January 16, 2006

massive beauty

Sze Tsung Leung

"Despite the common view that present-day Chinese cities constitute a break with the past, they are still consistent with three historical patterns that have defined urban change in China: large-scale destruction and replacement of urban fabrics to inaugurate changes of emperors or dynasties; massive relocations of populations; and highly planned urban configurations enabled by centralized and unchallenged forms of authority. These traditions underly the shape and nature of the contemporary Chinese city." (via)


(Tradition doesn't seem to be the proper term as it connotes deeply ingrained cultural customs. Codifying it as such makes it too easy to accept.)

(I often find myself between pro-urban growth / gentrification and anti-.

One of the most ethically problematic moments for me occured when i learned the competition i was working on required the demolition of old brick homes -- an entire neighborhood. However, i knew this view was rooted somewhat in my position as an outsider -- someone who assigns cultural value (the 'historic,' 'cultural identity'), yet is not vested in it. I was framing a simplistic battle between innocent commoners living 'simple lives' and evil money-grubbing corporate developer scum. as always, we shed a tear for the people. But, as Leung's essay suggests, change is more nuanced than this. Especially in China.

A coworker very matter-of-factly told me China's history is so huge, such a strong identity, that a wipe-out of the urban fabric means less than in the united states. (With several thousand more years of it, and an ugly recent past of extreme poverty and acts of violence by the communist party, there is definitely less clinging, or bowing, to history, less feigned history than in the united states. I felt silly being more sentimental over the demo of a region than someone who lived his whole life in it -- to me it was a death, to him it was obligatory renewal).

But because people are displaced for the good of the nation (and even though they have no ownership of it, they could very well be proud of the new, glimmering, global shape their city is taking) -- is it proper? The cycle of massive demolition and massive re-building is inevitable, but what of deliberation, respecting the social fabric? Not yet: urgency, money, and the silent assumption that none of these new skyscrapers will still be here in twenty years prevents it -- for now.)

Some Shanghai posts:
Bear the Debt
Disorder is a Kind of Order
Lack of interest in Traces of Memory
Some sense of Social Obligation
No Uptown or Downtown
Smash the Intellectual Property!


andrea said...

SZE four life!!!!

this reminds me of more "land-use" debates i have for/with you...

better pick up the fone..

andrea said...

wowsa sez bowser!!!!!!!

i clicked the SZE link and only took a peek at the linked webpage.

i saw "Born In Mexico City" next to "1970"
and my blood pressure level skyrocketted!

thrills & chills! before 9:00 a.m.!

keep curating, jean!

beep beep!

honk honk!

andrea said...


¿are you trying to say that "mass beauty" lies
in palindromes?

sometimes i can't tell.

what can't i tell?

i can't tell what lies behind your mysterious, asian eyes!!!!

i'm sorry. the internet brings out the grunt in me.
you know it's time to "lay off" the internet connection
when you start referring to the reader's "body parts"
on your keyboard!

if i wasn't being subtle enough already:
i am in town!
right now!

and there are places to go
during every day of this single week!

jean said...

(he also went to berkeley for undergrad)

yup, maybe something like bike shopping, eh?

andrea said...

just come over to my co-op!!

the living room is the new bike dealership!

also: "jitensha" on bancroft avenue.

between........ ellsworth & dana?




i love fascists.


each term of school gets better than the past's. ratchet effect!


i might be in school longer than i believed!
but i am stubbornly graduating this YEAR.

jean said...

laura nader v ananya roy?? WHAT?

andrea said...


i am going to call you in a few minutes.

for now- let me tell you: i have hopped on-board the bus of "revisiting journal posts from exactly (1) year ago!"


i guess there's only a subtle difference between "indoctrination" & "information", eh?

to the fone!

andrea said...

As Stephen would say: "cuh...."

that was my response only after scanning the 1st paragraph up there.

quite a suitcase you are unpacking..