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Kowloon Walled City (wikipedia.org)
90 points by Chickenality on Dec 21, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 25 comments

Fascinating every time I read about it. Found a nice infographic: http://2oqz471sa19h3vbwa53m33yj.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-c...

Thanks for sharing this infographic. Today is the first time I've ever heard about Kowloon Walled City. I was immediately intrigued, because it looks like something out of science fiction. It reminds me of just how breathtakingly diverse the human experience can be.

Its the other way around, science fiction drew inspiration from Kowloon. For example Ghost in the Shell is set in a straight copy of mid nineties Hong Kong.


Some scenes can even be traced shot for shot with real locations, including unreal Kai Yak airport landing approach over kowloon https://vimeo.com/33731256

I first heard about it in a cyberpunk video game, Shadowrun: Hong Kong, and learned today that it is real. It felt like truly something out of science fiction back when I was playing the game.

Even better one IMO that yours reminded me of:


It's from this book:


And this seems to be the source of the infographic you found (the artist is Adolfo Arranz):


Also known as the city of darkness: http://cityofdarkness.co.uk/

William Gibson visited the city and described it in his 1997 work, Idoru:

"There was a place near an airport, Kowloon, when Hong Kong wasn't China, but there had been a mistake, a long time ago, and that place, very small, many people, it still belonged to China. So there was no law there. An outlaw place. And more and more people crowded in; they built it up, higher. No rules, just building, just people living. Police wouldn't go there. Drugs and whores and gambling. But people living, too. Factories, restaurants. A city. No laws."

I was lucky enough to get my hands on the first edition of City Of Darkness before it became pricey, I heartily recommend that book.

The "no laws and/or regulations in KWC" is a bit of a myth though, HK police began patrolling the place in the early 70s, plus despite its legal status it benefited from HK's infrastructure, such as postal services or the electric grid. It was lawless mostly in its number of unlicensed dentists.

Like the 'appearance in creative works' section points out, it's a popular inspiration for stories and games with a bit of an anarchistic streak. Gibson's Bridge trilogy and Shadowrun: Hong Kong used it in their settings, and you can see why. It's a natural fit for Cyberpunk; heck, it was more or less a manifestation of the genre.

But ... it didn't actually work all that well, did it? It was a huge slum, which plenty of cities have. It was just unique in its small urban footprint.

Mildly-related: HK[0] is an in-dev videogame about a cat in a not-Kowloon-but-similar walled city.

0: https://hk-devblog.com/2015/10/07/first-step/

This looks fantastic!

You can see something similar in Caracas, Venezuela, where people live in unfinished skyscrapers. There's no lifts nor official electricity and there are grocery shops every nth floor with prices growing as everything is delivered on foot.

I first heard about it on 99% invisible https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/episode-66-kowloon-wa.... I recommend it if you have 15mins.

Kowloon Walled City documentary - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lby9P3ms11w

The beginning of Bloodsport actually has some nice footage of Kowloon as well

Who says video games can’t be educational? I first learned about the Kowloon Walled City from the Call of Duty: Black Ops map. I was fascinated with exploring the map of a dystopian future resulting from poor social policies. Chicken coops twelve stories up, hole-the-wall convenience stores and makeshift restaurants. And for some reason the map designers put it next to an airport, so there airliners flying right above your head. What? This place actually exists? Man, what a Wikipedia rabbit hole that turned out to be.

I’m kind of sad to see it gone because it was like having a small version of Blade Runner in our time. But more important, actual humans lived there, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

There’s an excellent episode of the 99percent invisible podcast about Kowloon, which was the first time I heard about it. Would recommend a listen (and the podcast as a whole) https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/episode-66-kowloon-wa...

I love Kowloon because it feels very r/outrun. I'm sure actually living there probably sucked though.

Just for the record 'Kowloon Walled City' (now a pleasant public park) was a few blocks contained within Kowloon, the name for the part of Hong Kong on the mainland directly across from the Island ... Kowloon is very much alive and kicking and a vibrant city

Yeah, last year my gf and I were in HK and we went over to that side of the water. Being a good internet denizen, I'd seen the walled city pop up several times. I couldn't get it out of my head as we walked through that lovely park. What a wild transformation :)

For those fascinated with Kowloon there is an arcade, the Kawasaky Warehouse in Japan [1], whose interiors are inspired to the Walled City. It's on my personal list of places to visit for a future travel to Japan. From the pictures/videos it looks quite cool and it seems to give a rough idea of what Kowloon looked like.

[1] https://en.japantravel.com/kanagawa/kawasaki-warehouse/6714

Also the namesake of a really good bay area metal band https://kowloonwalledcity.bandcamp.com/

While not explicitly mentioned (at least from cursory searches), the manga "Koroshiya Ichi" is based on a dense complex very much inspired by Kowloon where it's basically a lawless city where criminals, triads, prostitutes lived amongst the downtrodden and regular people who are just trying to carry on with their lives.


the WSJ did an incredibly cool project on Kowloon Walled City some years ago, this was shared on HN and it's one of the nicest websites on the topic I've seen.


Can someone please explain the psychology behind liking this kinda stuff? I've probably watched that Austrian Kowloon documentary a handful of times.

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