Thursday, 11 February 2010

Kowloon Walled City Animation

Source: Boiteaoutils
Here is a short animation film by Generic Life that I found interesting because it happens to take place in the Kowloon Walled City (see previous post). There are extremely few graffiti artists in Hong Kong and making them operate in the Walled City here symbolizes the free zone - and on the contrary of what the authorities were saying, apparently not so dangerous - that represented this incredible densest area in the world (50000 people were living in it).

Kowloon Walled City can obviously not be literally considered as self-constructed. However, this Hong Kong district acquired a kind of autonomy for years and could not stop densifying itself until it was demolished by Authorities in 1993 (See Ryuji Miyamoto's photographs of the empty Walled City, ready to be torn down).  The Walled City tackles an interesting problem about the connection such autonomous districts could have with legality.  In fact, there has been a strong phantasm of insecurity about it, probably encouraged by the authorities when neutral reporters Greg Girard and Ian Lambot ("City of Darkness") from where almost all remaining photographs are from) affirmed that the district was the shelter of drug addicts but not criminals.  Before it was demolished, the Walled City was the home of 50 000 inhabitants reaching an incredible density of 1 920 000 inhabitants per square kilometre.

As far as self-construction is concerned, let's quote City of Darkness:

"With lifts in just two of the City's 350 or so buildings, access to the upper floors of the 10 to 14 storey apartment blocks was nearly always by stairs, necessitating considerable climbs for those who lived near the top. This was partly alleviated by an extraordinary system of interconnecting stairways and bridges at different levels within the City which took shape -somewhat organically- during the construction boom of the 1960's and early 1970's. It was possible for example, to travel across the City from north to south without once coming down to street level."  Let's add to this description, the one of this grid placed over the district's temple (right in the center of the Walled City) on which inhabitants having their windows on the courtyards throw away their garbage, transforming the temple's environment into a shadowy underworld.

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