Continuing in examining some of the source imagery that informs my research and work. These are photos from the now nonexistent Kowloon Walled City.
From the wikipedia article:
Kowloon Walled City was a densely populated, largely ungoverned settlement in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Originally a Chinesemilitary fort, the Walled City became an enclave after the New Territories were leased to Britain in 1898.
The City’s dozens of alleyways were often only 1–2 m (3.3–6.6 ft) wide, and had poor lighting and drainage. An informal network of staircasesand passageways also 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 23 m2 (250 sq ft)—space was maximized with wider upper floors, caged balconies, and rooftop additions. Roofs in the City were full of television antennas, clotheslines, water tanks, and garbage, and could be crossed using a series of ladders.
Beginning in the 1950s, Triad groups such as the 14K and Sun Yee On gained a stranglehold on the Walled City’s countless brothels, gambling parlors, and opium dens. The Walled City had become such a haven for criminals that police would only venture into it in large groups. It was not until 1973–74, when a series of more than 3,500 police raids resulted in over 2,500 arrests and over 4,000 pounds of seized drugs, that the Triads’ power began to wane. With public support, particularly from younger residents, the continued raids gradually eroded drug use and violent crime. In 1983, the police commander of the Kowloon City District declared the Walled City’s crime rate to be under control.
The City also underwent massive construction during the 1960s and 1970s. Eight municipal pipes provided water to the entire structure (although more could have come from wells). A few of the streets were illuminated by fluorescent lights, as sunlight rarely reached the lower levels. Although the rampant crime of earlier decades diminished in later years, the Walled City was still known for its high number of unlicensed doctors and dentists, who could operate there without threat of prosecution.
Although the Walled City was for many years a hotbed of criminal activity, most residents were not involved in any crime and lived peacefully within its walls. Numerous small factories and businesses thrived inside the Walled City, and some residents formed groups to organize and improve daily life there. An attempt by the government in 1963 to demolish some shacks in a corner of the City gave rise to an “anti-demolition committee” that served as the basis for a Kaifong association. Charities, religious societies, and other welfare groups were gradually introduced to the City. While medical clinics and schools went unregulated, the Hong Kong government did provide some services, such as water supply and mail delivery.
Essentially created out of an omission in the Treaty of Nanjing which ceded control of Hong Kong to the British. Little existed except a small fort which had been initially established at some point during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), it had pretty much fallen into disuse until the end of the second World War, where it saw a sudden influx of new residents, mostly Chinese refugees. After failing to dislodge the new inhabitants in 1948 the British adopted a “hands off” policy. From then the walled city expanded with no regulation or overt government control by either the British or the Chinese.
Several accounts of people who spent time in or visited the walled city exist, painting a portrait of a Strange space filled with contradictions.
The Walled City of Kowloon has no visible wall around it, but it is as clearly defined as if there were one made of hard, high steel. It is instantly sensed by the congested open market that runs along the street in front of the row of dark run-down flats—shacks haphazardly perched on top of one another giving the impression that at any moment the entire blighted complex will collapse under its own weight, leaving nothing but rubble where elevated rubble had stood.
While the city has frequently been referenced as an example of unchecked urbanization, or as a seedy unregulated den of criminals, most descriptions resist such a limited understanding, especially in definitions of the populace, who were for the most part not that different from the General population of Hong Kong.
Here, prostitutes installed themselves on one side of the street, while a priest preached and handed out powdered milk to the poor on the other; social workers gave guidance, while drug addicts squatted under the stairs getting high; what were children’s games centres by day became strip show venues by night. It was a very complex place, difficult to generalise about, a place that seemed frightening but where most people continued to lead normal lives. A place just like the rest of Hong Kong.
-Leung Ping Kwan
I’ve always had an interest in Architecture, especially provisional or subsequently altered. Kowloon is captivating not just for the architectural appearance, but the situations it generated. In the absence of anything else rules and unwritten codes took shape. The human inhabitation took on an organic growth pattern. instead of fully planned and realized buildings the architecture was segmented sometimes by more than a decade, the additions by requirement were forced to respond to the existing buildings they were built onto. The separation lines between any given structure and the whole became obfuscated and blended, until everything becomes haphazard and random in appearance, but in appearance only, for all that unmanaged constructed chaos came to a entirely rigid end at each of the exactly demarcated borders of the territory.
From wikipedia again: