written/non-written things by me (from 2005-2008)

Sunday, August 06, 2006


by lots of people

The red pattened leather cover with it's gold stenciling is giveaway mimic of Mao's famous Little Red Book of communist ideology, once carried around by all comrades and anyone with survival wits during the Cultural Revolution.

But instead of Mao's cherubic face, A Project on the City: Great Leap Forward features the gold stencil of coins, the symbol of China's new dictatorial ideology.

The New China's heart is in its Special Economic Zones, where factories and multinationals are as ubiquitous as the rice paddies they poured concrete over. China's Pearl River Delta (PRD) is estimated to grow to 34 million inhabitants by the year 2020. It encompasses the major Special Economic Zones of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong, cities (namely the 1st two) that had but scant development until the recent 2 decades, most of it occuring in the last 10 years. The PRDs size alone will garner it nominations for the Most Outstanding Impact on Everything in the 21st century Award. From the editors:

"Special Economic Zones 'laboratories for the contained unleashing of capitalism' - have hastened an unprecedented experiment in urbanization on an astonishingly large scale. Great Leap Forward contains essays that explore, in a theoretical and statistical context, the results of this rapid modernization, which has produced an entirely new urban substance."

So it is with this impetus that some students at the Harvard Design School set upon a big old fashion grab everything and sort it out later, documentation effort. That project is called, harking back to the disastrous original, "The Great Leap Forward" (circa 1985, not the GLF of late 1950s when they melted their cooking utensils for iron and steel in back yard furnaces and rushed to industrialize so haphazardly in some cases that they left crops withering in the field, resulting in one of the worst famines ever ever).

I couldn't have been more excited to find this heavy-lifter, lap-layer of a Geography Art book about my current fav place, China. LPC collects essays and ruminations, newspaper articles, poems, diary entries, arias, and arials mixed with a heavy dose of big beautiful color photographs and a unique use of maps, blueprints all of which will tell the story, or at least try to make some "heads or tails" (get it because of the coins on the front) of the Pearl River Delta's exponential economic and physical development.

Each section is set upon the task of studying the urban condition's six most operative phenomena:



"The traditional city strives for a condition of balance, harmony, and a degree of homogeneity. The CITY OF EXACERBATED DIFFERENCE," on the contrary, is based on the greatest possible difference between its parts-completmentary or competitive. In a climate of permanent strategic panic, what counts in the COED is not the methodical creation of the ideal, but the opportunistic exploitation of flukes, accidents, and imperfections."

I am at most times Baffled/Encouraged/Enamored/and/or Heartbroken by "the City".

Waiting to be elucidated. Thank you me.

My name is Hannah Pierce-Carlson