THE LEARNING CLOUD
In Chinese literature and myth, the space where martial art heroes act is called jianghu (river and lake), meaning a place apart from the rule of the royal court. The room where emperors and their officials meet is called miaotang (the royal court). These two seemingly opposite spaces actually share parallel structures and transposable features, founding their counterpart in the dark forest.
Since the beginning of 20th century, the “royal court” has been the stage where innumerable wars for political and ideological control on the Chinese Society took place. During 1940s and 1950s Hong Kong offered sanctuary to immigrants from mainland China and from overseas Chinese communities, running away from the systematic levelling off and rooting out of their millennial environment. This phenomenon dramatically altered the quality of everyday life in the colony. Hong Kong became the dense and impenetrable concrete forest where the Chinese traditional culture found shelter. The worldwide popularity of local television and cinema grew at unbelievable pace; the city’s atmosphere itself became a blend of frenzy urban life, primitive fantasies and nostalgia.
In the late 1970s Shenzhen was a small fishing village. In 1980 Deng decided to implant there the first SEZ. Shenzhen became the jianghu (river and lake), far from the eyes of the “royal court” and close to the “dark forest” of Hong Kong, where the confined experiment of the socialist capitalism could take place. That wasn’t a natural jianghu: hills, drains and paddy fields have been brutally levelled and deviated to obtain the best set for the show, a tabula rasa. Also it’s previous name, Bao’an, was changed and re-established the former, Shenzhen, better known overseas and preferred by local Cantonese people because implied the idea of getting rich.
Nowadays many cities in the Pearl River Delta Metropolis treat each other as competitors rather than partners.
While the flow of goods and money is already quite satisfying, out of all the key exchange areas, the cross flow of people (and therefore knowledge and ideas) is the most critical: serious asymmetry exists, as demonstrated by the heavy restrictions imposed on the flow of people from Shenzhen to Hong Kong.
In order to test strategies for economic, cultural and social cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, looks like the only solution is to systematically export the “Hong Kong model”. A significant number of pilot tests are proposed to explore the opportunity and practicability of establishing Hong Kong-style hospitals, Hong Kong-style schools, and Shenzhen Campuses for Hong Kong tertiary institutions.
To tackle this dreaded asymmetry, and propose viable solutions compatible to the actual geopolitical order, a relevant set of “net, ring and belt” projects are pushed forward: a 2,000 kilometre intercity rail transport network involving three rings and eight spokes, a ‘Hong Kong-Shenzhen Education Circle”, a “Technology Belt” and “Knowledge Belt” along the Pearl River Delta’s eastern shore, a “Leisure Belt” and “Ecological Belt” along the western shore, an “Innovation and Cultural Ring” in the Pearl River Delta Metropolis.
But, in fact, what are these belts and nets made of? How are they weaved? Which are they critical and weak points?
Hong Kong lacks space. It has an oversized cultural and educational equipment. Even if physically finite, its speed of exchange enables people and ideas to become multidirectional and international. There is a pressure on land. Hunger for green, real green.
As Hong Kong and Shenzhen citizens are becoming more and more integrated in their daily lives and work, education has increasingly become an important issue in the cooperation of livelihood between the people of the two cities. Many people began to lead a cross-boundary life; the rate of cross-boundary marriages has grown rapidly. The main part of their children have opted to live in Shenzhen and study in Hong Kong, resulting in ‘cross-boundary students’ facing a relevant number of daily complications. A preponderance of Shenzhen parents have confidence in Hong Kong’s education system, because of its English learning environment and internationally recognized academic qualifications.
The bottleneck constraint of shortage of land in Hong Kong confronting local universities/colleges and the inadequacy of resources in Shenzhen universities/colleges open the field for innovative solutions. As in 1990’s Hong Kong media industry brought in PRC new ways of life and desires, so in 21st century Hong Kong education policies become fundamental to foreshadow new trends of development, reduce barriers, realize as early as possible the mutual sharing of educational resources.
A great opportunity is represented by the Lok Ma Chau Loop and the Hong Kong’s boundary closed area, a land area closest to the Mainland, with enormous potential for development, unique in the Greater Pearl River Delta. Most of the land within the boundary area is proposed to serve as a "Green Buffer" between the two cities.
The LMC Loop, together with the old Shenzhen River section, has an area of about 100 hectares. It’s predominantly flat land with grasses and shrubs on it, surrounded mainly by rural in nature, comprising mostly wetland, natural landscape, hilly terrain, woodland, village settlements, agricultural land and fishponds;
The Hong Kong’s boundary closed area should be developed on the principle of mutual benefit and cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, providing quality environment to citizens and users.
After several meetings with the citizens, a clear zoning hypothesis appeared: a dense development corridor could be realized along Lok Ma Chau BCP and its connecting roads linking Futian, Lok Ma Chau Loop and North Western New Territories, while the Loop itself could host high value-added/hi-tech production activities and tertiary education facilities.
"The Learning Cloud" is one of the few projects that has been exhibited on both venues of the Biennale (in Hong Kong and Shenzhen), thus underlying the trans-border relevance of the proposal.