The Abandoned Buildings of Hong Kong
It may come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with Hong Kong’s less glamorous side, but the city isn’t all shiny new skyscrapers and bustling humanity. In this city of constant renewal, where land is money and money is everything, not everything conforms to the development free-for-all that seems to be the status quo.
It sometimes seems in Hong Kong that buildings are treated like any other commodity. Once they’ve passed their usefulness or are seen to stand in the way of something bigger, taller and more commercially viable being built in their place, more often than not they’re simply torn down to make way for something new. But while old neighbourhoods are demolished and new shopping malls spring up all over the territory, all in name of urban renewal, there are still plenty of places that have eluded the developers’ gaze.
There are abandoned buildings and derelict structures all over Hong Kong, and not just way out in the relative wilderness of the New Territories. In fact, most of the pictures here were taken on Hong Kong Island. There are overgrown military sites and abandoned villages; deserted playgrounds and other curious places. It’s what I love most about the city – at first glance, all shiny new and high-rise, but look a little closer, leave the well-trod path behind, and you can find reminders of the city’s brief but eventful history all over the landscape.
With over one hundred years of development and redevelopment, of buildings built and rebuilt as the city has grown, it’s maybe inevitable that not everything has been swept away with the changing times. The hills above Central and Wanchai, for instance, are full of crumbling paths that lead to nowhere, of staircases that maybe once led to fancy mansions but have since fallen away to nothing.
There are also countless remnants from the Hong Kong’s war years, both in the city and the hills surrounding it. From anti-aircraft batteries and trenches, to pillboxes and tunnels, all sorts of interesting structures can be discovered in various stages of decay. Most of the sites are in a pretty sorry state. Neglected and left to the undergrowth to do what it will, they will eventually crumble and be buried as another part of Hong Kong’s heritage is allowed to disappear forever. But was there ever any other way it could have gone?
In our city of safe slopes and cross-harbour tunnels, these are the places that nature has reclaimed. They are the hidden sites that prove that, however much we think we’ve tamed it, nature never allows itself to stay banished for long. Safe in the cities that we built to protect us, we are still only tenants on someone else’s land. The jungle may have been usurped by concrete, but you can be assured it’s only temporary.