Midnight barbecue


On a cold winter night’s walk through Wanyuan, a small city in mountainous northeast Sichuan, one will encounter groups of tents set up in the city’s narrower streets. Alleys burst into color following the de facto relaxation of rules that forbid street-based structures and enterprises as those enforcing said rules knock off work for the evening.


Tents are crafted from “snake skin” (蛇皮) canvas, the material of choice for low-cost bags, construction site dust screens, and improvised shelters shelters across China. Positioned adjacent to the establishments that manage them, the barbecue restaurants place their cooking apparatuses out front of the tents to make food delivery more convenient (and also “because the smells make people want to eat barbecue” confides one chef). Coal or electric stoves are placed in the center of each tent, warming the already-served trays of barbecued food while simultaneously generating warmth for the diners seated inside.


Consider what happens in your local context when the “rules of the street” are relaxed, and who makes claims to a given street’s space (and using what  means/power). What would a street in its “unregulated/”natural” form resemble across the different seasons of your context, and why? How would the spatial breakdown between goods / services / recreation / “miscellaneous” appear?


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