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 […]

What Sucks About Walking in Hong Kong

I often get angry when I walk around Hong Kong. This is one of the most fascinating cities in the world to explore — densely layered, pulsing with energy — but it’s also one of the most frustrating because of all the ways the pedestrian experience is undermined and made unpleasant. In the city with […]

What’s Left of Industrial Hong Kong

Industrial buildings in Chai Wan China’s Pearl River Delta is often called the world’s factory floor, but 40 years ago, that title belonged to Hong Kong. In the 1970s, 22,000 factories and workshops furiously churned out everything from clothes to watches to jewellery. Then, when low wages and a newly-liberalised economy made mainland China an […]

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The Space Between Notes

Rendering of the Xiqu Centre Early December was a busy time for Bing Thom. First, there was his 72nd birthday, followed shortly by an announcement that the renowned Canadian architect had won the competition to design the new Xiqu Centre in Hong Kong, the first of 17 cultural venues to be built in the West […]

Free at Last

When the Hong Kong public was invited to choose a master plan for the West Kowloon Cultural District, they were met by ambitious presentations from each of the proposals. The most sophisticated pitch of all came from Norman Foster’s office, which provided seductively realistic renderings of their City Park concept, which included grassy meadows overlooking […]

Meet the Fig Tree

It’s a fun exercise to think of how long it would take for reclaim our cities if humanity were to disappear overnight. How many months until Dubai is returned to the desert? How many hurricanes until New Orleans becomes part of the Gulf? Here in Hong Kong, nature’s plan is well underway. In a city […]

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Design for Hong Kong

Sometimes it seems as though everyone knows Michael Leung — even the owner of a Kwun Tong dai pai dong, who chats amiably with the young designer as he sits down for lunch. “We made a zine about him,” Leung explains later. “He’s really proud of it.” Scratch the surface of Hong Kong’s creative scene […]

Regrowth or Replacement?

HK Farm. Photo by Glenn Eugen Ellingsen Sweating in the bright Mediterranean sun, Glenn Eugen Ellingsen surveyed a little bit of Hong Kong in Venice. “It’s meant to be very organic,” he said, pointing to an array of wood planters, metal racks, video screens and exposed electrical wires. Ellingsen is one of the founders of […]

Hawkerama

Michael Leung’s “Good Morning” towels were a welcome sight. It was a scorching day on Fa Yuen Street, one of Hong Kong’s most popular street markets, and the energetic young product designer was inviting passersby to take part in a game at his market stall, Hoi Tung (“We’re open”). If you managed to use long […]

Don’t Touch the Art

The scene plays out hundreds of times a day, like a sad rendition of Groundhog Day. With nowhere to sit, a weary passerby leans against the leg of Happy Man, the nine-metre-high sculpture by American sculptor Larry Bell that stands in front of the Langham Place shopping mall at the corner of Argyle and Portland […]

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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 […]

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Hawker City

Not long ago, I was wandering around Kwun Tong trying to find an Indonesian restaurant. I arrived outside its front door only to find the shutter drawn, with a notice from the Urban Renewal Authority announcing that the property had been acquired for redevelopment. Then I looked around: nearly every storefront on the street was […]

The Bamboo Theatre

Standing inside the cavernous belly of the 800-seat West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre, bamboo master Ying Che and her head worker, Sunny Yim, gaze up at their creation. “It’s very satisfying,” says Yim, a sturdy man with a boyish face who has been building bamboo theatres for nearly 40 years. “When you come to a performance, […]

Too Many Pedestrians, Not Enough Space

When Hong Kong urban planner Peter Cookson-Smith steps out of his office in Wan Chai, he doesn’t like what he sees. “You go out into the street and find yourself walking on the road because the pavements are so crowded,” he said. “People just want to walk in an unobstructed way, but there are railings […]