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Kowloon Walled City
January 3, 2011 8:51 PM   Subscribe

This is an illustrated cross-section of Hong Kong's Kowloon Walled City

A 1989 German documentary (with English subtitles) that goes inside of the now-demolished settlement: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Via io9

Previously
posted by brundlefly (32 comments total) 100 users marked this as a favorite

 
I never went there but I've always been fascinated by this place - it always seemed to be out of scale with the rest of the world, or maybe it had its own scale.
posted by doublehappy at 8:57 PM on January 3, 2011


oooh, cross section, oooh
posted by mwhybark at 9:06 PM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I, too, have been fascinated by the walled city since I first learned of it. I've just begun watching the documentary. Seeing the working and living conditions of the residents makes me not sorry that it is gone, though architecturally it wad a wonder. Does the film explain the greatest mystery of the city: how did all those houses built on houses stay standing and not collapse under the unplanned weight?
posted by jb at 9:19 PM on January 3, 2011


Wow, that German documentary is fantastic. Thanks!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:21 PM on January 3, 2011


Loved this post, there is not enough information about this surreal world to satisfy my curiosities. @doublehappy-the scale of this creature was its fascination. The documentary is a wonderful catch!
posted by ~Sushma~ at 9:31 PM on January 3, 2011


Unfortunately the Japanese photobook mentioned in the first link is long out of print.
posted by p3on at 9:37 PM on January 3, 2011


Thanks for the new desktop background. =)
posted by carsonb at 9:41 PM on January 3, 2011


However there is still this book, and it's pretty good too.
posted by awfurby at 10:36 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The German documentary (first episode) makes some good points about the "miracle" of Hong Kong, which was often held up in contrast to China as an example of how capitalism is better. In reality it shows what happens when there is no government intervention and a totally free market is allowed to operate without controls.
posted by stbalbach at 10:39 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was just trying to work out where I'd seen something similar before (not dissing ya content OP, but it was ringing bells and banging on pipes). Turns out it was oobject. They've got quite a set of resources on the walled city.
posted by Ahab at 10:47 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've got the book awfurby mentions, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's a beautiful book, and really one of my favorite things.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:23 PM on January 3, 2011


However there is still this book, and it's pretty good too.

Holy cow. I got all excited, then I saw the price. It sounds amazing, but I'll put that on my "some day" list.
posted by brundlefly at 11:33 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


WOW!!

That documentary is severely worth the 40 minutes.
posted by HotPants at 11:59 PM on January 3, 2011


I found a much larger scan of the illustraion here. It's awesome. I just wish the JPEG artifacts weren't as noticeable.

I tried to remove some in PS, then saved it as a 58MB TIFF file you can download here. (MegaUpload link)

But I don't know what I'm doing in PS. I'd love to see someone skilled take a stab at it/mess with the colors. It's definitely staying in my folder of 'things to print out if I had access to a nice printer.'
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 12:22 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]



The German documentary (first episode) makes some good points about the "miracle" of Hong Kong, which was often held up in contrast to China as an example of how capitalism is better. In reality it shows what happens when there is no government intervention and a totally free market is allowed to operate without controls.


More like an excellent example of pretty much any ecosystem that has a relative preponderance of one resource (money and humans) and hardly any of another (land) really. In fact it's architecture and initial urban population is a result of strict government regulations. Just not the sort you are talking about.

I think the situation that lead to Kowloon having a such a huge population density is probably a bit more complicated than you give it credit for.
posted by public at 3:12 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately the Japanese photobook mentioned in the first link is long out of print.

I own this book, having picked it up new off of Amazon, of all places. It really is neat, especially the cross-section linked in the FPP -- unfolded, it's over a meter long and nearly 40 centimeters tall, and the detail is amazing.

Thanks for the post, brundlefly -- it gave me an excuse to pull out the book and flip through it for the first time in a while.
posted by armage at 5:31 AM on January 4, 2011


What's the name (and/or ISBN) of the book this pull-out is in anyway?
posted by public at 6:38 AM on January 4, 2011


I'm surprised the place never burned down. I guess they had their own fire department?
posted by smoothvirus at 6:40 AM on January 4, 2011


In reality it shows what happens when there is no government intervention and a totally free market is allowed to operate without controls.

I've heard people argue that Hong Kong is a prime libertarian example, when in reality it's based on massive government housing.
posted by Brian B. at 7:00 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've heard people argue that Hong Kong is a prime libertarian example, when in reality it's based on massive government housing.

Good point, Brian B. Most societies that "libertarians" like to point to as successes depended largely on government support. Or, more broadly: societies are never pure examples of any one sort of government.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:04 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am the proximate cause of this post. Weeeird.
posted by lazenby at 8:18 AM on January 4, 2011


In reality it shows what happens when there is no government intervention and a totally free market is allowed to operate without controls.
Which is that criminal gangs take on government services, and power.
posted by delmoi at 8:54 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


lazenby: "I am the proximate cause of this post. Weeeird."

Oh, wow. I didn't notice that. Nice find, lazenby!
posted by brundlefly at 9:08 AM on January 4, 2011


I could take a whack at cleaning up that very large scan. What I'd really be interested in, though, would be for someone who knows Japanese (I think those labels are in Japanese, since the book is, right?) to make a good English translation for the labels.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:11 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know it was demolished years ago, but I'm still stressed out by the two guys digging a hole though a load-bearing wall with pickaxes. Seriously, WTF guys?

That's too weird to not have been based on actual events.
posted by CaseyB at 9:55 AM on January 4, 2011


In reality it shows what happens when there is no government intervention and a totally free market is allowed to operate without controls.

I've heard people argue that Hong Kong is a prime libertarian example, when in reality it's based on massive government housing.


In fact, the Hong Kong is highly interventionist simply because it owns all the land, and artificially keeps the supply of land high, so as to generate the income it doesn't get from the city's low tax rates.

The distortion this introduces into the market affects everything - simply because the main firms in HK are property developers that have also been able to diversify into other industries, and keep everyone else out at the same time.

Carrefour, who have hundreds and hundreds of outlets in mainland China, had to give up on Hong Kong, because the landlords they were trying to rent from also happened to own the two largest supermarket chains in HK - Park n'Shop and Wellcome. Unsurprisingly, they couldn't get very good premises in competitive locations and eventually left the territory.

And on and on it goes. That free market award that Hong Kong wins every year is laughable.
posted by awfurby at 4:45 PM on January 4, 2011


The narrator's writing is a bit lugubrious, but on balance that is indeed a good documentary.
posted by intermod at 7:10 PM on January 4, 2011


The narrator's writing is a bit lugubrious

Which is so unusual for Germans...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:20 PM on January 4, 2011


The Walled City had a population density of 3.2 million people / square mile.

If Central Park had that population density, it could house everyone in New York City.

If Queens had that population density, it could house everyone in the US.

If Delaware had that population density, it could house the entire world.
posted by miyabo at 9:53 PM on January 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wow, that German documentary is fantastic. Thanks!

I was a bit disappointed, myself. It struck me as your archetypal Western anthropological-style documentary, ooh, let's go and gawk at the curious natives. How can they possibly live like this? Cue the British missionary rescuing poor heroin addicts with her God-bothering trance voodoo.

A much better watch on the subject of Hong Kong squatter settlements, in my opinion, is Fruit Chan's movie, Hollywood Hong Kong. I'm not really a Chan fan (Public Toilet is one of the worst films I've ever seen) but he brings the lives of the people in the Tai Hom settlement to life in a way that locates them within the wider forces of Hong Kong modernity, and portrays them in an honest and sympathetic way, even when they aren't the most sympathetic of characters.

Well worth digging out, if you've never seen it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:46 AM on January 5, 2011


What's the name (and/or ISBN) of the book this pull-out is in anyway?

九龍城探訪 魔窟で暮らす人々 -City of Darkness- [大型本]
ISBN: 4872574230

Looks like it's been reprinted and is available on Amazon.co.jp for anyone interested.
posted by armage at 11:59 PM on January 5, 2011


As mentioned in William Gibson's Idoru.
posted by neushoorn at 1:42 PM on January 7, 2011


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