Big names like Rem Koolhaas and John Friedmann give it up for the book Factory Towns of South China, written by the Dutch architect and urban designer Stefan Al. We’ve read it and couldn’t find anything to disagree on. This one-of-a-kind illustrated guide book opens a window on the massive factory towns in China. It provides a cross-disciplinary approach to understand the process of rapid urbanization and industrialization, and delivers unique insights in how life runs from the perspective of the factory worker.
When China began its economic reform in 1978, factory owners saw it as an opportunity to utilize the country’s growing labor supply. They brought tons of jobs into China, which in turn attracted poor rural residents to migrate to cities such as Shenzen, all with hopes for a better life. Little effort has been done to understand these factory towns, with their crowded dormitories, monotonous labor and gritty establishments. This book documents and exposes these sights. Sights that are both architecturally astounding and ethically disturbing. It delivers a glimpse on the life in a factory town using mostly pictures, illustrations, maps and essays.
The combination of academic essays from different authors and perspectives like sociology, geography and architecture with data gives a complete view and makes Factory Towns of South China accessible and interesting. Using the genre of an illustrated guide book, the writers hope to reach a broader audience than the urban scholar. The genre appears relevant to research of urban environments, providing lots of visuals and supplementing information.
Factory Towns of South China shows us both an academic perspective and an emotional one with harsh stories and pictures about the life as a Chinese factory worker — what they eat and wear, but also how they are dealing with daily suicides and strikes. A one-of-a-kind must-read.
Factory Towns of South China
Edited by Stefan Al
Contributing Editors: Paul Chu Hoi Shan, Alexander Giarlis, Claudia Juhre, Casey Wang
Published by Hong Kong University Press
Publication date: May, 2012
265 color and 27 black/white illustrations, bilingual in English and Chinese
Paperback, 216 pages