Hong Kong Vernacular Urbanism in the Collective Realm: Everyday Events of Architecture As Spatial Culture of Mong Kok
The city of Hong Kong is academically labelled to be made of “anonymous architecture without architects.” The design of the city is essentially determined by the optimizations and tensions between styles and the marketplace; economy and buildable area; construction sequence and the geographical context; political power and statutory controls. From this perspective, Hong Kong can be seen as a spontaneous settlement and the “official” buildings and streets are much immune to architects’ personal preference. From another perspective, Hong Kong’s vernacular urbanism, that has invaded every street and building via the hands of the anonymous citizens, also shows no relevance to the architects’ participation. It is this spontaneity of the city that this research respects and aims to refine our understanding on the city of Hong Kong.
Within the rigid economically‐driven order of city planning in Hong Kong, a spontaneous vernacular urbanism of interobjects, has emerged ‐ a phenomenon adaptive and sensitive to both the existing context and the everyday life of the people. It is collectively conceived and constructed by the anonymous communities who are responsible for the dominant city experience in Hong Kong.
When a traveler comes to Hong Kong and has no appetite for consumption in shopping malls, but decided to step into the actual city by wandering along the streets, his or her eyes would be distracted by a number of events that in no ways formulate any pattern he or she might have encountered in other cities. A number of masonry steps found its place on a retaining wall provides an instantaneous pathway for the housewife returns from grocery shopping to her flat on the 15th floor of the residential tower; A young couple, planning the things for their new house, came to the “urban zoo” to pick a puppy to be their pet, just something they must do for they have dreamt of doing since walking by everyday when they are kids; An old lady walks along the street, dragging a bunch of boxes she collected from the shops as she walked pass; A man taking a fresh breath of air at the back of his shop on a concrete canopy, hidden behind a screen of pot plant.
Everyone of these ethnographic scenes is visible on the daily walk along an ordinary street of Hong Kong - settings where the physical environment and the people coexist and mutually influence one another. Conventionally neglected in the field of architecture and anthropology, this unique category of architectural practice in the collective urban space formulates a research subject that is essential to city research in Hong Kong, particularly in relation to the quality of social life of the people in the city.