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, […]

Exploring Mei Foo

About four and a half years ago, when my girlfriend Laine and I were hunting for our first apartment in Hong Kong, her parents suggested we look in Mei Foo. We refused to even consider it. “It would be like living in a parking garage,” I said. Laine agreed. Lately, though, I have started to […]

An Expat Childhood in 1930s Kowloon

Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui in the 1930s When Joyce Fitch lived in Hong Kong, rickshaws were a form of public transport, the only way to cross Victoria Harbour was by boat and there were about 1.5 million people living in the territory. Fitch was born in England and spent most of her youth and […]

The House on Derby Road

When property prices reach such outlandish heights as in Hong Kong, it creates some peculiar distortions in the local market. Whenever I walk around Kowloon Tong, a wealthy, low-rise neighbourhood not far from my apartment, I’m surprised by the number of derelict and seemingly abandoned houses. Kowloon Tong was first developed as a garden suburb […]

Fleet Street in the Far East

This story was originally published in 2010. See the postscript for an update. In 1974, as a typhoon bears down on Hong Kong, a gangly twenty-seven-year-old Vietnam War reporter named Luke stands in the toilets of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Head ringing, hung over, he washes blood out of his mouth—he just fought in a […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, History, Interior Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Fleet Street in the Far East , ,

Landscape = Architecture

Joel Sanders’ Broadway Penthouse Five years ago, New York-based architect Joel Sanders was renovating a downtown Manhattan penthouse when he ran into a problem. “There was a rooftop garden, and what we needed to figure out was how to connect it to the loft,” he says. “We decided to reverse Modernist convention. Instead of taking […]

A City Without Streets

Not too long ago, on a particularly glorious Sunday afternoon — the kind of sunny but cool day that happens all too rarely in Hong Kong — I took the MTR out to Po Lam station in Tseung Kwan O. Leaving the station, I walked along a linear park built atop the MTR tracks, which […]

Ode to an Eyesore

Eaton’s in 1984. Photo by Gregory Melle Columnist Alan Fotheringham called it an “unending urinal wall.” That somehow filtered down to the Vancouver population as “the upside-down urinal” or the “great white urinal.” But the name-calling won’t last for much longer. Next year, the great white windowless box that dominates the corner of Robson and […]

Relief Measures

Photo by RH Kamen Hong Kong was not a healthy place in the late 19th century. For decades after the British founded the colony in 1842, the Chinese settlement of Sheung Wan struggled with overcrowding and chronic disease. Things were especially bad in Tai Ping Shan, a hillside enclave of tenement houses packed with recent […]

August 25, Three Decades Apart

Last week, the Archives de la Ville de Montréal uploaded a short series of photos taken on August 25, 1969, around Ste. Catherine and Sherbrooke streets. I’m always a fan of vintage street photography, especially from the relatively recent past, but these struck a real chord with me for one reason: it was on that […]

Posted in: Canada, History by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on August 25, Three Decades Apart , , ,

Pastoralympics

Wait, that’s not an Olympic sport! Photo courtesy UK Department of Culture, Media, and Sport Texted, tweeted, teasing browsers of a hundred “sneak preview” slideshows ─ in short, serving as the centerpiece of endless international speculation for weeks prior to its debut ─ the verdant green fields on which the curtain of the 2012 Olympics […]

Posted in: Europe, History, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher Szabla Comments Off on Pastoralympics , , , , , , ,

Mongkok’s Rural Past

Hong Kong remakes itself with such ruthless efficiency that few physical traces remain of its past. In many neighbourhoods, the only reminders of what came before are the names of streets. Take Mongkok for example. Today, this is one of the busiest and most crowded parts of Hong Kong, a shopping district, transport hub, industrial […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, History by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Mongkok’s Rural Past , , , ,

The Underground City

If you live in Montreal, you’ll eventually be asked the question: “Which way is the underground city?” You will probably be walking along Ste. Catherine Street, the city’s main shopping artery, where H&M and Zara jostle for space with strip clubs and hot dog joints. Or maybe you will be making your way through the […]

Remembering Tiananmen in Hong Kong

Tiananmen Square vigil in Hong Kong. Photos by dawvon. Last night, as Chinese internet censors frantically banned words like “today” and “Tiananmen” from web searches and social media, 180,000 people gathered in Hong Kong to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the June 4th massacre. This is an annual ritual that has taken place ever since […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, History, Politics, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Remembering Tiananmen in Hong Kong , ,