Just recently, I stumbled upon me, Fu Na and Huang Weiwen talking about urban villages. The video was part of Unidentified Acts of Design, an exhibition and series of eight films. The films are worth checking out again, if only because the city has already changed. To find out more about the V&A’s work in China vam.ac.uk/shekou
The second station on the Chinese side of the Kowloon-Canton Railway, Buji was an important Hakka market town that during the early years of reform was a center of manufacturing. Today, Buji is a street office (办事处) with an estimated population of over one million. Most Buji families live in an urban village and their children attend minban (民办) schools. A minban school is owned and operated by private companies, filling educational needs that are not met by the public school system. Elite minbans tend to be international and position graduates for university abroad. However, the most common type of minban school in Shenzhen is the urban village minban, which has been set up to educate children who are ineligible for a public education. The most common reason for being ineligible for a public education are hukou related; often families are not long-term residents of the city, which means their children are only eligible for public education back home, or the child was born outside the family planning policy and the parents cannot afford the fines to send the child to public school.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, Handshake 302 sent out a call for fifteen participants to join the first chapter of “Urban Flesh and Bones: Rediscovering Shenzhen’s Cultural Geography” series of walking tours. This chapter is called “What water did you drink?” and looked at how infrastructural relationships–pipes and container ports, for example–have replaced more immediate relationships–wells and small docks–in the local cultural geography. Kind of esoteric topic for a walking tour, but in less than an hour, the event was already completely booked! Who knew Shenzhen residents were so interested in esoteric takes on the city’s cultural geography? By Thursday afternoon, however, we were worried, would super typhoon Mangkhut land on Saturday, forcing us to cancel the event? However, the weather gods were with us, and Saturday morning was bright sun and blue skies—a perfect day for exploring the Shenzhen’s cultural history from the perspective of “water.” Continue reading
Outer district urban villages generally comprise four sections–the historic village settlement, the new village settlement, a commercial center, and an industrial park. As in the inner districts, in the outer districts demolition and forced evictions have transformed new villages even as mandated deindustrialization and participation in the creative economy have reshaped industrial parks. However, the question of what to do with the historic settlements is much more acute in the outer districts, especially in Kengzi (坑梓) and Pingshan (坪山), where large Hakka compounds have been condemned, but not scheduled for preservation. Up until five or six years ago, the compounds were still occupied and collectives managed them as rental properties. Today, however, although sections of the compounds have been opportunistically repurposed, nevertheless, the overall sense is increasingly one of ruin, as if we were waiting for the compounds to collapse and solve the problem of surplus history for us. Impressions from two of the Huang family compounds in Kengzi, below.
I came to Shenzhen by way of Houston circa 1995. It was a time when the boom had fizzled and young developers were just rediscovering the downtown. The city I inhabited was proud to live like a suburb with its lamentable public transportation, its ethnic strip malls and its destination malls like the Galleria. For street life, most of us bypassed the Montrose area, choosing instead to drive to Austin or San Antonio, which were further along in their urban renewals.
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The two-day event was called “Only Connect.” We emphasized the infrastructure that makes neighborhoods out of houses and buildings. Yes, every building had an electrical light, water tubes, sewage tubes and access to the main road. And yes It’s also true, every time that Handshake 302 holds an event at the P+V Gallery, the kids rock our world. Take a look at the smiles that creativity brings! More about Handshake 302 here and here.