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(Daily Mail)   A fascinating look at Kowloon Walled City, a Mad-Max style city in Hong Kong made up of interconnected buildings   (dailymail.co.uk ) divider line 133
    More: Cool, Kowloon Walled City, high-rise buildings, British rule, eating dogs, emergency evacuation, Culture of China, diplomacies, health and safety  
•       •       •

22195 clicks; posted to Main » on 05 May 2012 at 11:16 PM (3 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-05-06 12:25:57 AM  
Poop goes where?
 
2012-05-06 12:26:27 AM  
God bless the free market. It looked like a great place to get some smoked meats.
 
2012-05-06 12:26:54 AM  

MemeSlave: Nobody gives a crap about you


MemeSlave - Born to be mocked
 
2012-05-06 12:28:20 AM  

Pointy Tail of Satan: Has a kind of Republican look to it. No irritating building regulators or codes to worry about.


Don't you mean Libertarian?
 
2012-05-06 12:29:55 AM  
i291.photobucket.com

Who run Kowloon Walled City?
 
2012-05-06 12:30:19 AM  
Breed like communist rabbits, live like communist rabbits.

\got nothin'
 
2012-05-06 12:34:46 AM  

Gunny Walker: It looked like a great place to get some smoked meats.


Sorry but I prefer mesquite to Marlboro.
 
2012-05-06 12:34:47 AM  

fusillade762: Looks like something out of a cyberpunk novel.


This. I was just thinking that if you threw in some console cowboys, black surgeons and data hustlers, that could come right out of a William Gibson novel.
 
2012-05-06 12:44:28 AM  

Weaver95: couple/few more years and that's what new york, philadelphia and Los Angeles are gonna end up looking like...


You obviously haven't spent much time in LA. Very few high rise apartments. The LA Metro area just keeps expanding further and further outward.
 
2012-05-06 12:50:24 AM  
Like the cyber city in Idoru by Wm. Gibson.
 
2012-05-06 12:51:05 AM  
Very cool, and very unlike our method of putting shops on the bottom and living space at the top. I can't imagine going up to get my hair cut.

On the other hand, I can't imagine ever living like that, so... :)
 
2012-05-06 12:53:56 AM  

imapirate: Batman would have cleaned that place up.


Guess that makes me Batman then. I was in charge of the clearance operation in 1992 and had been in there more than quite a few times for vice enforcement since the early 80s. The photo showing 3 policemen in berets were blokes under my command, and was taken during the clearance. I was threatened during the clearance by a group of 'residents' (actually crime gang members who had moved in a few months before to trick compensation from the Government) with bombs made from gas cylinders. 'Biff bang pow' and all taken care of. Maybe Christopher Nolan got the idea with the fuel drums for the Dark Knight from that!

Little bit of extra information, the place was actually a non-state - excluded from the leases made to UK by China in the 19th century but not claimed by China when they kicked out the Nationalists in the Mainland after the 2nd world war.

The actual 'walled city' dating back to something like the 12th century iirc, was actually knocked down and built over by Chinese immigrants and local crime gangs in the 40s to 60s, the Tin Hau temple (roof shown in one of the pictures) being probably about the only pre-war building to survive. It was preserved after the clearance and demolition, as the remaining part of the original wall in what is now in a very nice local park.

It is a little incorrect to say that it had no laws, or that it was a bad as he says. Most people living there were highly respectable, moralistic and law-abiding despite the poor conditions. Criminals would go there to hide, or to prepare and sell drugs, but the vice was very poor as nobody, except the most desperate, would dare visit the place because of its reputation. The handful of 'brothels' for example were the worst of places on Earth with highly unsanitary conditions, each occupied by one woman a long way past her prime, fairly typical of other one-woman brothels (as they were termed) all over HK but much, much, much worse!

There was no such thing as 'cocaine parlours'. Cocaine, even in the early 90s, was very expensive and usually the drug of only the rich playboys and expats. I think he probably means opium dens, of which there were a few as it was a cheap place for addicts to live, but again these were desperate hovels used by very old men, so don't expect any silk covered reclining beds and cat-eyed temptresses to sooth you to your narcotic dreams! Heroin abuse was in fact far more common from the 60s onwards and some addicts would go in to the Walled City to buy, smoke or shoot up in its labyrinth of alleyways. Chased and caught more than one pusher around those dripping alleyways and staircases.

HK laws did apply in there (it has always been a bit of Hollywood style sensationalism for the 'West' to portray it as a hotbed of lawlessness) and the police used to patrol there and provide crime deterrent. But apart from drugs, which were pretty common all over the poorer areas of HK at the time, there was actually very little crime there. Far far less than many US and UK cities at the time, and nothing at all like the Brazilian barrios. As he says, for the most part its residents were highly law-abiding.

The real problem with laws was that in the 2 to 3 decades after the war, HK was slow in applying a lot of its land, building and licensing laws all around the place, resulting in lots of squatter villages on hillsides and government owned land, unlicensed doctors, dentists, food processing, residential factories and illegal building works, all over the place. Much was to do with endemic corruption of the time and the massive influx of immigrants of the 50s to 70s, but HK started coming to grips with all that in the 70s and 80s through new public housing policies, clearance of squatter areas and better application of health and building laws, while cleaning up its act on corruption.

The Kowloon Walled City was the last of those places to be cleared up. Great place to have experienced and it lived up to what I had hoped to experience when I left UK to work in HK police in the 70s :D
 
2012-05-06 12:55:47 AM  
Just came by to say those were some pretty cool pictures
 
2012-05-06 12:58:09 AM  
i wonder how water & power were put in place during expansions. and how the apartment owners/dwellers were billed for consumption of the utilities. it appears that chaos ruled supreme, but even in chaos there is order.

/Kung Fu told me so
 
2012-05-06 12:59:32 AM  
Sure, these 50,000 people lived in utter squalor and horrendously dangerous and unsanitary conditions, but at least they didn't have to put up with an HOA.
 
2012-05-06 12:59:49 AM  

the ham sap gwailo: imapirate: Batman would have cleaned that place up.

Guess that makes me Batman then. I was in charge of the clearance operation in 1992 and had been in there more than quite a few times for vice enforcement since the early 80s. The photo showing 3 policemen in berets were blokes under my command, and was taken during the clearance. I was threatened during the clearance by a group of 'residents' (actually crime gang members who had moved in a few months before to trick compensation from the Government) with bombs made from gas cylinders. 'Biff bang pow' and all taken care of. Maybe Christopher Nolan got the idea with the fuel drums for the Dark Knight from that!

Little bit of extra information, the place was actually a non-state - excluded from the leases made to UK by China in the 19th century but not claimed by China when they kicked out the Nationalists in the Mainland after the 2nd world war.

The actual 'walled city' dating back to something like the 12th century iirc, was actually knocked down and built over by Chinese immigrants and local crime gangs in the 40s to 60s, the Tin Hau temple (roof shown in one of the pictures) being probably about the only pre-war building to survive. It was preserved after the clearance and demolition, as the remaining part of the original wall in what is now in a very nice local park.

It is a little incorrect to say that it had no laws, or that it was a bad as he says. Most people living there were highly respectable, moralistic and law-abiding despite the poor conditions. Criminals would go there to hide, or to prepare and sell drugs, but the vice was very poor as nobody, except the most desperate, would dare visit the place because of its reputation. The handful of 'brothels' for example were the worst of places on Earth with highly unsanitary conditions, each occupied by one woman a long way past her prime, fairly typical of other one-woman brothels (as they were termed) all over HK but much, much, much worse!

There was no such thing as 'cocaine parlours'. Cocaine, even in the early 90s, was very expensive and usually the drug of only the rich playboys and expats. I think he probably means opium dens, of which there were a few as it was a cheap place for addicts to live, but again these were desperate hovels used by very old men, so don't expect any silk covered reclining beds and cat-eyed temptresses to sooth you to your narcotic dreams! Heroin abuse was in fact far more common from the 60s onwards and some addicts would go in to the Walled City to buy, smoke or shoot up in its labyrinth of alleyways. Chased and caught more than one pusher around those dripping alleyways and staircases.

HK laws did apply in there (it has always been a bit of Hollywood style sensationalism for the 'West' to portray it as a hotbed of lawlessness) and the police used to patrol there and provide crime deterrent. But apart from drugs, which were pretty common all over the poorer areas of HK at the time, there was actually very little crime there. Far far less than many US and UK cities at the time, and nothing at all like the Brazilian barrios. As he says, for the most part its residents were highly law-abiding.

The real problem with laws was that in the 2 to 3 decades after the war, HK was slow in applying a lot of its land, building and licensing laws all around the place, resulting in lots of squatter villages on hillsides and government owned land, unlicensed doctors, dentists, food processing, residential factories and illegal building works, all over the place. Much was to do with endemic corruption of the time and the massive influx of immigrants of the 50s to 70s, but HK started coming to grips with all that in the 70s and 80s through new public housing policies, clearance of squatter areas and better application of health and building laws, while cleaning up its act on corruption.

The Kowloon Walled City was the last of those places to be cleared up. Great place to have experienced and it lived up to what I had hoped to experience when I left UK to work in HK police in the 70s :D


Very interesting and informative. Thank you.
 
2012-05-06 01:00:11 AM  
Argh. I can't find any information about the mailman. How frustrating!
 
2012-05-06 01:01:10 AM  

KrispyKritter: i wonder how water & power were put in place during expansions. and how the apartment owners/dwellers were billed for consumption of the utilities. it appears that chaos ruled supreme, but even in chaos there is order.

/Kung Fu told me so


I'm just reading this right now:

"Water was the main hardship for people living here. The people who 'released' water would sometimes lock the main tap and disappear for a few days, before confronting the residents of a block with the news that the pump had malfunctioned and that $30O would have to be collected from each unit to fix it. Many of these well owners were habitual gamblers - when they lost at the casinos in Macau, they would just stop the water."

Kung fu told me I need to keep my goddamn hands up. :P
 
2012-05-06 01:01:57 AM  

Tyranicle: communist rabbits


ya know how I can tell you have never been to China ?
 
2012-05-06 01:06:17 AM  

Oznog: Every political philosophy class should study this. No reaching stretch of logic needed- it was a pure example of anarchy. Like I say, it had associations with criminal Triads for a long time, and it was primarily just "victimless crime", but after 1974 the Triads got rubbed out and it was a benign anarchy.

Sadly Kowloon was really not all that well studied or documented. Most of the people kept to themselves so we don't know much about daily life and the political goings-on there. Presumably there were people who had what they saw as "rules" and would beat you up or break your shiat for not pleasing them, but I really don't know. And it was all demolished. There seems to be no evidence of its existence except a few dozen photos, a 40 min German documentary, and a few movie scenes.

This is poor documentation of even the structures. I mean, no blueprints exist. We don't know how many actual buildings or floors were there except from what the exterior shots, and interior shots don't show much at all. We don't know about what kind of walkways they came up with in terms of number, spacing, interconnectedness, width, etc, and that would have been a fascinating example to city planners, those who make construction codes, sociologists and all sorts of thinkers.

Even an example of what NOT to do is of great value when it is this unique and irreproducible. Nope. Whatever was done, was never documented properly, and that information lost forever.


Kowloon was utterly unique. It was one of those accidental wonders of the world that will probably never happen again. We've seen anarchies before, and we have some now like Somalia. But those were always wild and savage. Kowloon was a bottled anarchy and the occupants were fairly decent folks for the most part.

Tearing the place down was like closing a door to a whole new country.
 
2012-05-06 01:10:40 AM  
the ham sap gwailo - thanks for that, good read.
 
2012-05-06 01:10:47 AM  
Why is that banner in English?
 
2012-05-06 01:11:05 AM  
Weaver95: couple/few more years and that's what new york, philadelphia and Los Angeles are gonna end up looking like...

Nahh, you need a place with poor building code enforcement.

Like China.

Or India
www.indiatalkies.com

//interestingly, I mistyped 'slum' as 'slub' in my GIS, and discovered that 'indian slub' is some sort of textile.
 
2012-05-06 01:11:51 AM  

Slartibartfaster: Tyranicle: communist rabbits

ya know how I can tell you have never been to China ?


How?
 
2012-05-06 01:12:04 AM  
For everyone saying that this is how [generic American City Name here] is going to end up, you're obviously not familiar with City Building Codes. The random millionaire developer *might* be able to get away with some sort of construction that is below the minimum amount of window surface area for a given property, but not most other people.

A lot of cities have strict regulations requiring you to only build on about 60% (most likely less) footprint of a given property, along with demands for setbacks (usually 5-10' for the sides, 10-15' for the front, etc) for any given side of the building, plus minimum window surface area. If you don't believe me, run down to your local City Planning Department and ask what building design guidelines they have in place, and a copy for the architect working on your project. You'd be surprised how strict they are.

Oznog: This is poor documentation of even the structures. I mean, no blueprints exist. We don't know how many actual buildings or floors were there except from what the exterior shots, and interior shots don't show much at all. We don't know about what kind of walkways they came up with in terms of number, spacing, interconnectedness, width, etc, and that would have been a fascinating example to city planners, those who make construction codes, sociologists and all sorts of thinkers.

Well, the thing about blueprints, plans, documentation and such are that they are usually made PRIOR to a building being built. If you were to go back, measure and draw from scratch a building without existing plans (which I did as a career choice back in the day), you would find it to be an *extremely* time consuming process requiring a ton of man hours.

For something like this City, good luck finding the individuals who would want to go out, measure and draw up the plans. Regular buildings that are only a few decades old are enough to drive an architect mad trying to draw them up.

I mean, with old buildings in the US you can still rely on construction techniques that have been around for a century to help you draw them up... But you're talking about a City that had no building or planning codes driving its construction? Hell no. No sane architect (or corp of valiant architectural interns) will take that on. Sorry, it gets to me when people go "but a great treasure was lost!" without realizing how much it'll cost to save.
On that note, I think City Planners have already learned their lessons from the gross industrialization of the 1800's and saw a vision of a better future with the City Beautiful Movement. City Planners are on it already.
 
2012-05-06 01:12:25 AM  

the ham sap gwailo: The Kowloon Walled City was the last of those places to be cleared up. Great place to have experienced and it lived up to what I had hoped to experience when I left UK to work in HK police in the 70s :D


Did they have any problems associated with big cities like large scale public disturbances or violent serial offenders?
 
2012-05-06 01:15:34 AM  

Pointy Tail of Satan: Has a kind of Republican look to it. No irritating building regulators or codes to worry about.


Bup bup bup. There were two laws. No buildings over 13 stories (due to the nearby airport) and electricity must be provided to all buildings (presumably to cut down on gas stoves or other cooking heat sources.)
 
2012-05-06 01:18:41 AM  

valar_morghulis: Enjoyed this map on Black Ops.


I especially enjoyed the zip lines
 
2012-05-06 01:19:31 AM  

twfeline: Pointy Tail of Satan: Has a kind of Republican look to it. No irritating building regulators or codes to worry about.

Don't you mean Libertarian?


Rick Perry
Herman Cain
Mitt Romney
 
2012-05-06 01:20:06 AM  
ecx.images-amazon.com

Bought this a coupla years ago. 200+ pages of excellent, EXCELLENT photographs and texts of interviews of the residents. Totally fascinating and worth every penny. I highly recommend it. Found the above pic from Amazon.com. (Where I bought it.)
 
2012-05-06 01:22:20 AM  
the ham sap gwailo

Don't know if you're real, but well-researched and written regardless, thanks. And cheers subby for some interesting pics.

/spent a good chunk of the early 00's in HK
 
mjg
2012-05-06 01:24:36 AM  
NerdCoreRageQuit: Good to see a fellow farker interested in arch/urban planning. Thanks for the info above.
 
2012-05-06 01:25:17 AM  

the ham sap gwailo: imapirate: Batman would have cleaned that place up.

Guess that makes me Batman then. I was in charge of the clearance operation in 1992 and had been in there more than quite a few times for vice enforcement since the early 80s. The photo showing 3 policemen in berets were blokes under my command, and was taken during the clearance. I was threatened during the clearance by a group of 'residents' (actually crime gang members who had moved in a few months before to trick compensation from the Government) with bombs made from gas cylinders. 'Biff bang pow' and all taken care of. Maybe Christopher Nolan got the idea with the fuel drums for the Dark Knight from that!

Little bit of extra information, the place was actually a non-state - excluded from the leases made to UK by China in the 19th century but not claimed by China when they kicked out the Nationalists in the Mainland after the 2nd world war.

The actual 'walled city' dating back to something like the 12th century iirc, was actually knocked down and built over by Chinese immigrants and local crime gangs in the 40s to 60s, the Tin Hau temple (roof shown in one of the pictures) being probably about the only pre-war building to survive. It was preserved after the clearance and demolition, as the remaining part of the original wall in what is now in a very nice local park.

It is a little incorrect to say that it had no laws, or that it was a bad as he says. Most people living there were highly respectable, moralistic and law-abiding despite the poor conditions. Criminals would go there to hide, or to prepare and sell drugs, but the vice was very poor as nobody, except the most desperate, would dare visit the place because of its reputation. The handful of 'brothels' for example were the worst of places on Earth with highly unsanitary conditions, each occupied by one woman a long way past her prime, fairly typical of other one-woman brothels (as they were termed) all over HK but much, much, much worse!

There was ...



Any chance you live in Sai Kung? With a nice doggy?

Thanks for the interesting info. I know that the HK film industry also used the place for sound dubbing, amazingly.
And in the book, Gwailo, the author as a kid visited the place and wrote of his experiences as a little blonde boy making friends with a possble Triad.


/Christopher Nolan used HK scenery as inspiration for the seedy parts of Gotham
//He was there for the film festival there before he became known for Memento
 
2012-05-06 01:28:42 AM  

mjg: NerdCoreRageQuit: Good to see a fellow farker interested in arch/urban planning. Thanks for the info above.


Ditto. I've been looking at "intentional communities" (haha communes), but I didn't have City Beautiful on my search list. Thank you!
 
2012-05-06 01:34:52 AM  
Cracked must be on vacation.
 
2012-05-06 01:40:20 AM  

Coelacanth: the ham sap gwailo: The Kowloon Walled City was the last of those places to be cleared up. Great place to have experienced and it lived up to what I had hoped to experience when I left UK to work in HK police in the 70s :D

Did they have any problems associated with big cities like large scale public disturbances or violent serial offenders?


If you mean 'the walled city' well no, it wasn't a city at all, just around a square mile of unregulated buildings you see in the photos. In fact up until a year or so before those photos were taken it was surrounded by an even more deprived pile of huts and illegal squatter structures, which was in fact more of a social and safety than crime problem.

HK as a whole had its share of disturbances in the 60s with social riots, corruption and lack of enforcement of regulations. Yet still the place functioned and people could survive. Much of that is to do with the Confucian values of the the population, respect for authority (even a corrupt one!) and immigrant determination to improve their life without hand-outs and the like. Life was really tough for a lot of those people yet they worked hard and not only survived but improved their lives immensely in many cases, my wife's family were one example.

Serious violent crime, such as homicide has surprisingly (to some) always been very low compared to other massive, poor crowded cities, maybe reflecting the social values of the inhabitants. Our worst time (car jackings to China and robberies with automatic rifles and grenades on the streets) was in the early 90s (I was heavily involved in fighting that too) as social values in China were changing and some people there wanted to get rich quickly and HK was a nearby and rich jewel.

Serial offenders you mention are usually gang or drug related, like pretty much anywhere else in the World but the crime rate here is low in comparison to most other places and while the recidivism rate probably compares to elsewhere, the ratio of the population is much lower than elsewhere I would guess.
 
2012-05-06 01:45:21 AM  
Where's the diving board?
 
2012-05-06 01:46:18 AM  

the ham sap gwailo: If you mean 'the walled city' well no, it wasn't a city at all, just around a square mile of unregulated buildings you see in the photos.


I don't suppose........ you know anything about the mailman? Because that's just blowing my mind!
 
2012-05-06 01:51:54 AM  

frestcrallen: the ham sap gwailo

Don't know if you're real, but well-researched and written regardless, thanks. And cheers subby for some interesting pics.

/spent a good chunk of the early 00's in HK


Thanks. Absolutely real, worked in the HK police from 1976 to 2010. Not researched, experienced! :)
 
2012-05-06 01:54:01 AM  

GungFu: the ham sap gwailo: imapirate: Batman would have cleaned that place up.

Gung Fu - Nah, Cheung Chau, with a nice doggy :)

 
2012-05-06 01:57:42 AM  

Aidan: the ham sap gwailo: If you mean 'the walled city' well no, it wasn't a city at all, just around a square mile of unregulated buildings you see in the photos.

I don't suppose........ you know anything about the mailman? Because that's just blowing my mind!


Other than he (well, I guess, many over the years) existed. Always a good source of information on what was going on!
 
2012-05-06 02:02:45 AM  
Hey look, a 9 day old article.

Glad I am not paying $5 for this.
 
2012-05-06 02:07:36 AM  

the ham sap gwailo: Aidan: the ham sap gwailo: If you mean 'the walled city' well no, it wasn't a city at all, just around a square mile of unregulated buildings you see in the photos.

I don't suppose........ you know anything about the mailman? Because that's just blowing my mind!

Other than he (well, I guess, many over the years) existed. Always a good source of information on what was going on!


Thank you. :) I admit that the idea of a public utility (like mail delivery) going into a place like that is just plain fascinating. But from what I'm reading elsewhere, as you said, people ran businesses and lived their lives there, so it was just... normal!
 
2012-05-06 02:10:31 AM  

Misconduc: Hey look, a 9 day old article.

Glad I am not paying $5 for this.


Only demolished 18 years ago too.
 
2012-05-06 02:15:56 AM  
Second Life has a Kowloon SIM

Fairly decent as far as these things go.
 
2012-05-06 02:19:52 AM  

Misconduc: Hey look, a 9 day old article.

Glad I am not paying $5 for this.


Hey, look...shut the hell up, no one cares.
 
2012-05-06 03:05:43 AM  
Anthonix

thanks for the reference, but could you have at least prepared me for the sticker-shock!

/definitely a 'someday' purchase
 
2012-05-06 03:18:56 AM  

Oznog: TFA is lame, for the fantastic subject matter. Good to see a few pics I'd never seen before though.



That place was total concrete anarchy. Buildings build irregularly, to 10-14 stories. Not only was there no sense of building code, there was little sense of land ownership, and someone just started building buildings BETWEEN buildings, by right of Go-Fark-Yourself.

It built up over decades. By the end, there was little or no daylight because the only way between buildings would be VERY narrow alleyways, which had 10+ stories until it reached the sky, or there may be more stuff built above that with no path to sky at all. The side, there was no view laterally from the walkways out. The exterior walls were packed and the exterior wall may be a block away.

The place was deteriorating pretty badly and you gotta wonder what a building collapse would do when would simply lean on its attached neighbor.

It served as an inspiration to Ghost in the Shell, Batman Begins, numerous movies and video games, the indirect influences are countless.


Oznog, there were corridors of buildings that just went through to other buildings, even one I remember completely bypassed one building in between two others . Start out on the fifth floor here,walk through a door and you're on the seventh floor there. Same with some of the flats, one door exited to one building, another door joined to a flat in the next building, often with a few steps up or down for the height difference. People would just knock holes in walls and connect to whatever was on the other side.

Mad place to chase people.
 
2012-05-06 03:23:02 AM  

twfeline: Don't you mean Libertarian?


Some of you professional poli-sci majors need to take a look at some of the ways that people live now in China, the largest totalitarian government on the planet and one of the strongest.

But do it after you finish steaming the milk for my latte. 160 degrees. Use a thermometer this time.
 
mjg
2012-05-06 03:51:45 AM  

Aidan: mjg: NerdCoreRageQuit: Good to see a fellow farker interested in arch/urban planning. Thanks for the info above.

Ditto. I've been looking at "intentional communities" (haha communes), but I didn't have City Beautiful on my search list. Thank you!


The City Beautiful is interesting but you might want to go back a bit in terms of zoning either to the Chicago or NY Schools. For the NY School, the vertical setback zoning began to take hold last century. Search The Equitable Building in NYC. A nice starting point when talking about building large structures (even up to why the old and new WTC are the way they are).
 
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