The City of Glass, With a Twist

Bjarke Ingels’ Vancouver House When Douglas Coupland called Vancouver the “City of Glass” in a 2000 book of the same name, the moniker stuck – not because the author/artist was making some kind of metaphorical statement about the city’s character, but because it was literally true. Vancouver’s 30-year housing boom, which started in the mid-1980s […]

Posted in: Architecture, Art and Design, Canada, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on The City of Glass, With a Twist , , , , , ,

A City Beyond Its Borders

Halfway through director Heiward Mak’s new short film, SAR², Eric Tsang takes a tumble in front of a propaganda sign in Shenzhen’s Qianhai new development zone. “Supported by Hong Kong, Serving the Mainland, Facing the World,” reads the billboard, reflecting the area’s goal of attracting 100,000 Hong Kong permanent residents to live and work there. […]

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 […]

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, […]

Foreign Interventions in (Calle) Honduras

You can tell you’re in Palermo by the names of the streets: Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica — every one of them running parallel to the Rio de la Plata a different Central American country. Together with the bright pastels and fluorescents of the buildings that line them, these calles give the Buenos Aires barrio […]

Posted in: Art and Design, Latin America, Politics by Christopher Szabla Comments Off on Foreign Interventions in (Calle) Honduras , , , , , ,

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 […]

Guerilla Warfare in Everyday Space

Tin roofs of a hawker’s bazaar in Kwun Tong, Hong Kong When I first came across Charles Labelle’s ongoing Buildings Entered project, I was intrigued by the questions it raised about how we relate to the spaces we inhabit. This led me to think about one of the things that has most fascinated me since […]

Escalating Fury

It’s as predictable as the tide. Every morning, thousands of commuters stream down the Central Mid-Levels escalator, bound for offices, buses and crowded subway cars at the bottom of the hill. Then, at 10:30am, the escalator reverses itself. Now the crowds flow uphill. Helpers return from the market with bags full of choi, the lunch […]

This Year in Havana

If there’s any time to visit Havana, it’s now. After a half century preserved in the formaldehyde of American sanctions and a state-controlled economy, the Cuban capital is set for a remarkable transformation. Private property was legalized last November and the government has offered construction subsidies, which could spell the end for Havana’s long era […]

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“Defect Rectification”

Hong Kong’s HK$5.5 billion new government headquarters is falling apart just three months after it opened Crooked wall fixtures, chipped railings, torn wallpaper, stained walls and signboards held up by masking tape in the Legislative Council: the recent outbreak of legionnaire’s disease is not the only problem at the Hong Kong government’s expensive new headquarters. […]

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How Tall is Too Tall?

Dubai. Photo by Zeyad T. Al-Mudhaf The Burj Khalifa defies the imagination. It stands nearly one kilometre above the streets of Dubai, spanning a total of 163 floors — 209 if you could the maintenance levels in the building’s spire. When it was completed in 2010, at a cost of more than US$1.5 billion, it […]

Land Reclamation — At What Cost?

Construction of a new underground highway built on the last bit of land reclamation permitted in Victoria Harbour If you are reading this somewhere in Hong Kong, odds are you’re sitting on a piece of land that was once a part of the sea. Since 1851, more than 60 square kilometres of land has been […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Environment, History, Politics, Public Space by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Land Reclamation — At What Cost? , , , ,

Small Houses, Big Impact

Sam Wan was 10 years old when his father, an officer in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force, died in the line of duty. Reeling from his death, Wan’s family moved from their Tsim Sha Tsui apartment back to their ancestral village, Tai Po Tsai, where they owned a small tile-roofed house. The year was […]

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Hong Kong’s Generic Cultural District

Call it déjà vu: five years after Norman Foster’s plan for the West Kowloon Cultural District was scrapped in the face of massive public controversy, another Foster plan for the district has been chosen. On Friday, the authority in charge of developing the cultural district announced that Foster’s bid was selected over rival plans by […]