The big squeeze: Hong Kong’s high density homes

In the last 12 months, Hong Kong has been a property market on the up. Prices surged by 23.6 per cent in 2012 , according to Knight Frank, outstripping every other market in the world.

For billionaires, Hong Kong’s prime real estate has been a safe haven, with values ranking the highest in the world.

But while the market has been flying high for investors, things are very different at the lower end of the ladder.

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Indeed, a report by the Society for Community Organisation (SoCO) earlier this year revealed the cramped conditions for Hong Kong’s poorer residents, with families forced to share double beds in micro apartments.

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Indeed, a report by the Society for Community Organisation (SoCO) earlier this year revealed the cramped conditions for Hong Kong’s poorer residents, with families forced to share double beds in micro apartments. Some shocking pictures, taken from overhead, revealed the size of the homes in the districts of Sham Shui Po, Yau Tsim Mong and Kowloon City.

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But now, Michael Wolf has revealed the sheer scale of the problem. High-rise buildings fill the Hong Kong skyline, the only way to house the population of 7 million within Hong Kong’s limited 424 square miles. From a distance, you can barely even tell they are houses.

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The photos, taken between 2003 and 2007 as part of his visual essay Architecture of Density , turn the horror into a tapestry of cruel beauty, a maze of squashed colours and lines – with the occasional piece of dirty laundry hanging out of a window.

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“Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities on the planet with most of its population living in skyscraping, concrete tower blocks,” wrote Wolf in an artist statement . “The city’s architecture is driven by function, not form, and one tower block can only be distinguished from the next by the bold colour schemes of its façade.”

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“This Hong Kong with neither ground nor sky becomes an imagined, symbolic city, where density is pushed to its limits. Although this city is all but deserted, these images act like cross-sections of an urban anthill, encouraging the viewer to wonder about the thousands of lives contained within these structures.”

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The stunning pictures follow announcements from New York that more micro apartments will be built in the city.

The innovative designs, which span a maximum of 400 square feet, aim to house as many people as possible within Manhattan’s limited living space. 55 similar units were announced last year for New York’s East side, with 40 per cent available to low- and middle-income locals.

Mayor Bloomberg commented : “New York’s ability to adapt with changing times is what made us the world’s greatest city – and it’s going to be what keeps us strong in the 21st Century.

“The growth rate for one- and two-person households greatly exceeds that of households with three or more people, and addressing that housing challenge requires us to think creatively and beyond our current regulations.”

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With cities around the world struggling to cope with housing shortages, Michael Wolf’s tragic, yet jaw-dropping, images are a stark reminder than high-density living may not always be a good thing.

 

All photos courtesy of Michael Wolf .

 

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