Only the Trams Remain

Des Voeux Road Central, then and now

Lee Chi-man, Hong Kong’s answer to Guillaume St-Jean, finds old photos of Hong Kong streetscapes and heads to the spot where they were taken to replicate them. So far, he has compiled around 400 scenes, showing just how drastically Hong Kong has changed over the course of the twentieth century.

The photos above illustrate how many of those changes have been for the worse. In the top photo, you see Central in the 1950s, looking down Des Voeux Road towards the bank headquarters. Today, the banks are still there, but their headquarters have morphed into postmodern skyscrapers. The old shophouses that once lined Des Voeux are gone; their graceful arcades and simple signboards have given way to a mess of overbearing corporate storefronts, bland façades and gaudy plastic advertisements.

The worst thing about this is the loss of human scale: whereas Des Voeux was once well-proportioned, with nicely-textured buildings and an understated elegance, it is now an unpleasant concrete canyon. As the street has become more unbearable over the years, footbridges have been built so that people may avoid it altogether, which only adds to the hostile atmosphere. If the effects of that aren’t evident in the photos above, they certain are in Lee’s other Des Voeux scenes.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Friday July 31 2009at 02:07 am , filed under Architecture, Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, History, Public Space and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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