Town planning in Hong Kong, part II

As I mentioned in my previous article on Hong Kong town planning, it's curious -- in a wonderful way, of course -- that Hong Kong's extreme population density, coupled with 'Radiant City' town planning that's produced mostly urban hellholes in other countries, has resulted in a very livable city that's among the world's safest.

In response to my article, reader SKMama offered a number of possible reasons for why this might be the case. I'll just recap them here:

  1. Excellent & relatively inexpensive transportation -- most people can go from where they live to another section of town quickly and easily.
  2. These high density developments are not necessarily associated with poverty.
  3. Amenities are nearby? Most big developments in new towns have amenities which function - schools and markets there or nearby, libraries, etc.
  4. Cultural expectations -- Even in villages in Guangdong, people for the most part lived very densely (walled village w/ narrow alleys and small rooms). So, living densely is not so "foreign" to the cultural roots of many people?

I think SKMama is pretty much right on target, with maybe two minor quibbles, which I'll get out of the way first.

So, quibblingly, on point 1, although it's likely true that isolation breeds problems, I'm not sure how important this factor was historically in Hong Kong. That is, in many parts of Hong Kong extreme density preceded good transport (e.g. areas in Kowloon east such as Kwun Tong before the MTR was built). But then these areas were not designed along Radiant City lines, so maybe I'm making a moot point. In any case, it's now surely true that even denizens of Radiant Outposts like Tseung Kwan O (i.e. me) can get 'into town' very quickly, so there's no real sense of being cut off from the rest of the city at all.

In point 3, SKMama notes that HK's highly-planned 'Radiant City'-type estates have amenities provided. That's true, and it surely would be a problem if they didn't, but according to Jane Jacobs, the provision of such 'planned' amenities is no guarantee of urban vitality, and in fact often is counterproductive. How so? Well, to ensure the success of the businesses stipulated in a Radiant Plan, the possibility of others spontaneously developing is often explicitly excluded by zoning, space limitations, etc. I think that's the case in many of HK's developments, i.e. there's not much room for shops, restaurants, and other amenities to 'spring up' once the estate's allotted spaces are occupied. Little 'neighborhood monopolies' are thus encouraged, to the benefit of no one but a few lucky shop owners and restaurateurs.

Now I'd like to pick up on a couple of SKMama's points that I think are right on the mark, and maybe try to add a bit in support of them.

Point 2 is a very good one. At one point, over half of HK's population was publicly-housed, although that's now dropped to around a third as the city gets richer. And even though no one here equates public with private housing -- i.e. pretty much everyone knows right off if your address is a public or private development -- there really isn't that much of a stigma against living in public housing. This may be changing, of course, as the percentage of the population that's grown up in private housing increases.

Point 4 is also much-supported by academic studies, and from common-sense evidence. Chinese villages are closely-built, and Hong Kong itself has been infamous for its crowding and population density right from the 1840s onward. On a related note, it's important to realize how grateful many new immigrants to HK in the post-war years were when they received a government-provided flat. Many had lived in squatter huts in incredibly bad conditions -- so bad that even a small concrete box seemed luxurious. That's another sentiment that's likely to be far less salient these days, of course.

This ability to deal with cramped living conditions is the essence of the book SKMama mentions, Nuala Rooney's At Home with Density. (To keep from cluttering things up here, I'll include a short review of this book in the comments following this article.) Rooney interviewed 15 families in Hong Kong public housing flats, and catalogs their tactics for living in cramped conditions. What's amazing is how little griping she gets from her interviewees: they see living at high density to be inherent to Hong Kong life, and they don't waste much energy wishing things were different.

So all of these factors surely do make Hong Kong work. But I think that one factor overrides the rest: pure population density. Hong Kong's 'planned' environments, no matter how ignorantly conceived and ineptly executed, are redeemed by sheer force of numbers. A flood of people out on the street (or the development's podium) cures all manner of ills, from rotten configurations of public spaces to inadequate provision for businesses and restaurants to inconvenient location and access.

Paradoxically, of course, this density is the result of no one's choice. If you asked most Hong Kong people, they wish there were more space for building less dense housing and amenities. But the simple lack of cheap land, and hence the necessity for crowding, has overpowered numerous problems inherent to high-rise living in other cities. For example, there's no need to build massive parking lots or garages that mar large stretches of the city, as HK's population density makes public transport efficient and feasible. There are few problems with 'grey areas' of wasted land at the boundaries of developments and public areas such as parks, because if there's any such space available, it's surely going to be built on. And so on.

In other words, Hong Kong really is unique. It's the exception to many of the rules of urban planning and, for this very reason, endlessly fascinating if you're willing to try to understand it.

Here are some links to some websites that deal with urban planning, population density, and so on.

This article is a good summary of Jane Jacobs' thought.

And this article is a helpful review and assessment of Jacobs' influence.

This is the first installment of a five-part interview with Nikos Salingaros, a contemporary critic of the 'Radiant City'. It's excellent throughout. Also, here at the end of part I, be sure to scroll down into the comments and read Michael Blowhard's comment posted on May 2 at 11:16 AM. It's a bit USA-centric, but it's also one of the best short tutorials on the ills of modernist urban planning you're ever going to find.

Should a city be a 'common work of praise'? If you want a very different perspective on how cities go both right and wrong, this article on the 'liturgical' aspects of urban design is thought-provoking and maybe even profound.

This site is devoted to the vision and work of Leon Krier, a contemporary architect who's trying to realize Jane Jacobs' new urbanism. In this interview, Krier singles out Hong Kong as essentially the exception to planning rules.

This video clip gives you a rundown of the Hong Kong town planners' current thinking on how to further develop my own neighborhood, Tseung Kwan O. It's very interesting indeed.

This discussion board thread is a poll/debate on whether Hong Kong's population density and high-rise living makes it a 'heaven' or a 'hell'. It's long, but fascinating to read the sheer revulsion many people (even those who frequent a website dedicated to skyscrapers!) express at the thought of living Hong Kong-style.

If you would like a humorous look at the UK's twelve most hated examples of 'Radiant City' style architecture, check here.


A brief review of 'At Home with Density'

As I mentioned in the article above, I'd like to add a brief review of Nuala Rooney's Living with Density in case any of you are considering reading it.

The book was originally composed as a PhD thesis, so it's flawed by problems typical of this genre. Rooney's writing style is 'academic' and flat. Although the book was published in 2003, it's based on research conducted in the early 1990s, so it's loaded with anachronisms both small (e.g. references to laser disk players) and large (discussion of housing projects that were demolished years ago). It's also congested with attempts to do 'analysis' based mostly on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, who was one of those unreconstructed Marxists the French haul out of cold storage every decade or so, defrost in their cultural microwave, and unleash on the current generation of impressionable research students.

Fortunately, Rooney (whether as an act of conscious resistance or not) doesn't engage Bourdieu at much depth. Whenever she loses the theoretical plot, she returns at speed to the safe haven of the social scientist -- i.e. straightforward reportage. And this is the chief value of the book: it's got lots of photos, diagrams, descriptions, and quotations from interviewees explaining how people in Hong Kong really live in small spaces.

So I recommend the book. It's a serviceable introduction to the development of public housing in Hong Kong; it's easy enough to skip over the dull bits; and, perhaps most importantly, it represents a serious attempt to investigate and document how Hong Kong people have adapted to their less-than-optimal living conditions.

NB: a video documentary called 'A Thousand Pieces of Gold' accompanies the book. It's a short (16 minutes) look inside two families' homes, with lots of jittery close-ups of people's wallpaper and pots and pans and such. Serendipitously, though, this claustrophobic feel suits the subject at hand. If you've never been in a small public housing flat, it'll be quite a revelation: witness, for example, the man who's slept on the sofa every night for 26 years.

At Home with Density & Bourdieu

Nuala Rooney also has a chapter in a wonderful edited book called Consuming Hong Kong edited by Gordon Mathews and Tai-lok Lui. (Hong Kong : Hong Kong University Press, c2001).

* The malling of Hong Kong by Tai-lok Lui (about the growth of malls in HK, starting with Ocean Terminal in the 1960s).

* Making house into home : interior design in Hong Kong public housingby Nuala Rooney

* Consuming cinema : reflections on movies and market-places in
contemporary Hong Kong by Cindy Hing-yuk Wong and Gary W. McDonogh

*Hierarchy of drinks : alcohol and social class in Hong Kong by Eric Kit-wai Ma (interesting and also uses Bourdieu for analysis).

* Shopping for fashion in Hong Kong / Annie Hau-nung Chan (kind of interesting, but the number of people studied was small).

* The sense of things : Chinese art in the lives of Hong Kong collectors and connoisseurs by Eric Otto Wear (I browsed & skipped)

* Consuming a dream : homes in advertisements and imagination in
contemporary Hong Kong by Helen Hau-ling Cheng (very interesting analysis of real estate ads and brochures and what they mean).

* Consuming places in Hong Kong : experiencing Lan Kwai Fong by Sea-ling Cheng (looks at it from what it means to foreigners and what it means to local HK people of different ages).

* The McDonald's Snoopy craze in Hong Kong by Joseph Bosco (good insights into why it happened)

*Cultural identity and consumption in post-colonial Hong Kong by Gordon Mathews

Also, I have to say that your description of Pierre Bourdieu "one of those unreconstructed Marxists the French haul out of cold storage every decade or so, defrost in their cultural microwave, and unleash on the current generation of impressionable research students" is unfair.

Bourdieu is kind of dense to read, I'll give you that, but his insights into the formation of class, his theories of habitus & cultueal capital were and are very important.

His, Distinction: a social critique of the judgement of taste was a good (if not light) read.
gives some good background on him.

Bourdieu, etc.

Ah, SKMama, you are like my conscience: you don't let me have any fun! You're right, of course, that I'm too dismissive of Bourdieu (who no doubt was a very smart man). Would it be more fair to say he's a 'reconstructed' Marxist, in that he's certainly not as reductionistic as Marx, i.e. B expands the notion of capital in interesting ways. But he's still a Marxist from there on out, more or less, isn't he?

I admit I've only read selected articles by B, mostly to do with education. I've not read Distinction, so I'll defer to your judgement!

That Matthews/Lui book looks very interesting indeed. I think Rooney might also be more enjoyable at article-length rather than in full-disseration mode -- most people are!

Where are Hong Kong's vandals?

An important reason that Hong Kong's high-rises don't descend to the 'hell-hole' misery you mentioned is the lack of vandalism. Lifts keep working, lights aren't broken.

I take it for granted now, but I remember it struck me when I first arrived here from the UK. Things meant for public use (escalators, park equipment, public telephones, etc) all seemed remarkably frail. And equipment (eg on roadworks construction sites) is left in the open overnight that would have to be locked away in the UK.

I wonder how much money is wasted in the UK from having to over-engineer equipment in an effort to delay the inevitable vandalism. More money must then be spent fixing the things that have been vandalised, from repainting over graffiti, to replanting damaged plants, to repairing seats on buses and trains, to ....

So why the difference between the UK and here? Is it a sign of a deep-rooted Western-Eastern cultural difference? Or something that happens to be ok here now, but will get worse over time? Or just a side-effect of Hong kong's cricumstances?

I think that the last reason is a strong one, linked to the high population density you mentioned, and the fact that there are a lot of people about. There are simply less opportunities for you to get away with vandalism without being seen.

Is there a cultural side to the difference as well? Soon after I arrived I asked a local friend why there wasn't so much vandalism here. They answered 'the people would be too busy trying to make money to waste time on vandalism'. I'd like to think that, whether by culture or just the number of people, vandalism stays a minor problem in Hong Kong. It is one of those points I value about living here.


PS a quote to make you wonder if vandalism is inevitable: "Whatever the causes, vandalism and graffiti has been a feature of the human environment for centuries. An Egyptian priest, 4000 years ago, gave expression to his anger and fears in the following quote referred to in Madison [1970]: 'youth is disintegrating. The youngsters of the land have a disrespect for their elders and a contempt for authority in every form. Vandalism is rife, and crime of all types is rampant among our young people. The nation is in peril' [2000 BC]"

Bourdieu & Mary Douglas

Aiya, I'm keeping you from having fun, sorry. :(

I never thought I'd be that way, but as I age I see myself sometimes turning very earnest - maybe it was too much Louisa May Alcott at an impressionable age, it's coming back to haunt me.

Anyway my answer to the question "is Bourdieu a Marxist" is really "what do you mean by Marxist?"

He studies class formation and class reproduction. He is more like Weber than a "traditional Marxist" when he argues that money and "ideology" is inadequate to explain how classes form and reproduce and how some classes end up controlling others. That culture and education (and not just "inculcating ideologies) are extremely important factors.

He pays attention to not just what people say they think, or how they vote, but what music they listen to, what foods they eat, how they carry their bodies, etc. I used some of his theories when I wrote my MPhil thesis.

As I mentioned, "Distinction" turned me into an admirer, but I had to read some chapters in "Outline of a Theory of Practice" for a seminar and found it very hard-going, difficult to understand, and "Can't this guy say it simply"?

I am also a very big fan of Mary Douglas; I think her best works are "Purity and Danger", "Risk and Blame" and "Thought styles : critical essays on good taste" (although the fisr chapter of it is really poor and can be skipped at NO LOSS at all).

Neither author wrote about HK per se, but both have given me ideas that I use when I try to figure out HK and my home societies.

The Matthews Lui book was great. I haven't read Rooney's revised dissertation yet, only that chapter.


Thanks for the further thoughts, SKMama, and don't worry about my fun!

Seriously, I think I'm moving in the opposite direction. I guess I used to score pretty high on the earnestness scale, but now I find myself amused by sci-fi TV series (the new and improved Battlestar Galactica, anyone?) and Michael Crichton books. I don't know if it's being the parent of a preschooler, or just incipient mid-life crisis/male menopause.

The bit from Bourdieu I recall best was his explanation of cultural capital. It's definitely a useful concept, and it's an improvement over Marx's narrow definition, as I mentioned. But although B does a better job fleshing out the characters, it seemed to me the story he's telling still pretty much follows the Marxist plot: (cultural) capital is concentrated in the hands of a few; it works to reproduce itself in all sorts of insidious ways (e.g. education, both formal and informal); and the world would be a better place if that capital were (by statist compulsion? by revolution?) redistributed. I found particularly creepy his critique of the transmission of cultural capital within families: listen, Pierre -- you just stay out my home, and I'll stay out of yours, okay?

Anyway, thanks again for the intelligent comments, and for the tips on the additional reading. I'm not familiar with Mary Douglas, but will have a look.

Vandalism in HK?

Well, there is certainly more non-commercial graffiti than there was in the early 1990s. I sometimes walk to church through the service alleys of Kowloon Tong and I've noticed an increase in spray painted names and so forth. You can also see it in some parts of Sai Kung.

I think that the socio-cultural explanation may also be on target.

There is a greater degree of surveillance at all times. For example, almost all apartment buildings of over 3 stories have a "guard". It might just be an old guy who hangs out, listens to the radio, and gossips w/ passers-by, but he's there and if you want to spray paint the front hallway, you will be noticed.

At Ping Shek estate & Choi Hung (the public housing estates I am most familar with) there are security guards at entrances for cars & also some in the foyers of the buildings. Also surveillance cameras.

There are a lot of fences... high ones, with razor wire. My daughter once went to a local government funded girls school. It had very high fences and security guards. In the public elementary school I went to in Cambridge Mass. (so many years ago...) there was a fence (mainly seemed to exist to keep balls from bouncing into neighboring buildings) but no razor wire and it was never locked.

* Not as large a proportion of the youth population regularky get stinking drunk and & prone to do stupid pointless things.

* Vandalism is "mou yung" - energy spent for nothing. If you're going to risk getting in trouble for splashing paint around, you might as well be paid to do it by a loan shark

* ? Different tradition of gang membership territory marking??? In placed in the USA, I think gangs use graffiti to mark their area. In HK do they do it differently?

But, if you consider pollution and littering to be a form of vandalism, then HK certainly has its problems.

Also, can you ever forget the old TV publics ervice announcement about not throwing your large appliances (TV I think it was) out the window?

Broken windows

MrB, thanks for the excellent comments. I have to say that this lack of disorder is one of the chief reasons I find HK so livable. When I go back to the USA, and visit cities there, I'm just reminded by how much worse it can be. And this is after a decade or more of sharp improvement in public order/crime statistics in many US cities.

In the USA, especially in New York City, much of the improvements have been attributed to the 'broken windows' theory of policing orginally proposed by sociologist James Q Wilson. In essence, Wilson says that tolerating a lot of petty crimes like vandalism degrades the sense of public order, which leads to an atmosphere in which bigger crimes are more likely to be committed. It seems to me that simply having lots and lots of people around serves the same purpose, almost by default. Only the most crazed or persistent graffiti artist will practice his 'art' on the streets of Mongkok!


Well, sure enough -- this past Saturday the Talls had a little outing to Stanley, and we decided to take the #40 minibus from Causeway Bay. So we took the MTR to CB station, exited through Times Square, then crossed Russell Street to walk through a passageway between the buildings that leads to the street with the #40 terminus. And on the walls of the buildings lining that passageway? Of course: solid graffiti!

Ah well, I watched a thoroughly stirring episode of Battlestar Galactice later on . . . .

I've also noticed some graffiti around Tseung Kwan O recently, but at least half of it seems to be the work of the same vandal: there's a sort of stylized character he (or she, I suppose) puts up all over the place.

Cultural capital

Hi Mr. T,

Yes, his work does follow what you might call the Marxist narrative (capital in hands of few, some people try to hold onto it & others try to get it). But then, isn't that just the basic story of economics and sociology? Or, another version of primate social dynamics (who grooms whom? Who shares food with whom? Who mates with whom?)

It's interesting to look and see the mechanisms of how the transfer of social and cultural capital work. For example, in the sociology dept. I was in, people were very interested in social networks & what people call "network capital" as a way to look at the formation and development of "guanxi".

Or, when we consider the cachet of the "good schools" in HK, what are the parents doing? Trying to accumulate and transfer some cultural and social capital to their kids. Same things w/ the craziness of all the extra-curricular activities.

And is working for or trying to re-distribute cultural capital that bad a thing? I mean, one could see the institution of government funded compulsory primary education in Hong Kong in the 1970s as a "statist intervention and attempt to re-distribute cultural capital among the have-nots in HK", and I'd say "Yeah, and a good thing too!" :)

When I look at his discussion of how cultural capital is transmitted in families, I see don't see it as creepy, to me it looks like the truth. I mean, I was read stories by my parents, taken to museums, taught to appreciate some of the basics of the "classical" repetoire, etc. like the good daughter of the haut-bourgeoisie/intelligentsia that I am, and I am doing the same w/ my kids. It's much easier for me than it is for some of my neighbors who accumulated their own economic capital, have much less cultural capital than me, and now are trying to accumulate some cultural capital for their kids.

I never got the sense when I was reading his work that he would recommend "NON, skmama, you should not read aloud novels to your children and borrow books on Renoir from the library for them and teach them to listen to Purcell. In the interest of creating a better world you should let them watch more TV, play game-boy, and listen to more Canto-pop and Britney Spears!"

King of Kowloon

"Only the most crazed or persistent graffiti artist will practice his 'art' on the streets of Mongkok!"

Yeah, remember the old "King of Kowloon", defines him perfectly - crazed and persistent.

A couple more links . . . .

Here are a couple of additional links/recommendations for further reading I feel embarrassed to have omitted when I posted this article.

The first is Michael Blowhard's own short and extremely helpful introduction to Jane Jacobs and her work.

The second, if you have any interest whatever in architecture or urban planning, is to read Tom Wolfe's hilarious takedown of Le Corbusier, the Bauhaus gang, and their modernist/post-modernist successors From Bauhaus to Our House. If you've not read Wolfe before, you're in for a treat. His manic, irreverent style rubs some people the wrong way, but I find him entertaining and informative. As a critic of modern architecture, he's like Bart Simpson to Jane Jacobs' Lisa.

Wolfe is a satirist, so he makes few attempts to be balanced or fair. If you want to accuse him of tarring all modernist architects with the same crude brush, go ahead: you'll score your point. But it's better to read this book as an antidote to the humorlessness and arrogance of much of the previous century's architecture and urban planning. One look at the glum exterior of a typical modernist public housing project, whether in Hong Kong or New York or Berlin, will assure you many of Wolfe's jibes are deserved.

King of Kowloon

Thanks for those great links, SKMama -- I'd remembered him vaguely, but you've found the goods!

More on Bourdieu

Well, SKMama, you're clearly transcending (or falling from?) earnestness and achieving hilarity. I laughed out loud at your last paragraph!

In answer to your question, yes! I do think efforts to 're-distribute' cultural capital are counterproductive. And although public schools are indeed a statist intervention, to me they're (at least mostly) an attempt to create more cultural capital, not to compel redistribution. Whether state schools are the most efficient means of so doing is another question. But anyway, the production of cultural capital isn't a zero-sum game any more than economic capital is, wouldn't you agree?

Bourdieu himself might not object to the Purcellization of your offspring. And he might not even object to their being asked to listen to Purcell in schools -- I don't know enough about him to say.

What I worry more about is the way many contemporary education thinkers use critiques like Bourdieu's to attack any accumulations of 'bourgeois' cultural capital among some children since 'it's just not fair!' that other kids don't get the same advantages at home. Rather than try to create the conditions for the production of more cultural capital -- a strenuous task, admittedly -- they take one (or sometimes both) of two tacks. Either they relabel Britney's ouvre as just 'another form' of cultural capital, and let students study her instead; or they reduce learning and acculturation to exercises in power relations, i.e. they use the classroom to try to reignite the 'revolutionary' passions of the late 60s, thereby trying to refight long-lost politico-economic battles on a new battlefield, with fresh little soldiers.

Anyway, great tie-in, i.e. cultural capital with the whole HK-schools-arms-race. It certainly makes sense, and I hope we can talk more about it.

Hey Mr. T,

Hey Mr. T,

I don't think anything I've read by Bourdieu indicates that he thinks that bourgeois kids should not be allowed to develop their cultural capital, or that some children should be deprived of cello lessons, visits to museums, etc. As you say, it's not a zero sum game.

...though, thinking about it, what you describe sounds very much like the 1961 Kurt Vonnegut short story, Harrison Bergeron where anyone with a talent is given a handicap in the interest of equality.

Instead, I think he is more interested considering in why some things become associated w/ the upper classes and have more purchase (so to speak) in different cultural groups.

Why do some people spurn a certain type of food as effete, too fancy, won't put meat on your bones, while another group of people say another type of food is vulgar, coarse, and common? And then why does the pendulum sometimes swing from one to another, like white flour bread or brown rice?

Or, why was cognac the big drink to show off in Hong Kong in the 1980s and early 1990s (remember the silly ads) but now HK people now use red wine to demonstrate their status?

I don't think any scholar I've read or come into contact with tries to reduce acculturation and learning purely to issues of power relations. That would be silly. What authors are you thinking about, people who've read Paulo Freire the wrong way? :)

The thing about cultural capital and the Great Hong Kong Educational Arms Race... I remember a couple of years ago, just after I read "Distinction" and there was an ad in some local paper (or maybe it was on the MTR) for a new housing development. In a very "European" style setting, they showed the happy mother and father and I think the daughter in a tutu and the boy holding a cello. And I looked at it and thought, "Aha! Trying to appeal to people who are in the process of developing their cultural capital". :)

Anyway, it is fun to talk about things like this and I'm glad I am capable of transcending my earnestness and reach hilarity from time to time.

Farewell, Jane Jacobs

I learned today that Jane Jacobs has died, at age 89. The Washington Post's obituary is here.

Interesting Comparison to Jane Jacobs & computer networking

Lawrence Lessig's tribute to Jane Jacobs, that compares her work on good urban design to good computer network and application designs.

Another interesting urban planning article

This article from The American Enterprise magazine is about 'sprawl', but it touches on most of themes we've been discussing in this thread. Of particular interest is the author's assertion that sprawl is an inevitable function of affluence, and that opposition to it is essentially class-based. It'll be interesting to see how this works out in Hong Kong as incomes continue to grow here. Will sprawl be essentially upwards, i.e. 50-60 story towers instead of 20-30 stories, or will pressure on the government to release more land for building lower-density housing continue to increase?

Well, knowing Hong Kong, the

Well, knowing Hong Kong, the government will probably reclaim more land and build large estates on superblocks somewhere in the suburban fringe, similar to Tuen Mun, Shatin and most recently Tseung Kwan O. When Tseung Kwan O gets built out, the government will just reclaim some more land, lay down some rail, and let the developers do their thing. If not by reclamtion, then the extra land will have to come from currently protected areas.

How about the container ports?

Maybe the extra land can come from the reclaimed areas currently used to process and store containers? As the nearby container ports in southern China continue to expand, it's not hard to forsee a time when Hong Kong will need a lot less container handling facilities. It will make a change to see some local dockland developments replace the adverts about London Docklands developments that appear in the local newspapers.


Town planning in HK

I'm a Town Planning Student and I found this thread extremely interesting+educational. I was watching a Town planning related programme on TV last night and one thing struck me. Will HK eventually loose its own identity if we keep on building over old things? Will HK became a totally random Asian city that's just the same as any other cities in the world. Our "landmarks" are those extreeeeemely tall buildings and when people think about HK, they'll think about a city thats packed with people and sky scrapers. But is this REEEEALLY HK? I'm really worried that one day HK will build over all its old and historical biuldings because we have to accomadate more people.

BTW, very nice website, I spent the whole night reading the articles~

town planning links

I've been coming across a number of town planning/urban architecture resources of late, and wanted to pass a couple along. I've chosen ones that all address the vexing question: urban density: good, bad or what, already?

The first is an article from The Atlantic magazine that suggests there's a trend developing in the USA: people moving back in to the cities, and out of suburbia. The author owes a an obvious debt to Jane Jacobs, but never mentions her, unfortunately.

The second is a talk from that 'TED' series that MrB has linked in the past (although the hat tip for this one goes to the ever-excellent 2Blowhards boys). The speaker is James Kunstler, an outspoken critic of modern architecture and urban planning. I find his speaking style quite braying and not very fluent -- and watch out for the measured use of a naughty word in this talk -- but his content and examples are excellent, and he works in some pretty funny and effective one-liners. Anyway, here you go: