Tourist Trapped

A Mainland Chinese tourist shops in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo from AFP Sindart was as much a fixture of Nathan Road as the double-decker buses that trundle up the street day and night. For more than 50 years, the tiny shop, tucked beneath an apartment building stairwell, sold handmade slippers embroidered with colourful motifs: peacock […]

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The Pearl River Megalopolis

Shenzhen from above “China to create largest mega city in the world with 42 million people,” announced a breathless headline in Sunday’s Telegraph, detailing plans to combine the cities of Guangdong province’s Pearl River Delta (PRD) into a massive urban conurbation. “Over the next six years, around 150 major infrastructure projects will mesh the transport, […]

History Hidden in Corporate Archives

Hung Hom and Whampoa in the 1970s. Photo courtesy Hong Kong Heritage Project If Hong Kong’s businesses don’t stop throwing away their records, a vital part of the city’s history will be lost forever, a group of archivists and historians warn. Every day, millions of documents are produced by Hong Kong’s companies, but only a […]

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How to Lose a Sense of Place

You can’t touch the sculpture in front of Langham Place. It’s a nice bronze piece by Larry Bell, and it looks great from a distance, but if people touched it, their oily hands would ruin the metal. So there’s a security guard stationed out front, all day, every day, to make sure nobody crawls onto […]

Deps and 7-Eleven

Street food outside 7-Eleven, Phetchaburi, Bangkok Dépanneurs — the Montreal convenience stores that are a favourite topic of mine — are big in the news lately with the publication of a new book by Judith Lussier, Sacré dépanneur! The latest contribution to the spate of media coverage is a profile by Montreal Gazette reporter Jeff […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Canada, Interior Space, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Deps and 7-Eleven , , , ,

The Future of Canadian Cities

In 2008, Carmine Starnino, poet and now editor of Maisonneuve magazine, asked me to write an essay on the future of Canadian cities for an issue of Canadian Notes and Queries he was guest-editing. Here’s what I came up with. Some days, on the corner of Clark and de la Gauchetière in Montreal, you’ll find […]

The Slow Death of Hawker Stalls

Mr. and Mrs. Wong have sold electrical appliances — lightbulbs, wiring, batteries and that sort of thing — from a green wooden stall on Aberdeen Street for more than 50 years. I met then when I was working on a CNNGo story about the gentrifying neighbourhood in Central now known as Noho, which is short […]

A Hasidic Exodus from Park Avenue?

The Montreal Gazette reported this weekend that the Hasidic community in Outremont and Mile End is suffering from a housing shortage. In 2002, there were about 4,200 Hasidim in the neighbourhood; today there are more than 6,000. Rising property values mean that many new Hasidic families are finding themselves priced out of their own Montreal […]

Goodbye Gutzlaff

Whenever you come across a particularly charming and surprising corner of Hong Kong, you can almost be sure that the Urban Renewal Authority has plans to do away with it. Although its official vision is “to create quality and vibrant urban living in Hong Kong,” most of its developments obliterate tight-knit communities and organic urban […]

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Now Showing: Hong Kong

[youtube][/youtube] Josh Kim’s 2006 short, The Police Box Where has Hong Kong gone? Once a world filmmaking capital, it has nearly vanished from the silver screen. Each year, far fewer feature films are made here than in cities such as Vancouver, Seoul and Tehran. What’s more, many recent Hong Kong movies, geared towards the lucrative […]

Temporary Stores Thrive as Others Fade

Temporary store in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo by K.Y. Cheng There’s no mistaking the scene on Jordan Road: people are hunting for bargains. In the hollowed-out remains of an old clothing store, the faded words “In Fashion” still visible above the entrance, a motley crowd looks through boxes of discount Crocs sandals and kitschy plastic […]

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Dépanneurs Beyond the Beer Ads

I’ve long been fascinated by dépanneurs, the ubiquitous Montreal convenience store that are usually owner-operated and ramshackle in appearance. They’re an integral part of life in Montreal—most people visit them at least once or twice a day for beer, milk, lotto tickets, cigarettes or a snack—and they occupy a vital place in the social and […]

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The Multinational Ding-Ding

The ding-ding, Hong Kong’s 105-year-old tramway is now a multinational asset. Yesterday, local conglomerate Whalf Holdings sold 50 percent of its shares in Hongkong Tramways to the French transportation company Veolia, which retains the option to buy the remaining half. “Operating the light rail system in Hong Kong will give us the knowledge and expertise […]

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Recession City

Anti-capitalist street art, SoHo, New York It’s a Saturday evening and the Boston subway is packed. The train is stalled on the platform at Downtown Crossing station, and the car has been filling up for nearly thirty minutes. Tensions are rising. One new arrival finds me slumped in my seat, impatient: “Aw, look at this!” […]