Kowloon Walled City

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Government Destroys Symbiotic Nature Between the City and its People

Architectural History and Theory: Urbanism and the City
Second Year
Date: 30th March 2012
School of Architecture DAB – UTS

Case Study: Kowloon Walled City

FIG 1: Kowloon Walled City as a fort

FIG 1: Kowloon Walled City as a fort

Kowloon walled city was a Chinese city, situated in the middle of colonial Kowloon, (Harter 2000, p.p. 94). It was one of the most notorious slums of its time. The city was free, adapting the many needs of its residents. It became a social network of families and businesses. At its peak, it housed over 50 000 people within a 26 000 metres square zone. When it was demolished, as the network was destroyed, so was the sanctuary of the people.

FIG 2: Density of Kowloon Walled City before demolition

FIG 2: Density of Kowloon Walled City before demolition

The city began as a military fort, built by the Chinese government to check British expansion in Hong Kong. However, after WW2, China wished to reclaim the rights to the walled city sending 2000 Chinese refugees to the site. Despite the population growth, the city was still under the British colony (Coates 2011). However, although the Chinese Government had refugees living within the city, it still didn’t have jurisdiction to govern the site. Due to the intrusion of the Chinese government, the British government ignored the city and focused on Hong Kong. By 1898 the British colony had expanded in Hong Kong, thus engulfed the old city in its position. As a result, the city found itself trapped between two political powers, neither under the jurisdiction of the Hong Kong authorities nor part of the Chinese government. Lui Kan, cited in Julia Wilkinson, quotes a resident living within the city “Peking knows it’s their duty to protect us. They will look after us. This is part of China. The Walled City will never become part of Hong Kong. One day Hong Kong will be part of us – main land China.” (Harter 2000, p.p. 92) It was this naivety that allowed the Walled City to become a ‘world of it own’ (Sinn 1987, p.p. 30) and a place that belonged to ‘us’. ***

Due to the lack of law and order, the city grew into a place of ordered chaos. Small factories and production units with no ‘workers protection’ worked daily along side the illegal dentists and shop owners. Alexander Coates cites Leung Ping Kwan “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.” (Kwan 1993, p.p.120). A small percentage of its residents were drug dealers, gamblers, addicts or prostitutes; all of which were illegal outside of its walls (Sinn 1987, p.p. 30). Nonetheless its crime rate was equal to that in Hong Kong (Suen 2011, p.p. 5). It was this constant interplay between crime and child play that depicts a community like no other. FIG 3 & 4: Cluster of electrical cords mixed with clotheslines

FIG 3 & 4: Cluster of electrical cords mixed with clotheslines

FIG 5: Small family eating dinner in their tight apartments

FIG 5: Small family eating dinner in their tight apartments

There were illegally installed electrical cords that ran through its narrow and damp streets, which were mixed with open drains. The tightly knit apartments all had narrow stair access in which contained the bare basics, a bathroom, kitchen and shared living room. Many of the rooms had just enough space for a family of three to sleep in shared bunk beds. Due to the lack of natural light, clean water and fresh air, many of the activities within the walls resulted in a low level of hygiene. The site also had poor drainage thus floods were common. Nonetheless, the woven organic form of the city’s structure ensured that although the level of privacy was low, the sense of community was high. For many years the Hong Kong British...
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