Daban Bridge Road

The other day, Annette Kisling and I walked from Xiangnan Village-Neighborhood to Guantou along Daban Bridge Road (大阪桥路), which once paralleled the coastline, connecting the old Yamen at Nantou to Dongjiaotou, a small cove that geographically marked the entrance to the Shekou Port. The stone bridge went over a small tributary from the inner Pearl River Delta. Today, of course, Daban Bridge Road twists parallel to Qianhai Road and the tributary has been reclaimed. In addition, Nanshan District’s extensive road network has partitioned the villages/ neighborhoods that Daban Bridge Road used to link, creating city blocks. Unfortunately, these blocks to not conform to historic breaks between villages along Daban Bridge Road, but rather enforce a strict traffic grid. Pay attention not only to the diversity within neighborhoods, but also between. Enjoy.

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Impressions of the differences between Nantou and neighboring villages

Guankou and Yijia Villages are located just outside the Nantou Old Town Arch and revamped walking museumon by way othe Shennan Road – Nanxin Road pedestrian overpass. The villages abut each other along the old, narrow road, which used to run parallel to Yuehai Bay and connected Nantou to Shekou. Guankou and Yijia are slated for renovation at some point in the future. In the meantime, they are “just places where poor people live” as someone said to me, indicating disapproval of my photo-walk through the two neighborhoods.

Guankou and Yijia interest me because the village architecture is actually older than much found in the Nantou Old Town walking museum. Many Nantou residents built handshake buildings before the area was designated for historic preservation. Consequently, what remains in Nantou are handshake and factory buildings from the early 1990s, as well as particular buildings that had been designated historic landmarks. In contrast, the old centers of Guankou and Yijia were untouched during the 1990s village building spree and littered (and I use the word deliberately) with all sorts of old and interesting buildings.

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Now, inquiring minds may wonder: why is Nantou, the imperial capital of the area with a 1,000 year history gutted of historical architecture (except in the renovating) and Guankou and Yijia not? Continue reading

guankou (关口)


who’d’ve thunk it? stalin in shenzhen

silo has gone. floating lives went off better than expected, primarily because mutual goodwill enable a lot of cultural and aesthetic difference to be used creatively, rather than becoming an obstacle. that in itself was a lesson. so, i am back taking pictures of shenzhen’s odd corners, which are actually multiplying even as they are increasingly hidden in the black holes between highrise developments. the other day, i went to guankou, the remnant village located just west of the western gate into nine streets (once upon a time the entrance into the nantou yamen and hence the name “gate entrance village”).

in a parallel china, guankou was located just north of daxin brigade (大新大队), which had been the administrative center of the nantou commune (南头公社) and subsequently became the base for the nantou administrative (南头管理区)area (before shenzhen had districts, it had administrative areas, which were basically communes redeployed. in 1990, shenzhen rezoned itself into city districts–nantou became a street (街道办事处) in nanshan district). ever at the edge of western (shenzhen) wealth, guankou was one of the first industrial areas in the shenzhen special economic zone. (today is a day of using discarded language–“special economic zone” has gone the way of “brigade” and “commune”; a historic remnant visible in the landscape but no longer used in everyday conversation. i knew if i procastinated long enough, shenzhen would change enough for me to attain historical perspective! so another promissary note: an entry on “what happened to the sez?”) consequently, guankou was one of the first areas in shenzhen to be industrialized and circa 1982, guankou had factories. these factories lined “nantou old street”, that (before nanyou road became nanhai road) once linked the nantou yamen to shekou.

the architecture of these factories interests me. as does shenzhen’s limitless ability to manifest the ironies of history. at the same time that my old friend, rao xiaojun (shenzhen university college of architecture) had organized an exhibit of photographs of china’s disappearing mega-industrial structures (massive concrete and steel factories), and at the same time that shenzhen is vigorously converting laterday shenzhen factories into cultural centers, guankou still has functioning factories that look like mini concrete leaps forward.

fortunately, because shenzhen is still south china, there are twists on the concrete industrial theme: one-story houses, a central market area, and pink-tiled houses from the mid 1990s. for those, who like me are fascinated by the ongoing shenzhen explosion visit 关口 (a final aside: i’m starting to think of urbanization in shenzhen as somesthing akin to a prolonged volcano eruption. the lava just keeps oozing out, over and in between extant topography, constantly reshaping the landscape.)