Keywords of the Greater Bay Area

China's Mega Projects


Liu Ye

Bay Area Architecture

What we refer to today as (Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macau) "Bay Area architecture" consists of three parts, which I provisionally describe from large to small in terms of scale. The largest part is the natural-humanistic geography. It was mostly settled before the birth of humanity but was later identified, requisitioned, and utilized by historical actors. The Xijiang River flows out of the mountainous Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau. Eventually, it surges through Southern China, where it merges into the sea, creating the alluvial plain known today as the Pearl River Delta. Compared to the maps, we can see how the contours of the Pearl River estuary have been gradually narrowed through siltation and reclamation through thousands of years of human intervention. In a broader sense, this architecture is a spatial installation woven by the intersections of rivers, mountains, plains, marshlands, the offshore water, and the oceans. Each element creates its meaning based on its positional relation with others and ultimately establishes specific stability among them.

Unlike the other three major Bay Areas—New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo—the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Bay Area is probably the only space that presents a fault line of the world order. The border between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, which on the surface consists of infrastructures such as barbed wires, fences, rivers, guard posts, border checkpoints, and ports of entry, is fundamentally backed by a towering superstructure: laws, treaties, and ideologies that have so far (partially) defined the order of the region. All of these comprise the foundation of the second part of the Bay Area's architecture. It takes shape in the time-saving and cost-effective strategies for by-straits travelers and traders planning cross-border roads, bridges, and tunnels, and even more in the phenomenological perceptions and juridical jargons that enable the writings of the differences in writing of the phenomenological perceptions and juridical hacks of the global order. Specifically, it is the only place among the four major Bay Areas where the vestiges of colonialism and Cold War confrontation remain, all immersed in the boom of hi-tech and innovation, finance, and trade. Many people once thought that capital would undermine borders and that people would eventually embrace each other simply by following it through. Yet this antique vision has suddenly become precarious quite recently.

As for the third kind of architecture, see the term "Keying."

(Translated by Fiona He)

About Keywords of the Greater Bay Area

The "Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area" is a new construction envisioned from a top-down perspective and territorial integration. It is a blueprint for a future urban development based on efficiency, speed, and mobility. What if we conceive the Greater Bay Area as an experiment, an imaginary experiment? On the one hand, there is the question of 'diversity'. When we talk about smart cities, artificial intelligence, automation, ecological crisis, information security, the future of virtual reality, global trade, etc., where does this view of the future come from, and what determines it? On the other hand, a profound political, spatial, historical, and geographical significance is present in the Greater Bay Area. Is it possible to develop a different imagination based on the history and culture of the "Pearl River Delta-Greater Bay Area;" meaning, to consider a development departing from local knowledge production, negotiating with accelerating technologies, facilitating collaborations between art and other disciplines, and reshaping the vision of institutions of art and technology? By exploring the diversity of technologies, human and non-human ecologies, and reproduction of social relations, might it be possible to reposition the "Greater Bay Area" as a pioneering experiment of southern China's technological and cultural imagination beyond a mere economic zone?

Editors: Jianru Wu, Guo Yun
English editor: Christy Lange