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The Walled City of Kowloon - A Chinese Outpost in British Hong Kong

Part 2 Dissertation 2013
Fraser Alan Maitland
University of Strathclyde | UK
From the neon glow of Wan Chai, to the swarming markets of Mong Kok, 1980s Hong Kong was a city imbued with confidence and bravado, lit by the burning embers of the British Empire. Yet, if you were to venture beyond this image of prosperity to Tung Tau Tsuen Road in the north of the city, you would have found yourself standing on the precipice of anarchy. A lawless jungle of crime, vice and illegal industry, and beyond the jurisdiction of the Hong Kong police. The Walled City of Kowloon was no place for tourists. It was however, home to almost 40,000 Hong Kong residents (Basler, 1992).

Locked within the boundaries of an ancient military outpost, this unique, fourteen story slab of urbanisation developed from humble beginnings into a hive of crime and illicit industry. Without the involvement of a single architect, it’s oppressive, dense maze expanded to fourteen stories in height, cubicle apartments, workshops and opium dens wildly stacked. This architecture was feral and raw, it’s form dictated by necessity with an instinct for survival. The anarchic squatted settlement was not bound by architectural convention or style. The Walled City of Kowloon was architecture without rules.

'A Chinese Outpost in British Hong Kong' explores the genesis of this remarkable settlement, within the wider context of it’s metropolitan host. Described as “arguably, the closest thing to a truly self-regulating, self sufficient, self-determining modern city that has ever been built” (Popham, 1993:71), Kowloon has experienced a process of organic urbanisation, creating a city intrinsically bound to its tenants. Herein lies a study of characters, of a city born of desperation, and of a society that adapted to survive.

Fraser Alan Maitland

Dr Jonathan Charley
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