USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

It’s Alivvvve!

While silently amusing myself with thoughts of Shenzhen, I realized this city is like Frankenstein.  It consists of all these parts that are chosen for their sheer ‘normality’ and sloppily sewn together. It is the Frankenstein monster before it is given life.  The creators aren’t really sure what they’ve created but are simply experimenting to see what works. I keep on waiting to find the hidden ‘Abby Normal’ brain.  But I can’t find it.  Each section we visit for the day is as homogeneous as the last.  The metropolis feels fake because of the mass lack of people who make a city run and give the city individuality and character.  Its 15 million or so residents hide from us where ever we go.  Besides a general lack of population, there also seems to be an enormous lack of diversity of typology.  I could walk around the city constantly lost because everything looks the same.  Regardless of the argument of whether or not Shenzhen is artificial or lacks diversity or real density, the fact is there is a whole new element of the city we had never seen before.  We saw Shenzhen in a one-dimensional manner which has dramatically changed upon today’s discoveries.  The monster was finally given life.

Just like Frankenstein’s monster, the kind and gentle qualities come from the parts that don’t quite fit in with the rest of the amalgamation; hence the beauty is in the inconsistency.  Today, I found the ‘Abby Normal’ brain.  Shenzhen actually has history more than 30 years old!  Not everything was exploded, and wiped from all memory.  We saw this at the urban village near the CBD- a village that had ‘jazzed itself up’ to keep up with the changing environment surrounding it.  This urban village does not fit with the rest of the normality of the city- it has age, variations in life style and living conditions, community activities, respite from the mechanics of city life.  All this are eccentricities to anything we have seen.  We also saw the remnants of another urban village directly infringing on the CBD.  Here we saw such raw life and activity.  This urban village existed as a scar to the homogeneous environment of Shenzhen.  Because of this it is being torn down.  However people are still living in some of the buildings as other parts are being demolished, children still walk through the demolition site on their way home from school, and aging men still play mysterious gambling games in the streets. All of these are signs of life and flavor I have never seen before in this city.  Finally, after climbing to the top of Lotus Hill Park to see the statue of Deng Xiaoping and the amazing evening view, we see more signs of life.  There were kites dotting the fading skyline!  There were people jogging, taking pictures, and on dates.  Finally this monster of a city is alive!



Filed under: Architecture, China, Uncategorized

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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