Photographing some of the densest housing on earth in Hong Kong

Check out a few photos of the dense high rises in Hong Kong:

As one of the most densely populated regions in the world, Hong Kong boasts not only the number one spot on Forbes’ list of escalating real estate markets, but also some of the most packed housing towers on Earth (at least one of which includes an honest-to-goodness 16.4-square-foot apartment). Captivated by these tightly crammed stacked cities, of sorts, German-born photographer Michael Wolf created tapestry-like shots of the residential buildings, cropping context to make the scope of each photo seem all the more mind-bending. In Hong Kong, architecture is “driven by function, not form and one tower block can only be distinguished from the next by the bold colour schemes of its façade,” he says, which means each piece in his Architecture of Density series, published earlier this year in a book by the same name, is pattern-driven and geometric; it’s so reminiscent of computer code that the human element nearly disappears altogether.

It would be interesting to see how people react to these pictures and these building designs. The headline to the story suggests these buildings are “sterile” but I could imagine other reactions: there is an order (and perhaps even some symmetry) to these structures; these buildings are stark and devoid of character; perhaps the buildings have to be this way to squeeze in so many people. Of course, these buildings don’t have to look this way; ornamentation doesn’t necessarily limit density. But, these buildings are the product of a particular era, context, and purpose.

Here is some more from the London School of Economics on Hong Kong’s density and the architecture and planning that has gone into it:

The urban area of Hong Kong has the highest population and employment density in the world. Measured at block level, some areas may have population densities of more than 400,000 people per square kilometre. As of 2011, there are seven million people for its 1,068 square kilometres (412 square miles) of land. However, more than 75 per cent of this land comprises no-built-up areas. The high concentration of people in just a few square kilometres is due partly to the fact that new town development did not take place until well into the 1970s and therefore most of the population (which had experienced a post-war boom in the 1950s) had to be accommodated in the main urban area along the waterfront of the Victoria Harbour on Hong Kong Island. The high price of land in Hong Kong also contributes to its high-density development…

Over the past few years, Hong Kong has developed the following planning, design and management measures to continue improving its high-rise living environments:

External environment of buildings
1) Better planning and design so that buildings are positioned further apart and have more open space;
2) Improved transport management by prioritising the development of mass transit and focusing on pedestrian movement in order to keep traffic congestion in check;
3) Creation of space by fully utilising the already-existing areas within buildings, such as roof tops and podiums, and transforming them into community and recreational spaces;
4) A trend towards large-scale property developments, which allows a greater consolidation of space in order to provide community facilities and ease of movement between locales;
5) The use of new building technology and materials to break the monotony of a district, while outdoor escalators facilitate the movement of pedestrians; and
6) Public education campaigns to encourage people to contribute to maintaining a clean environment.

All of this makes for quite a sight, even compared to the density of Manhattan.

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