San Francisco on Steroid

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When I was living in San Fran, I could really feel I was living in a city of hills and valleys. I was quite amazed that people decided to build a city on these hills. The longer I thought about that, I started to realise that I grew up in the North District in Hong Kong which is an area of hills too. But somehow I never really noticed the hills, why is that?

Well, in San Fran, I actually “see” the hills every day, but in Hong Kong, the hills are blocked by the super tall buildings. These buildings form layers of walls and totally block the view to the hills. You can totally understand that what I mean from the photo above taken from my window. I live on the 18th floor already and still I don’t see much of the hills! I guess there should be a height limit set for the buildings and the buildings should be placed on a grid so people can have a view when they look in between the buildings.

sheung shui, hong kong – jun 30, 2013

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Budget Infrastructure in Hong Kong – A Classic Pedestrian “Freeway”

This colonial-era-built pedestrian “freeway” including the “exit ramp” is a splendid and abstract example representing First Great American Architect Louis Sullivan’s “Form follows function” and International Style Superstar Mies van der Rohe’s “Less is More”. But somehow this “freeway” doesn’t look as exciting as it sounds. “Form follows function” becomes “Budget follows function” and “Form follows budget”; “Less is more” ends up as “Less is that?”.

Yes, this “freeway” has indeed helped move lots of people crossing the streets. But this kind of “budget infrastructure” is so unfitted for a city now so-called “one of the most beautiful cities in the world”, “pearl of the east”, “world class metropolitan city just like London and Paris”, “best asian city’ or “bla bla bla city”. While the government is spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars on a new headquarter that forbids its taxpayers from going in, little is spent on things that million others use every day. Oh wow, that’s what happens in a non-democratic society sometimes…

pedestrian freeway in luen wo hui, fanling, north district, hong kong – 6:25pm, jul 22, 2012

Seeing History of Fanling’s Founding Villages from the Sky

aerial views looking from left to right

Recently I have been exploring the ancient villages (about 200-500 years old) in Sheung Shui and Fanling to educate myself the history and development of my hometown. I have walked the historic trail, seen the walled castle-like villages and photographed two of the biggest-and-finest ancestral halls. Just when I thought I did it all, I discovered that there is even a cooler way to do that – seeing it from the sky!

At 1000 feet in the sky, I can clearly see that the original villages were built along the foot of the hills along the Ng Tung river (River Indus). This settlement pattern best illustrates the basic principles of Feng Shui – hills sheltering the villages from the elements while river providing water for farming and fertility. San Uk Tsuen (literally meaning New Village) at the center in the first picture actually has an artificial pond in the foreground for enhanced Feng Shui. I never noticed the pond until I looked at the village from the sky.

The founding family of Tang clan settled and built the first walled village at the northeast part of the River Indus. When the village became over-populated, they built another village along the river in close proximity. In the past five centuries, the villages, walled or un-walled, spread out along the river like water flowing down the stream. The prosperity of the clan is believed to be a blessing from the good Feng Shui.

One very interesting observation is that all these little houses in the villages are arranged in grid, like a Roman settlement. But these different grids were rotated and placed according to the curves of the river and the hills. It must have been a really amazing experience wandering from one village to another along these majestic hills back in the days. Let’s hope that this landscape and Feng Shui can be well preserved and protected.

lung yeuk tau historic trail, fanling, north district, hong kong – 6:29pm, jul 1, 2012

Another Condemned Historic “Crap” in Hong Kong


Shek Wu Hui Sewage Pumping Station, before

before

after

This local sewage pumping station cannot be considered an architectural masterpiece when compared with like the Grand Central Station in NYC or the Union Station in Chicago. But it certainly meant quite a big deal to the people in this small town of Shek Wu Hui (literally meaning a market with a pond of water bounded by a stone wall) when it was built around 1940s.

The station was probably the first modern sewage pumping station they ever had. And architecturally, this building must seem pretty foreign or alien to them at that time – a little building with no decoration of any kind except some small holes of simple rectangular forms, looking totally functional. It was a product of the Bauhaus and early International Style. The very lean and light name tag (signage) on the front was done strictly in the Bauhaus fashion. The form of the building carried no bullshit but truth to its function.

What about the inside though? Sadly I have no idea! It was never open to the public when it was in use. And then it was close When it retired. People in general here are not encouraged to be curious about their neighborhood. Now the station was blown up and a new shopping center and high-rise will be built.

Honestly I do not really think the station was ever condemned a piece of historic “crap”. I believe most people just do not have the knowledge to understand that this station is a valuable asset to the history and development of the market (Hui). It carries a collective memory that the station itself has to be physically present to sustain this memory. The land belonged to the government, and it should have never been auctioned out to real estate developers because it belonged to the people.

Well what could have been done with this retired station? I was watching this program on TV called “Museums of the World” and in it I learned that every building should have a story to tell. This pumping station presented a unique opportunity to create the first historical museum from a former sewage pumping station. It could have composed a very compelling story for its past and future existence. Oh wow, it is all too late. A clear has been made between local heritage and shopping center.

former shek wu hui sewage pumping station, shek wu hui, sheung shui, north district, hong kong – 10:43am, may 6, 2007 / 2:51pm, apr 17, 2012