1. What makes you happy in this city?
Lion Rock is the most famous hill in Hong Kong. Standing up there, you can overlook most commercial areas in Hong Kong. You can look down to the central neighborhood, across Victoria Harbor and spot Kowloon, Hong Kong’s northern city center. From here you can literally see the majority of Hong Kong, and every local knows this hill. Lion Rock is a symbol of the spirit of the people of Hong Kong—a great place to watch the beautiful sunsets, the city’s high-rise buildings with the coastline, and all of its inhabitants. It takes only 20 minutes to walk to the mountain from the city’s busiest area. In fact, one is very close to nature here.
When I landed in Hong Kong for the first time I was mesmerized by the fact that the buildings were as high as the tallest mountains. It was a sight to remember: the stark contrast between the concrete and nature, both standing tall—side by side—just like characters in some exotic adventure in a faraway land (from where I was born, that’s what Hong Kong seems like). That image stuck and follows me every time I visit. To me, this is a city from the future, constantly expanding in all directions, a living organism, powerful and always there to show that almost anything is possible, that the limits exist to be tested and, hopefully, surpassed.
2. WHAT INSPIRES YOU IN THIS CITY?
One of Hong Kong’s busiest areas is Mongkok. At around seven in the evening when it’s already dark in the city, the lights still shine brightly. Food shops, clothing boutiques, and all sorts of small businesses are open here, whenever— day or night. Walking around Mongkok you can watch the vivid crowd at all times. Countless inspirations for my work have been born here. This is the most Hong Kong-style place for me.
The city itself serves as a great inspiration; it is evidence of the human endeavor. So, I would say that the people that live and populate this immense urban landscape are the greatest source of inspiration. I love to stroll around the roads and alleys, as if I were in a labyrinth, watching people minding their own business simply passing by, some in a hurry, others stopping at improvised stalls at the street markets, while others gaze at the flashy stores. Hong Kong is a truly cosmopolitan city, and it is quite impressive to find people from all over the world in the same place, independent and connected at the same time, like drops in the ocean.
And although the city has a strong international feel, it’s also true that the Chinese roots are deep and visible: in the good, Chinese way, you can find anything on the street, for example—providing, once again, a sharp contrast that makes Hong Kong truly unique.
3. WHAT WORKS FOR YOU VERY WELL IN THE CITY?
The local government recently built small, park-like recreational zones under a few of the omnipresent highways — which are as well a determinant part of Hong Kong’s visual landscape. There you can find a good place to rest and chill out. This really is a good way to make use of the very limited space available in our city. It also brings people to the waterfront to enjoy a quiet time of contemplation and allows them to look at the other side of the city and the mountain landscape.
Whenever I am in a very big city full of skyscrapers, I always look for a place where I can look down from above, be it a mountain or the tallest building. Fortunately, Hong Kong has plenty of choice, whether you want to feel the silence and see the neon city from a distance at the top of a mountain, or sitting comfortably in a bar at some loft way up there. And then you can contemplate the incessant city life, the hustle and bustle, the tiny lights that appear when the night sets in. You see the world in front of you, but at the same time you feel detached. Almost as if you were on another planet.
4. WHAT WOULD YOU DO BETTER?
Hong Kong has recently been changing and again developing through land reclamation, construction of new roads and new piers. Finally and after years of no change, the central waterfront is now the latest of numerous reclamation zones. I hope this is the last area to be filled with new land. Victoria Harbor, the natural landform harbor between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon—which significantly belongs to Hong Kong’s particular identity—, has been narrowed a lot already. So, I wish to rather work on the original and newly built land without further narrowing of Victoria Harbor. Narrowing it does not only change the shape of the city, but also creates a strong impact on the natural environment.
Although Hong Kong is an island (the southern part of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region), you barely sense that you are surrounded by water. Even when you can see the Pearl River Delta or when you are really close to the water, there is always some urban apparatus separating you from the water, making it difficult to reach the shore. It is like something is trying to curb what I would call an instinct to go near the water, to find some peace away from city life. I would like to see better use of the entire coastline with more places easily accessible from the central and downtown areas for leisure: promenades, esplanades, seafront bars, and parks. And, of course, it would be great if more could be done to protect the waters from pollution.
5. HOW WOULD YOU DO IT BETTER?
Hugo took this photo in a forlorn part of the waterfront of Victoria Harbor. Though Hong Kong has this natural harbor and consists of many islands and peninsulas, the city is in need of many more centrally located parks and suitable waterside promenades, providing a more natural access to the shore for its inhabitants. It is a great vision to see Hong Kong’s watersides from day to night, as the city is alive day to night.
Rraay’s photo of a massive landfill at a point when construction was still in its initial stage gives a good opportunity to wonder how things could be different. So, instead of building more skyscrapers or massive buildings, it would be great to just set the foundations for a wide and free green area that central Hong Kong and other areas near the harbor are badly missing. As the city is continuing to expand, one is left to hope that things will go in that direction.
Curated by Markus M Schneider of Metroprojects, Beijing www.metroprojects.org
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