

So. As part of Shenzhen’s spit and polish for the universiade, some pedestrian overpasses got makeovers. In particular, overpasses in the Futian section of Binhe were turned into a sort of public art. In the pictures below, I have included two overpasses from the Luohu section of Binhe not only to give a sense of how differently Districts spent their upgrade funds, but also to contextualize what pedestrian overpasses looked like before the Universiade. Nanshan has many high end overpasses, but they tend to be located on Nanhai Boulevard (the pedestrian overpass at the Neptune Building is worth mentioning). Below, a survey of two Luohu and the seven Futian pedestrian overpasses on Binhe Road.

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大望: Culture Highland

Yesterday, I visited the Dawang Culture Highland (大望文化高地). This is the second year that Dawang has been part of the Cultural Industries Fair; like Dafen, Dawang is using art and international art markets to urbanize. Unlike Dafen, however, Dawang is located at the foot of Wutong Mountain and is promoting a more natural and original art experience.

Dawang refers both to a particular village and the cluster of villages that nestle against the foot of Wutong Mountain and so development in the area tends to be village by village, leading to both unexpected convergences and contradictions. Importantly, the spatial layout of the area suggests interesting (if familiar) transitions between rural and urbane Shenzhen as well as the integration of neidi migrants and artists into the city. On the one hand, Maizai, for example, is the village closest to mountain footpaths and has developed a cobblestone pedestrian street for Shenzhen urbanites looking for weekend relaxation and local Hakka cuisine. Other villages specialize in selling lychee honey. There is limited, small scale production and commerce. On the other hand, transportation to the area is inconvenient, which means that land is cheap. Consequently, both artists and squatters have nestled into the edges of Dawang lychee orchards.

This layout highlights the important social function of urban villages in incubating new kinds of Shenzheners: locals as a new kind of renter class, artists as the up and coming middle class, and squatters as the lowest of the city’s urban proletariat. Importantly, the area’s distance from the city center means that its one marketable asset is precisely the feature it wants to destroy – its rural and undeveloped nature (in all senses of the world).

Dawang and its Culture Highland are featured in That’s PRD’s introduction to new artspaces in Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Pictures of the lay of the land, below.

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why up?

Post pieced together out of memories of an article I once read, a conversation I once had, and a before and after moment walking past the Shanghai Hotel this afternoon. In reverse order, before (2005)  and after (2011) moment, below.

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The conversation was with several real estate brokers that everyone in Shenzhen wanted to live on the highest floor possible, that’s why developers kept building skyscrapers.The article was about Mumbai as an exemplar of a postmodern city; in conditions of high population density (as in Shenzhen), social stratification is realized by going up, rather than through segregation (as in less populated cities with neighborhoods). Thus, in cities like Shenzhen, street level tends to be a mix of everyone, chaotic (乱) as many often complain, while lives get increasingly rarified the higher one goes.

So if a desire to realize social prestige by moving into the penthouse is not only driving real estate prices, but also driving constant reconstruction of the city, is there any limit other than Babel? Or do we just keep ascending until it all falls down?

(The observant will also notice in just six years how the smog has increased. The Saige Building is actually over a block away from the Shanghai Hotel. The new Rainbow building is going up in that block.)

shenzhen administrative structure

I’ve been making charts to organize my thinking. Below is an organizational chart of Shenzhen, circa 2010.

Also, a simplified version of the organizational relationship between the Central government and local governments. Guangdong is the provincial local; Shenzhen is a sub-provincial city, however, as an SEZ, Shenzhen has all sorts of legal privileges that provinces and direct cities do not.

another call for a housing boycott in shenzhen

Folks in Shenzhen continue to protest the price of housing. This time, an armless beggar wrote the boycott call on the chest of a Generation 90s young woman. The interesting twist in this story? The young woman is from Hong Kong. I’m not sure how the protagonists’ collaboration ties into the ongoing re-structuring of a grassroots Shen Kong identity and deepening cross border integration (as opposed to official planning). Nevertheless, it is interesting to think about the implications of this protest performance: it took place in Lizhi Park, Futian, neither of the protagonists is identified as a Shenzhener, and yet this protest was represented in the press (晶报) as a Shenzhen story. Details, here.

Update (Mar 1): surfing in Youtube, I discovered a report that she had first tried to get a place to live by offering her chest as a pillow. However, the “price was too high” according to a man in the street.