Feautured Imagine Source: Ian Lambot, Under Creative Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KWC_-_1989_Aerial.jpg
Kowloon Walled City was slum settlement in Hong Kong that stood until April 1994. Kowloon Walled City was, until it was torn down, the densest place in the world with an estimated 33,000 people living within its walls. Kowloon’s history and how it came to be is both strange and interesting, the Wall Street Journal has a very interesting piece on it if you want more information on it. This piece is going to focus on what Kowloon meant and means for architects.
Kowloon has always been a touchy subject for architects. Should it be seen as an interesting way to look at architecture, city structures and to be seen as a ‘natural’ phenomenon that architects can study and learn from?
or should it be seen as a slum, as a horrible period in history and try and make sure people never have to live like that again.
I think that architects have to some extent fictionalized the place. The city has almost turned into an ant farm, seeing not people and their suffering but rather the intricate workings of all these people and how they interact with their environment. Slums and favelas are often studied in this way. There is nothing wrong with this kind of research, it can indeed tell us a lot about how we can more efficiently use space, water and power. But I think that Kowloon was not only studied it was put on a pedal stool. Look how interesting this is, these people built such an interesting little world. It was not only studied it became a fairy tale and the human suffering was left as a cliff note.
I think that this is something that happens often in an architectural study of one’s surroundings. Architecture needs, and for good reason I might add, to focus on the structures, the mechanics and the materials. And Kowloon and many other ‘organic’ settlements can give an interesting perspective and even new solutions to the problems that face architects every day. But the human scale can and must not be forgotten otherwise who are we as architects putting all this effort in for?