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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Wealth is Subjective

The juxtaposition of rural living vs. urban living is evident is various cities in China, specifically Shenzhen. There are several social constraints and cultural differences, which add to the physical characteristics of each city. For example in Shenzhen a relatively new city had a population of 30,000 thousand residents 30 years ago consisting of farm land and dirt roads, now Shenzhen has a population of 14 million and has the largest port in China.

The density of Shenzhen is comparable to Hong Kong a metropolis, a region not only dense in the X and Y direction but the Z direction as well. When looking down at the two cities from above it is almost impossible to distinguish one from the other. Both cities are located along the water with high-rise after high-rise. However Shenzhen has a unique juxtaposition of multiple 7 story housing buildings in the foreground along the shoreline and 50+ story towers in the background.

The fast paced, congested and noisy typical living is confined within the contemporary high-rise buildings similar to Hong Kong. On the other hand the urban villages consists of smaller scaled run down buildings, which aren’t aesthetically pleasing, have a different experiential beauty that cannot be found elsewhere. The street noise consists of children riding bikes and adults sitting around with friends on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon having lunch and playing cards. The area is surrounded by 7 story tiled walk up condominiums that were constructed by local construction workers. The villages have easy excess to local markets, restaurants, medical facilities and a public library. Although many might believe these areas are unpleasant due to the smell, or poorly maintained housing units the occupants of these villages couldn’t be happier. To them these are luxurious living conditions, having air conditioning, a stable income, and the reassurance that their home wont be bulldozed in the morning is a relief. These were the peoples concerns until 30 years ago. Now their neighborhoods are self-regulated and self-sustaining with no help from the local government, a dream that they thought would never come.

Unlike city growth, many cultural conditions have remained the same from the time of the farmers. The raggedy clothes and sloppy eating habits of peasant workers are still part of daily life in both the villages and dense urban areas. As a result there are wealthy individuals living in the fastest growing city in the world but still look and behave like the poor. This juxtaposition was created by the rapid speed of the city growth. The majority of the occupants of the city were raised as farmers therefore don’t know any better. But I am confident that as the younger generation becomes more exposed to the rest of the world the cultural conditions will develop in a positive way just as their city has.

-Elliot

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AAU FALL 2013:

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

Director:
Andrew Liang
Instructors:
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
Students:
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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