Many years ago (and it was a different world), I interviewed HUANG Weiwen about Shenzhen’s urban planning imaginary. The year was 2016, and there was a general hope that urban villages might come of age and transform the city for the better. Anyway, here’s the article.
I contributed a chapter to The Emerging Public Realm of the Greater Bay Area: Approaches to Public Space in a Chinese Mega-Region, which was edited by Miodrag Mitrašinović and Timothy Jachna. The book matters, not only because the GBA is one of the world’s largest mega-regions, but also because China seems to be strategically planning and developing its mega-regions. Shenzhen matters in all this because even if the GBA ranks second to the Yangzte River Delta, nevertheless, it is one of the world leaders (and first in China) for patent applications and new industries. In 2018, China Briefing published a brief introduction to China’s three leading mega-regions (YRD, GBA, and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei cluster).
But back to the book! According to the website blurb, The Emerging Public Realm of the Greater Bay Area “assembles diverse approaches to interrogating the forms of public space and the public realm that are emerging in the context of this region’s rapid urban development in the last forty years, bringing together authors from urbanism, architecture, planning, sociology, anthropology and politics to examine innovative ways of framing and conceptualizing public space in/of the Greater Bay Area. The blend of authors’ first-hand practical experiences has created a unique cross-disciplinary book that employs public space to frame issues of planning, political control, social inclusion, participation, learning/education and appropriation in the production of everyday urbanism. In the context of the Greater Bay Area, such spaces and practices also present opportunities for reconfiguring design-driven urban practice beyond traditional interventions manifested by the design of physical objects and public amenities to the design of new social protocols, processes, infrastructures and capabilities.”
So, many of you know that Shenzhen has been debating what to do about urban villages. Half of the city’s population lives in one village or another, most of the city’s population has lived in a village at one point in their lives, and millions have set up mom & pops in a village, providing for themselves and their families through small capital investments. Just recently, the city approved the “Shenzhen Urban Village (Old Village) Comprehensive Remediation Plan (2019-2025) (《深圳市城中村（旧村）综合整治总体规划（2019-2025）》).” The key point, of course, is that the city is now choosing to remediate and upgrade village spaces, rather than demolishing and evicting residents. Continue reading
I know, you’re asking yourself: how is it already 2019? The date pounds like a migraine because once again we’re in the middle of a China-history countdown: 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, 60th anniversary of the start of the great leap forward famine, 50th anniversary of the Sino-Soviet border conflict, 40th anniversary of the “First Blast” of Reform and Opening chez Shekou, 30th anniversary of the Tian’anmen democracy movement, 20th anniversary of the crackdown against Falungong, and the 10th anniversary of Shenzhen’s decision to upgrade its “dirty, chaotic, and substandard (脏乱差)” urban villages. Continue reading
Shenzhen has just released its 2018-2025 Comprehensive Plan for Urban Villages (Old Villages) 深圳市城中村总体规划（2018-2025). Here’s the long and short of it: Shenzhen has decided to suspend the demolition of designated urban villages and instead bring the housing stock and surrounding neighborhood shops into its affordable housing program. Continue reading
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
If you’re wondering how Shenzhen’s urban village experience does and does not map into planned and unplanned urbanization and concomitant urbanisms in Asian Cities, please check out Urban Asias: Essays on Futurity Past and Present. Tim Bunnell and Daniel Goh have edited this cross-disciplinary discussion about how cities manifest future dreams and aspirations, as well as the problems that arise when the forms of outdated futures structure everyday life.
Also: the more I interact with architects, urban planners, and designers the more I have come to appreciate good design. As an object, the book is lovely.
Luohu as we knew it is changing. The recent announcement that urban renewal compensation has made billionaires of Shuibei villagers, the decision to selectively preserve and redesign Hubei as a “historic” public park area, and ongoing renewal of Caiwuwei fang (坊) or “branches”–individually, each of these projects entails demolition, evictions, and rebuilding and restructuring of particular neighborhoods, but taken together these projects entail through revision of the Old Special Zone. And yes, we’ve been watching this happen all along, but enough of the earlier urban tecture remained that we could feel where we came from, as we moved between and through adjacent neighborhoods. These new projects signal something else. Continue reading
Happy to have my interview with Huang Weiwen, “The Urban Planning Imaginary: Lessons from Shenzhen” included in the recently published, Shenzhen: From Factory of the World to World City from the International New Towns Institute. As you can see from the index, contributors include many folks who have been involved in thinking about, debating, and planning Shenzhen.