Urban villages sparked my interest way before I arrived in Shenzhen. They seem to attract the attention of people of different spectrum due to their interesting character and uniqueness. Numerous journal articles, research and analysis have been written about them (but unfortunately, here at UPDIS I haven’t met anyone who has done research in this area.) Since I arrived here I have visited a few urban villages. One of those located close to where I stay in Shenzhen is called Gangxia. I went back to visit this site a couple of times and took some pictures so I can document my experience.
(If you don’t know what urban villages are please read Pam Phan’s blog entry here where she nicely describes how they got evolved.) Shenzhen is said to have more than 200 urban villages. Many of them, including Gangxia, are located on areas with prime real estate value. They provide cheap housing for farmers and other migrants. They are crowded and messy. While some would call them slums but they are different to them. They have narrow alleys, lack of light, sanitation and health issues. But many urban villages have commercial streets that are vibrant, especially in the evenings, and offer (informal) economic activities such as cheap food and low cost personal services (hairdresser, massage).