Reading Pearl River Delta

The ability to understand a city is believed to be a fundamental necessity of every urbanist. The multitude of scientific texts and theories that have spawned from this belief gives one little reassurance that this understanding is even remotely possible. Is it a problem of the theoretical discourse or a problem of nature of the city? Maybe it is a problem of subjectivity and different ways in which people perceive and read the city. Whatever the reason, the fact that the City has so far always managed to outgrow its theories will not change, at least for now. In this aspect we could assume it is no different with the reading of the city as proposed by Aldo Rossi in The Architecture of the City. This text will confront Rossi’s theory with the new type of a city that has sprouted on the East, post-communistic and hyper-capitalistic city of Shenzhen.

The conditions and reasons on which this city came of being are very specific and, above all, different from conditions of the cities that Rossi was looking into. One of the main differences that I feel could be of great significance is the time span in which Shenzhen developed from a local village into a sprawling metropolis. What took European cities centuries, Shenzhen “accomplished” in two decades. What happens when a city comes into existence in a glimpse of time, in a comparative fraction of a second? Do the rules of reading such an entity still comply with the rules set out by Rossi?