Hong Kong is a city which operates on a different scale than those I was familiar with. The height of the average flat building is sometimes unbelievable. In the Netherlands, a lone flat building might appear as an oddity, a tree standing in a field. In Hong Kong we speak forests, not individual trees. Hong Kong does not derive its scenic quality from the nature of any individual building but rather through the clumping together of many (sometimes quite ugly) flats. The view from the Star Ferry is made spectacular by the ridiculousness decadence of stacked buildings. The same holds true for Kowloon, famous for its commercial lightning they gain their reputation because of the sheer volume and density of signage. While I will certainly not deny the artistry present in some of these apparitions it is the density which gives them their uniqueness. This density also obscures movement, as looking from Kowloon side Hong Kong island appears quiet, unmoving, almost hidings its vibrancy from the outside world. This sense of scale is further enhanced by the grand sights Hong Kong has to offer. The bumpy landscape provides ample opportunities for grand vistas of streets, mountains and woods in the distance. The city, from a distance hides what is within. Walking in between the impossible tall buildings I am confronted by the one on hand still, quiet, unmoving architecture, while one the other being surrounded by activity.
The fact that Hong Kong was built on a scale fit for giants demands a certain psychological toll on the city-dweller. The inorganic hyper growth of the city has meant the abandonment of the ‘human scale’. Comparing for example with older cities grown over time the human scale, or level invisible. Shops connect to the street in connection to daily live. The sky is visible as building will not stretch too high to block out the air above us. The streets are often illogical and hard to navigate but have a strange, tacit logic to them. There is a connection between street outside and life inside, as they move in and out of the other. Comparing this to Hong Kong for example, the human scale is often hard to find. Take for example the many shops that are hidden in flat, one floors high above the street level. Taking the elevator in a random apartment building one enters a shop which is completely disconnected from the city. The elevator functions as a portal, transporting us from the city below to an isolated island of commerce. These shops often block their windows meaning that the feeling of separation is even more complete. While these shops are a small example the many (many many) malls in Hong Kong also testify to this feeling of disconnect. Malls exists as separate spaces in the city, the air-conditioning and artificial lightning completing the illusion.
Hong Kong is a city that did not have the luxury of time to grow organically. This makes it a fascinating city. A strange city that can transport you to numerous locations. A city with surprises hidden behind every elevator. Taking a bus from the airport in the night, there is a moment the bus enters Kowloon and you drive through a forest of glittering apartment buildings. Each glowing window representing a live. Living and being in this jungle of a city.
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