The Best Tram in the World

As the tram lurched past the dried seafood shops of Des Voeux Road, a cool breeze passing through its open windows, passengers were served a round of cocktails. “Do you reckon this is the best tram in the world at the moment?” asked one woman sipping an Old Fashioned. “I think so,” replied another. Needless […]

Neon Gets Its Due

For decades, neon has defined Hong Kong’s cityscape, bathing its skyscraper canyons in rainbow hues that have provided a memorable backdrop to films like Chungking Express and The World of Suzie Wong – and inspiration for classics such as Blade Runner. But Hong Kong’s neon signs are starting to vanish, which has prompted the city’s […]

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The Seedy and the Debased

The week I moved to Hong Kong, I went to the Peak. It’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re a first-time visitor or recent arrival to the city: take the tram, bus or (if you’re a little more savvy) minibus up to the cluster of shopping malls that has risen from what was once […]

Posted in: Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on The Seedy and the Debased , , , ,

Bring in the Year of the Horse

Two weeks before Chinese New Year, the floor creaks as Sunny Yim walks through the bamboo theatre he has helped build. A few of his wiry colleagues stand on a platform, making adjustments to the lattice of bamboo rods that is holding this cavernous structure aloft, but the work is mostly done. Yim, a compact […]

The Quiet Modernist

Jardine House (right). Photo by See-ming Lee It’s late on a Monday afternoon and James Kinoshita is sitting at home in Hong Kong’s Sai Kung district with his son, Andrew. Overhead is a tile roof that slopes towards a garden of blooming azalea and bougainvillea; just beyond are the placid waters of Port Shelter. James […]

Value Creation

If UABB Hong Kong was greeted by a storm of controversy, its counterpart in Shenzhen went off without a hitch. “Cocktails and happiness! No protest at all!” wrote one participating artist on Facebook. This year, UABB Shenzhen — which bills itself as the “world’s only biennale dedicated exclusively to the themes of urbanism and urbanization” […]

The Last Days of 5 Pointz

Even if you don’t follow street art or hip hop, you might have heard the news: 5 Pointz is dead. Technically, the old warehouse in Long Island City is still standing — though it is slated for redevelopment — but its essence as an art space was stripped away in the early hours of November […]

150 Years Ago in Hong Kong

Victoria Peak seen from Kellett Island Last week, an exhibition of images by 19th century Scottish photographer John Thomson opened at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, including 22 photos of Hong Kong in the 1860s that have never been exhibited here before. I’ve written a story about the photos and their journey to Hong Kong […]

Taipei’s Urban Regeneration

Treasure Hill. Photo by Wunkai It’s a scorchingly hot afternoon in Taipei and cicadas are buzzing loudly outside the Treasure Hill Temple. A man in cycling gear stops to take a swig of water before turning towards the temple’s statue of Guanyin, the Chinese goddess of mercy. He clasps his hands and bows three times, […]

Mapped: Hong Kong’s Public Steps

The photos I posted last week of Hong Kong’s hilly streets reminded me of a conversation I had more than a year ago with Melissa Cate Christ, who works at the University of Hong Kong’s architecture school. Christ is leading an investigation into the many public staircases and “ladder streets” on the north side of […]

Rethinking Hong Kong’s Trams

Photo by Jens Schott Knudsen In an unassuming shed next to an elevated highway, Hong Kong’s wood-framed trams are being rebuilt one by one. “They’re icons of the city,” says Emmanuel Vivant, the man overseeing the renewal. Four years ago, Vivant was part of the team that acquired Hong Kong Tramways for Veolia Transport, a […]

Primordial Hong Kong

Like a fever dream or a David Lynch film, Wun Dun begins with a journey into the unknown. Push through an unmarked door into what appears to be a bathroom, where an elderly attendant spritzes you with cologne. Squeeze past him, stumble down a flight of stairs and emerge into an uncanny, neon-lit bar that […]

How to Ruin a Wonderful Space

The Devonian Gardens in 2007. Photo by norrix The Devonian Gardens were a wonderland. Located on the top floor of the TD Centre mall in downtown Calgary, the gardens were a fully-enclosed greenhouse of tropical plants and — best of all for a kid — a million nooks and crannies to explore. It seemed like […]

Private Paradise

There was a time when Hong Kong was full of strange and wonderful private gardens. There was a Spanish-style garden built by a Catholic missionary on Seymour Road. In Tai Hang, the seven-storey pagoda of Tiger Balm Garden could be seen for miles around. When Sir Robert Hotung built a second house on the Peak, […]