Guangshen Superhighway Market

UNDERNEATH – The Superhighway Market

The most visible trace of this recent development is a private highway – a 120-kilometer elevated strip between Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Owned by the developer Hopewell Holding and CEO Sir Gordon Wu, the Guangshen Superhighway is a unique platform which links cities and transfers merchandise from factories to container terminals. This suggests that the configuration of this strategic network is no longer determined by local factors but by a private empire that controls the economy, the planning and ultimately the culture of a region.

The dual 3-lane toll Superhighway provides 18 interchanges designed by Sir Gordon Wu (he is also an architect). Obviously the strategic position of these junctions has increased the surrounding land value and encouraged the formation of an urban corridor that will eventually transform the Pearl River Delta region into a single sprawling metropolis. A commercial structure was built at each interchange. Inspired by Le Corbusier's Plan Obus for Algiers, the buildings were intended to serve an ambitious mixed-use program - commerce, office, factory, and dormitory - directly plugged into the underbelly of the infrastructure. Most of the 18 buildings were abandoned soon after completion. Today they shelter migrant squatters.  

A massive open market exists underneath the Superhighway. Located in Songgan (half distance between Shenzhen and Guangzhou), this market is used by the workers to develop new social networks. It is a place where commodities are sold, services offered and food and entertainment consumed. You can take a chair, order a meal and watch a DVD on TV. Where several chairs cluster together, entertainment islands are created. The highway provides a roof and support for lighting and electricity. In the shadow of the highway, innovative economic activities arise and change with social demand. Another form of energy comes from the transitory condition of the land, people, TV screens, digital noise, and neon light. This hidden urbanity, which thrives on the vitality of a population almost entirely under the age of 25, represents the necessary motor that powers the PRD region. 

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