Following the attraction from Heathrow Heritage, I’ve expanded my ‘Another Airport’ series to a global movement, starting with China. I arrived in Shenzhen to investigate the airport’s 城中村. Meaning literally the “village within a city”, these slum areas attract a temporary and unprotected community of migrants.

The villages have grown so fast that no official urban planning had been able to match the speed of its expansion. Shenzhen has one of the highest house prices in China.

The term握手楼 – ‘handshake tower’ is given to buildings that are linked so closely to each other that people could touch from their adjacent windows. Needless to say – night-time crime in these accommodations is extremely high.

Zigzagging gaps between high-rise buildings create artificial an artificial night out of mid-day sun, providing much-appreciated shaded walkways. At night, cracks between buildings either light up to become leisurely private eateries or diminish into black holes for petty crime.

The originally farming village divides their land to their villagers. The ‘organically grown’ landscape forms from every landlord making maximum use of their valuable space. In the recent years, these land owners have become extremely wealthy and have moved to more affluent areas.

There are no regulated health and safety standards. Municipal planning and services are a matter of negotiation. Anything can be acquired, even dangerous electrical wiring can become enterprising. Advertisements hang from high voltage electric cables linking one window to another.

Written by Lisa Ma

Lisa Ma socializes activism. Combining ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa creates platforms of engagement from surprising insights and processes that deeply resonate with the global technological community. The emergence of clicktivism – to protest at the click of a mouse – is trivializing activism. Lisa argues that although activism doesn’t necessarily benefit from technology, we need to evolve how activism contributes to technological societies. To illustrate this, she designs dilemmas and creates social events that are perceived as activism but function as services.

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