Metabolic Urbanism: City as process

Joshua Bolchover, Peter Hasdell

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingConference article published in proceeding or bookAcademic researchpeer-review


Metabolic Urbanity presents ongoing research and speculative propositions for the Frontier Closed Area, (FCA), a buffer zone in Hong Kong on the border between the former British colony and Shenzhen, a frontier town in Southern China. Created by the British in 1951 to stem migration and control illegal activities from the Mainland as a reaction to the 1949 Communist revolution, the buffer zone has remained unchanged for the past 60 years. The FCA has operated predominantly as a demilitarized zone separating two very different ideologies, economies and governments complete with surveillance forts, barbed fencing and heavily secured border control points. Despite this physical separation, the relationship between Hong Kong and Shenzhen has changed significantly since China’s economic reformation was initiated by Deng Xiao Peng in 1978. China’s opening up and the creation of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (SEZ) has fuelled economic exchange and increased financial dependency for the mutual benefit of both cities. With 1997’s hand-over, Hong Kong is also undertaking its own process of gradually opening up moving towards seamless integration with the motherland by 2047. As part of this process the erasure of the border is being incrementally managed through a series of operations: policies that promote joint collaboration; economic incentives from Shenzhen’s status as a Special Economic Zone; cross-border infrastructural projects; and changes in planning status of the border region itself. A critical component of this assimilation is the opening up and planning of the Frontier Closed Area. In 2010 its outer boundary line will be redrawn releasing 2,400 hectares of land for potential development. The present condition reflects a critical juncture in the future development of both cities as well as a unique and unparalleled opportunity to test a planning strategy that could offer an alternative to the normative development model predicated on infrastructural and economic lead urbanization1. This paper will propose a conceptual framework for the FCA comprised of an inter-connected network of metabolic urbancycles attributed to the mutual benefit of both HK and SZ. The intent is to invert the relationship of the border as a separator, (between political ideologies, economies, cultures), and consider it as a connector. This stitched border acts as an urban ecology that is adaptable to its dynamic context and allows for evolution, as the political and economic systems move toward unification.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe 5th International Conference of the International Forum on Urbanism (IFoU) proceedings
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventInternational Forum on Urbanism: Global Visions Risks and Opportunities for the Urban Planet - NUS, Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 24 Feb 2012 → …
Conference number: 5


ConferenceInternational Forum on Urbanism
Abbreviated titleIFoU
Period24/02/12 → …


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