Last month we officially launched Volume’s 39th issue, ‘Urban Border’. In the past weeks we have published a selection of articles, and for those who are interested how the issue looks and feels we have uploaded a preview. Enjoy! Click here to learn more about Volume #39.
Shenzhen is currently upgrading its industry; this results in empty factory buildings and huge demographic changes within the migrant population. It also implies a transition from a blue-collar to a white-collar society. Shenzhen’s economic success is based on cheap labor. Nonetheless, blue-collar migrants are considered to be both problematic and vulnerable. But do we really understand and appreciate the economic and social value of the current generation of migrants in Shenzhen? ‘Da Lang Fever’ is a story about the potential of a self-organizing migrant society in the neighborhood Da Lang. It showcases the empowering nature of bottom-up activities for migrant workers.
According to official statistics China’s urbanization rate was 52.57 percent in 2012, but according to China’s Hukou system this number nowadays is still below 35 percent! The discrepancy is caused by at least 250,000,000 peasants without urban Hukou status living in urban areas, the so-called floating population. Without urban Hukou they cannot equally benefit from urban amenities such as education, employment, medical care, retirement programs, affordable housing, and other basic public services. In fact these urban-based peasants are excluded from living a complete urban lifestyle. Although China sees it as its primary task “to civilize the whole nation by turning its agricultural population into orderly citizens”, urbanization seems mainly used as an engine to stimulate economic growth. An essential tool to guide urbanization is the process of converting rural Hukous into urban Hukous. However, this process is complex, and receives loads of critique, nationally and internationally. There seems to be no easy solution, especially since economic forces are overruling the people’s quality of life.
It’s rare that a city’s birth certificate survives, but here it is: a map of Hong Kong full of marks and notes. It is an intriguing document, but our attention should go to the upper left corner, where in the ‘white space’ of mainland China the Shekou peninsula is encircled as the new harbor and industrial location of what was to become the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone; conveniently situated and easy to control. The map with personal marks and handwritten notes makes history tangible. It all started with an idea and a location.
The 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture in Shenzhen took ‘urban border’ as its theme. For good reason. If there is a place to study ‘border’ as condition, it is Shenzhen. Demographic, territorial, economic, political, social, and legal borders created this fifteen million city in less than thirty-five years, and drive its further development. The transformation of this ‘factory of the world’ into a post-industrial economy and society, the disappearance of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen divide in 2047, and the reconciliation of state capitalism and communist rule, are but three of the challenges Shenzhen is facing, to which its role and position in the larger-scale development of the Pearl River Delta can be added.
Last December, the editorial team of Volume spent three weeks in Shenzhen to work on the official catalogue of the 5th Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture (UABB). The UABB Catalogue was presented on Friday February 28 with a special event during the Biennale’s closing ceremony.