Those Grey Metal Fences

Sidewalk fences at a typical corner in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon Earlier this month, a pair of pedestrians tried to push their way through a crowd of people on Dundas Street, one of the most crowded streets in Hong Kong’s most crowded neighbourhood. One of them cast a withering glance on the grey metal fence […]

Rethinking Urban Renewal in Hong Kong

This is a feature story that was originally published in the July 2010 edition of Muse magazine. The photos accompanying this article were taken around the Graham Street Market in Central. Standing in the soggy heat of a late spring afternoon, Katty Law reflected on the irony that it took a movie a mere two […]

The Altars at the End of the Street

Like the mosaic depictions of Catholic saints that adorn the front entrances of many Portuguese houses, the small altars found in every corner of Hong Kong are an everyday expression of faith, more humble than that of a temple or church, but in some ways more authentic. I came across these small altars in a […]

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Look Behind You

Naka-Meguro, Tokyo

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Excavating the Present

In the most remote corner of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale‘s West Kowloon site, three architects, Kingsley Ng, Syren Johnstone and Daniel Patzold, are digging up Hong Kong’s heritage from virgin land. The concept: it’s several centuries into the future and an old street market has been discovered, leading to an archaeological race to save […]

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Bring Your Own Chair

Good street furniture is not one of Hong Kong’s strengths, so when people here can’t find a place to sit outdoors, they do the most logical thing: they bring their own chair. In natural gathering spots around the city you’ll come across a motley array of household chairs that have been placed outdoors and tied […]

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Drinking from the Big Nose

Drinking fountains are everywhere in Rome, quite useful in a city where temperatures hover above 35C in the summer. These cast-iron fountains are known affectionately as nasoni, or “big noses,” due to the Pinocchio-esque appearance of their spouts. The design dates back to 1872, when the first twenty fountains were installed. Today, there are over […]

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Street Flourishes

Hong Kong is a city with very utilitarian streetscapes — everything on the street, from paving to furniture, is standardized, cost-efficient and bland — so visiting Taipei was a bit of a relief. Streets there are far more haphazard and eclectic. Part of that has to do with the wide range of street furniture (like […]

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Hong Kong Doorways: For Rent

Hong Kong is an entrepreneurial place. Even when a shop goes out of business, it isn’t out of the game: as soon as the shutter comes down, the broker signs go up. In most cities, a landlord might try to rent the space out himself, or hire to a single broker to do the job. […]

Nice Bollards

Taipei is a surprising city. There’s a fine line between ugly haphazardness and charming idiosyncrasy; for the most part, the Taiwanese capital seems to land on the latter side. Its broad boulevards would be bland and overwhelming if it weren’t for the arcaded sidewalks filled with parked scooters. The rambling lanes that run between those […]

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Mirrors on Yongkang Street, near Shida, Taipei

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The Corner Phone Booth

Kristian Gravenor is building himself a reputation as Montreal’s foremost expert on phone booths. He explored their history in Montreal in a recent Gazette article, from the first wooden booths installed in hotel lobbies (“Each wooden telephone booth looked like a confessional, your very own downtown cabin — as they say in French — where […]

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Montreal’s Lampposts

Montreal has a particularly varied collection of lampposts. They often seem to change from street to street, reflecting different eras with different design tastes. In Westmount, and on Esplanade Avenue facing Jeanne-Mance Park, vintage lampposts dating back to the 1920s or 30s still stand. Similarly old light standards, engraved with the city’s coat of arms, […]

Brisez la vitre open door

Earlier this year, when I marvelled at Boston’s still-functioning system of public fire alarm boxes, Kate McDonnell pointed out that Montreal once had such a system, too. Unlike Boston, though, Montreal removed all of its boxes, but one still stands outside the firefighters’ museum at Laurier and St. Laurent. Naturally enough, it’s bilingual.