Saturday, July 3, 2010

Kowloon Walled City

I first visited HK shortly after Kowloon Walled City was demolished so I missed seeing this Blade Runner-esque self-governing no-mans land.

From Wikipedia and Archidose...
Kowloon Walled City was a densely populated, largely ungoverned settlement in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Originally a Chinese military fort, the Walled City became an enclave after the New Territories were leased to Britain in 1898. From the 1950s through the 1970s, it was controlled by Triads and had high rates of prostitution, gambling, and drug use. In 1987, the Walled City contained 33,000 residents within its 6.5-acre borders.

An informal network of staircases and passageways formed on upper levels, which was so extensive that one could travel north to south through the entire City without ever touching solid ground. Construction in the City went unregulated, and most of the roughly 350 buildings were built with poor foundations and few or no utilities. Because apartments were so small—about 60% were 250 sq ft—space was maximized with wider upper floors, caged balconies, and rooftop additions.

With the improved relations between Britain and China the announcement, in 1987, of the Walled City's demise is not surprising. Neither government saw it as an asset or as something they wanted to take responsibility for, but both agreed that it had to come down. The city existed outside the realm of the understandable or the comprehendible; a grotesque, dense mass that exhibited a certain beauty at the same time. It depended on the political tension of two countries to exist, yet, ironically, was an un-political entity.

After an arduous eviction process, demolition began in March 1993 and was completed in April 1994. Kowloon Walled City Park opened in December 1995 and occupies the area of the former Walled City.

A good website solely devoted to KWC and a video montage of KWC images...

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