USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Catch Me If You Can

“Ten… Nine… Eight… Seven… Six… Five… Four… Three… Two… One… Ready or not, here I come!”

I’ve been on the hunt for about a week now.

The games of “hide and seek” to which I am accustomed usually lead to some form of physical discovery, whether it is of a place or of someone’s hidden location. Since we arrived in Shenzhen, I have been on a relentless search for something intangible: the identity of this city.

At times I find myself tiptoeing as I approach a street vendor’s display table, hoping to ambush my protean prey as it rests among the counterfeit copies of Seasons 1 through 7 of Sex and the City. To no avail, I wander along the boulevards connecting the massive blocks made up of innumerable hotel and bank towers, hoping to find even a small hint in the middle of this Central Business District. All I see are wide, practically vacant pedestrian walkways.

Suddenly animated, I launch myself at a full sprint thinking I have finally caught a glimpse of that which I am looking for, only to realize that my crafty target has led me deep into a poorly lit maze. With no sense of direction, I walk down endless corridors lined with stand after stand of products that may or may not be what they appear to be. In this estuary for the real and the fantastical, with what point of reference am I to navigate through the conglomeration that is Luohu District?

As I examine one of the most recent maps of the city provided by the concierge, it occurs to me that perhaps the object of my fixation has fled to one of the urban villages. Upon arrival at the Northeast corner of the intersection between Fuhua Road and Caitian Road, I realize that what was once on the map no longer is. Looking down I see that I am standing on a mound of rubble, impatiently waiting to be reshaped and formed into another tower. It seems I am not alone in this pursuit, for even the mapmakers cannot keep up with this elusive shape-shifter.

Roaming the outskirts of the city at the West end, I am once again led astray. Thinking I have reached the end of the road, and wanting to see the edge condition, I follow the newly carved path until I become aware of the fact that it is quite literally spilling into the sea. Is this some sort of hoax? There simply is no limit.

By this point I half expect something to jump out at me and shout, “Here I am!” before quickly disappearing. But how exactly do you catch something when you don’t know what you’re looking for?

It seems to be that the more I look, the less I find.

For now, I think I will set up post next to the statue of Deng Xiaoping overlooking Shenzhen. I’m not quite sure where he is pointing, but maybe if I stay long enough I’ll see something.



Filed under: China, Identity, Shenzhen, 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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