USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Unused space: What a Waste?

The adventure thus far: Tokyo – Sendai – Yokohama – Kyoto – Seoul – Hong Kong.  Although each of these cities has unique characteristics, three specific locations have been more prominent in their urbanistic ideas: Tokyo, Seoul, and Hong Kong.  These three locations are fundamental cities to our urban quest throughout Asia, with relationships and distinctions becoming apparent in each of the cities.  While some of the cities do not have many evident relationships, I think all relate to each other in some way, be it architecturally, urbanistically, culturally, or all of the above.  As I sink myself into Hong Kong, I am becoming aware of the similarities that occur between this city and that of Tokyo.

Arriving in Hong Kong was hugely overwhelming!  Residential towers that are look as if they are grazing, skyscrapers that go on for miles, and an atmosphere that allows people to perceive it as a never-sleeping city, one could only imagine the visual overload that happens when stepping foot into this city.  The first (and most obvious) aspect of Hong Kong I saw was the extreme density.  This was not similar to the density in Tokyo, however.  Solely through looking out the window on the bus ride from the airport to Hong Kong Island, the buildings seem to be never-ending – neither vertically nor horizontally.

During these first few hours of becoming acquainted with this tremendous density of not the most aesthetically pleasing buildings, the article we read, “Made in Tokyo”, came to mind.  This article asserts, “In such a situation, then suddenly architectural design holds no interest anymore; the future appears depressing.  If we can’t try to turn ‘disgusting’ buildings into resources, then there is no reason to particularly stay in Tokyo.  Shamelessness can become useful, so let’s start by considering that these shameless buildings are not collapsible into the concept of ‘chaos’, but are in fact an intricate reporting of the concrete urban situation.”  I thought this quotation was relevant to the architectural circumstances in Hong Kong at first glance.  The residential towers and even many of the additional buildings are not “designed” or visually satisfying which presents chaotic scenery, whilst also expressing the “concrete urban situation,” in terms of the necessary abundance of housing structures.

While Tokyo’s density occurs virtually all over the city, the density in Hong Kong occurs almost in sudden eruptions.  For example, I will see an area that looks impenetrable due to the buildings, while right next to this mass of buildings is beautiful, lush, green scenery, completely contradicting these high density areas.  As we found out today during a lecture with Laurence Wie-wu Liauw from Hong Kong University, 75 % of Hong Kong is currently devoted to greenery.  I found this especially shocking, since upon arrival in Hong Kong, it looks as if it is five times the density of Tokyo.  The preservation of green space is extremely important here, as the conservation of green space is continually regulated by the government.  This forces the extreme density that is surrounding the greenery. The proximity between buildings, the height of skyscrapers, and the herds of people put off a façade that the density is enormous.  It is not until one begins to dive into Hong Kong more fully, that he or she can really come to terms with the actual density in Hong Kong as a whole.



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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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