Kowloon Walled City
February 23, 2006 9:28 PM   Subscribe

"Kowloon Walled City resembled a living, breathing creature, born from its inhabitants over its long lifespan." "...occupying an area of approximately 200 by 150 metres. Most of the 500 buildings in the City, housing almost 50,000 residents" (MI)
posted by arse_hat (28 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
"...out of all the chaos and apparent lack of real organisation, a sort of society began to flourish."

"...because it's not top-down planning, it's bottom-up, and organizations evolve, they're not planned." Reminds me a lot of our little online communities. "Connectivity in the rhizome is embedded in the following: any point of the rhizome can always be linked to any other point. Moreover, it is not a mere possibility but something that occurs necessarily." I think this may hold lessons for social networking sites.

Jackie Chan made a movie there just at the time of it's destruction.
posted by arse_hat at 9:31 PM on February 23, 2006

Thank you for this. I'm saddened by the fact that I won't be able to visit this place.
posted by quite unimportant at 10:12 PM on February 23, 2006

[this is good]
posted by oog at 10:34 PM on February 23, 2006

nice post
posted by caddis at 10:45 PM on February 23, 2006

After the Walled City's mention in the Prestes Maia thread, I was wanting to learn more. Thank you!
posted by cmyk at 10:45 PM on February 23, 2006

Great post, wish there were more photos!
posted by jonson at 10:57 PM on February 23, 2006

Apparently, Kowloon was the inspiration both for the look of the city in Blade Runner, and more recently, the slums in Batman Begins. I expect it will continue to be inspiration for anyone who wants chaotic, run-down, neon-lit futuristic cityscapes. Or maybe people will just come to Mexico City, where I live. It's more like Gibson's Chiba City than anything else I've heard of.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:21 PM on February 23, 2006

Great post.

From the Kowloon Walled City Wikipedia page, I found this expedition of the about to be torn down Walled City quite fascinating, even with the broken English.
posted by zsazsa at 11:56 PM on February 23, 2006

Fascinating. Thank you for this post.

posted by darkstar at 12:20 AM on February 24, 2006

This does somewhat remind me of some of the ancient walled towns I've visited. For example, while the medinas of Fez and Tunis aren't nearly so densely populated, they also have some of the same kind of "accreted humanity" vibe to them.
posted by darkstar at 12:31 AM on February 24, 2006

Anyone else here read William Gibson's Idoru? He makes explicit mention of Kowloon Walled City in it.
posted by jiawen at 1:22 AM on February 24, 2006

I could be mistaken, but I think one of the shots in the movie Baraka (sequel to Koyaanisqatsi & Powaqqatsi) is of the walled city...
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:25 AM on February 24, 2006

For those interested, I have a small gallery of images from the Walled City Park which stands on the site of the original city.

No self-link, but you can get to the photo albums via "Dim Sum" on the main page of the site.
posted by bwg at 1:40 AM on February 24, 2006

In the meantime the population of the Walled City continued to grow, all but ungoverned and outlawed becoming, in effect, the tiniest city-state in the world. Theoretically controlled by the British, technically owned by China, and actually governed by whoever wielded power within such an anarchistic enclave — invariably gangsters.

This is why my anarchism is purely theoretical; until we figure out a way to keep the gangsters from taking over, there's no point trying to get rid of the slightly more civilized gangsters currently running things.

Great post!
posted by languagehat at 5:29 AM on February 24, 2006

nice post! Thanks.
posted by shoepal at 6:34 AM on February 24, 2006

are there more photies of this anywhere? it's awesome! I'd love to set a film/animation somewhere like this.
posted by 6am at 7:09 AM on February 24, 2006

this is the one place in the world that I wished I could visit, but never will. There is a "coffee table" type photo book available called city of darkness.

A few other books that might be interesting (not specific to Kowloon) are Invisible New York, Paris Underground and Shadow Cities.

Perhaps an alternative for everyone who wanted to visit Kowloon is Gunkanjima. If anyone manages to get there, let me know how you did :)
posted by concreteforest at 9:11 AM on February 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

bwg's pics of the park that has replaced the walled city.
6am, What I posted was all the photo's I could find. I believe there are more on the web but It would need knowledge of chinese to find them.
languagehat, while gangsters did rule for a bit things settled down. By most accounts the walled city was safer than some other areas of Hong Kong. Except for the authorities of course as many of the residents while not violent, were criminals (vice, running unlicensed businesses and pratices).
posted by arse_hat at 10:08 AM on February 24, 2006

Wow, Gunkanjima is worthy of its own FPP.
posted by furtive at 10:44 AM on February 24, 2006

The Wikipedia is letting me down. Usually it has lat/long coordinates linking to GoogleMaps. Can anyone help me out? Is the park visible from satellite?
posted by Eideteker at 10:50 AM on February 24, 2006

Very nice post, arse_hat, and it's generated lots of other good links too. This'll take me a while to get through, I'm sure.

Joakim Ziegler - Re: your mention of Mexico City... are there any websites that would illustrate what you mentioned? I'm unfamiliar with Mexico City, so any pointers from a resident'd be great!
posted by Zack_Replica at 12:45 PM on February 24, 2006

Zack_Replica: There have been some on Metafilter before, this site of aerial photos has been posted twice before, for instance.

In general, I haven't really found very good sites that reflect what the city really feels like, though. It's hard to get an overview of, which is probably why it's hard to photograph well. You get an idea from the air, but to get the intensity of it, you need to walk the streets.

I love it here, but many residents disagree. It's Chiba City with catholics.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:51 PM on February 24, 2006

Yeah, I really liked that post, and I'd like to see pix of it from the street, you know, just because it all looks so amazing. Chiba with catholics.... wow, that brings some surreal images and conversations to mind!
posted by Zack_Replica at 2:59 PM on February 24, 2006

This is pretty cool.

My mother actually grew up in Hong Kong about about six blocks from the Walled City. She remembers it being "really scary and we were supposed to stay away from there because no one controlled it"

Her living conditions then weren't much better though...no running water and no heat for 8 people in two rooms. I live a much more comfortable life now.
posted by jare2003 at 3:06 PM on February 24, 2006

This is also worth a look. Good outdoor shot.
posted by jare2003 at 3:06 PM on February 24, 2006

As a side note, if you'd like a small taste of what Kowloon is like, it was one of the cities you visit in the game Shenmue II. (which is also a rather good game) It was released on X-Box and Dreamcast (only in Japan and Europe).

That's where I first heard of the place. I was sad to hear of its destruction too. I'd never seen or been to anywhere like it, in a game OR reality. (and Shenmue's designers tried to make all their real-life locations as realistic as possible)
posted by InnocentBystander at 5:43 PM on February 24, 2006

Wasn't this place used in a Wong Kar Wai movie?
posted by intermod at 6:02 PM on February 24, 2006

I went into the Walled City during the time I lived in Hong Kong. It was a dreadful place, though it wasn't terribly scary to people who have spent time in other slums. What I found creepier was that maps of Hong Kong displayed a blank area where the Walled City was -- no detail of the streets and alleys inside.
posted by QuietDesperation at 7:47 PM on February 24, 2006

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