neon romance, new south china mall

Visited the New South China Mall in Dongguan, which is undergoing a family makeover (more next post). Today, impressions of my neon romance with the semi-abandoned re-occupied playground. Continue reading

more neon nights

storefront, shennan middle road

even when you least expect it, expect it. shenzheners will find another corner to light up; even tianmian glows at night.

tianmian corner market

more neon here.

christmas 2007: garden city…and christmas-lit palms

merry christmas-new years

it’s another christmas. unlike previous years, when the great christmas pumpkin made its appearance, this year, it’s christmas qua new years, which fits. many of my friends think of christmas as american spring festival. i will be tracking the shenzhen christmas make-over, which began the day after thanksgiving. these first pics are from garden city in shekou.

inside garden city, a christmas palm tree

the palm trees and bright city lights (santa goes neon after dark) at garden city seem a high-end moment in a citywide trend to shine. low-end nanshan clubs, for example, also decorate plastic palm trees with christmas lights. these lights, however, flicker all year.



Government Re-Contextualizations, or how the plan gets fixed

boxed methane pipe, part of the rennovations on dongbin road

Upgrading continues in Nanshan. This morning we received notice that the Nanshan Bureau of Public Works will begin the second part of its 6 + 1 street scenery renovation project (街景整治工程). All the neon is part of this project, which includes upgrading walls (remember the air-conditioner cages?), planting trees and flowers (have I posted pictures of the wooden pots for methane gas release on Dongbin Street yet?), and replacing old billboards, presumably with new billboards (I know I’ve taken pictures of World of War characters creeping across buildings…) Pictures here.

It’s a very Shenzhen approach to governance: build something. It’s as if the constant construction and reconstruction of space will keep people in their respective places. So, for those of you wondering how renovation functions as a means of governance (and I know you’re out there), I’ve translated part of the brochure we received. What I’d like to call attention to is the history captured in the street names. These street names chart the historic progression of development in Nanshan. Some streets are “old” from before reform, some are “new”, built in close proximity to old centers in the eighties. Some streets speak to reform dreams. Still other streets were laid on landfill more than twenty years after old and new was defined by governmental policy. The renovation project homogonizes all this history, as if the streets appeared together one day, already complete unto themselves, derived from some perfect, omnipotent plan.

街区再造 品质南山
6 + 1城市改造工程是南山区政府继去年对蛇口新街、海月路、学府路、沙河路口、留仙大道、朱光路等六条街道和南海大道(一期)、创业路、沙河西路、东滨路(一期)的景观整治改造之后,对南海大道(二期)、蛇口老街+海昌街、后海大道(南段)、南山大道、南新路、东滨路(二期)、居仙大厦进行改造整治,改造内容包括建筑里面、路面、人行道铺面、广告招牌等。

Street Reconstruction, Quality Nanshan
The 6 + 1 Urban Improvement Project is a continuation of the Nanshan District Government’s street renovation project. Last year, Nanshan renovated the appearences of Shekou New Street, Haiyue Road, Xuefu Road, Shahe Intersection, Liuxian Main Street, Zhuguang Road, Nanhai Main Street (part one), Construction Street, Shahe West Road, and Dongbin Street (part one). This year, Nanshan will renovate Nanhai Main Street (part two), Shekou Old Street + Nanchang Street, Houhai Main Street (southern portion), Nanshan Main Street, New Nan Road, Dongbin Road (part two), and Juxian Building. Renovations include: building interiors, street fronts, sidewalks and storefronts, and billboards.

upgrading the shenzhen environment

shenzhen’s recent decision to neonize the city prompts today’s entry.

from 2006 through 2008, the city plans mto upgrade the investment environment, which includes upgrading the living environment: cleaning up rivers, planting more trees, building recreational bike trails (in overseas chinese town), giving old buildings a fresh paint job, and generally making shenzhen look better. the city’s decision to redefine the investment environment in terms of quality of life points to a shift in values that relative wealth has brought. it may also reflect shenzhen residents’ concern for their children, who will not be moving back to their parents’ hometowns. over the past few years, there people in government and society who want to do more than just make money in shenzhen seem to have been increasingly influential. they want to make shenzhen into a nice place to live and many of their projects reflect this goal, rather than bottom line economic thinking for which the city has been famous. as part of larger historical trends, the new ascendance of socially conscious may indicate a larger shift from viewing shenzhen as a place of transit to making shenzhen into a “hometown”.

nevertheless, being shenzhen, there is always an over-the-top moment. one of the more iconic decisions of upgrading the environments has been to encase old (read: too expensive to raze) buildings in neon tubes, so that at night, five story neon walls project computer generated images. some of these neon walls extend 12 stories into the nighttime sky. during the day, the buildings just look caged. unfortunately, my camera isn’t high-tech enough to take pictures of the new designs. however, the government assures us that all the lighting is environmentally friendly, again, in keeping with shenzhen’s drive to upgrade the investment environment.