Fresh ideas about design
This April, I found myself traveling to Hong Kong on vacation with virtually no idea of what to expect. My brother has been living there for about a year and invited me to visit. So I grabbed my camera and blindly hopped on the plane for a 16-hour flight.
My brother’s apartment is in the Central neighborhood of Hong Kong, which I’d equate to Manhattan. It is teeming with shops and clubs, populated by young attractive, wealthy people. This was where the parties could be found, and where the headquarters of major banks are situated—a very energetic and grand place where you can almost walk across the city without ever stepping foot outside.
To understand the complexity of the city, one needs to know that it was once a British colonial port city (which explains all the British ex-pats), and that it is now home to just about the same population of New York City, but with much less land to build on. Real estate costs here are known to be the highest in the world. It has a vertically stretched feel—with skyscrapers squeezed into the considerably beautiful and mountainous terrain.
The most impactful memory of a single space that I was able to experience during my time in Hong Kong was the outdoor covered escalator that literally crosses the entire Central district in some dozen sections or so. My brother’s apartment was situated directly adjacent to this, so every day I was able to interact with this ever-moving piece of the landscape. The escalator is flanked by walkways as it snakes its way uphill through this busy neighborhood, combining an old cobblestone street with an escalator; a sort of one-way pedestrian highway with local lanes in either direction.
Deciphering this one piece of the larger machine allowed me to start to understand Hong Kong as a place. It took some of the more complex ideas about the infrastructure, organization, even social hierarchy of Hong Kong and made them more digestible.
I also took a day trip to Macau. Once a Portuguese colonial port city, Macau has since become a bulwark of the world-wide gambling economy, but has maintained some of its historical character via “the old city.” Turn of the century buildings give Macau a vaguely Havana-esque character. The historic buildings seem to range from the late 1800’s through the modernist era. Hidden away behind a veil of giant casinos, this architecture seems terribly out of place; but in a way it creates a bright and ornate oasis of culturally and historically significant architecture.
A week in any location only allows you to scratch the surface of what a place really is. Waking up as early as possible and staying up as late as possible allowed me to see more of these cities. Seeing how a single space is activated by different people, or seeing the transition of a space from night to day, really is a great way to understand the character of a place.
Sam Kriegler is a graduate of the Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture and an architectural designer at Strada. He is also a talented woodworker whose inventive designs range from custom furniture to installation art.
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