GOD Co-founder Douglas Young created a scaled reproduction of the Kowloon Walled City with great accuracy and placed it right on the harbourfront at the West Kowloon site juxtaposed with modern buildings such as IFC in the background.
What is the indigenous architecture of Hong Kong? Which are the buildings that best represent local culture? The answer lies in the legendary Kowloon Walled City.
It was only by a quirk of history that it was the only place in the former crown colony of Hong Kong that is outside of the police’s judiciary. As a result it became the home of the untouchables and the social outcasts. It was Hong Kong’s forbidden city, built not by royalty but by the city’s underclass. The massive structure was demolished in 1993.
In the West, an architect is responsible for a building’s design, the moment construction work is completed is when the appearance of the building is fixed. The building will remain for the rest of its life more or less as that designed by the architect.
In Hong Kong, the treatment of architecture is somewhat different. Once a building is completed and is occupied by residents, modifications will soon appear. Window frames may be changed, window-mounted air-conditioners will be installed, a multitude of signages and roof projections will be added, television antennas will sprout from the rooftops. In effect, a native Hong Kong building will never be completed because tenants will always be making new adaptations to make their living environment a little bit more comfortable. Thus the building as a living organism never ceases to evolve.
These indigenous Hong Kong buildings are harsh environments. There is inadequate space, light and ventilation. Sanitary conditions are poor and the workmanship shoddy. Yet people are still able to survive and thrive. It is the story of Hong Kong itself encapsulated in architecture, a place that has succeeded despite the odds.