Today, Hong-Hong is one of the biggest cities in the world influenced by social, political and economic changes affected this land. Urbanization and migrancy are the main factors influenced its architectural development and transformations. The geographical spread of the areas now opened to the world’s trade thus replicated the range of treaty ports at the peak of their growth in the late 20th century. This process is influenced by historical development of Hong-Kong and its key position in the world’s economy. Thesis Urbanization and architectural transformation in Hong-Kong can be seen as a part of the global economic changes, thus marked by gentrification, indifference and ‘anamorphosis’.
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Argument Architectural innovations in Hong-Kong eroded its unique beauty and authenticity but did not turn Hong-Kong into a real mega city.
Using example of architecture and urbanization, Abbas unveils such processes as gentrification and sedentarization. Historically, many buildings and areas were owned by businessmen and wealthy citizens, the city and its institutions. Today, everything has been changed causing indifference and gentrification as a part of global cultural transformations. Abbas underlines that there would be no return to the world of special privileges and exploitation that marked that period of arrogance. Abbas uses examples of the most famous buildings in Hong-Kong contrasting their historical significance and values with current state and usage. Abbas claims that “At one level, this quotation’ from Hong Kong’ s architectural history is the expression of a sense of historical moment, … But at another level this history’ is no more than decorative” (Abbas, pp. 191-192). Even if Hong-Kong is not yet a modern economic capital in the sense of permitting true pluralism, freedom of conscience and belief, or valid legal protections, it is still undergoing astonishing changes in the city. In architecture, automobile traffic, storefront displays, advertising, and the range of permitted dress, all of which give an appearance of modernity.
The most important is that Hong-Kong cannot be called a real mega city because of architectural discrepancies and brutality. In this ambiance of heightened foreign visibility, and growing international interconnections, Hong-Kong sought to have its new-found self-identity as an emerging great power ratified in some dramatic way. The end of the 20th century marked a symbolic and literal entry into the new millennium that would prove conclusively that Hong-Kong had arrived. To this end, the government conducted an energetic and at times flagrant lobbying program with all the major national delegations that would have the final say in the selection process. Hong-Kong’s businessmen are themselves becoming world-class competitors in many spheres. In addition, with the successful hosting, Hong-Kong has demonstrated the ability to construct top-level sports facilities, and provide adequate hotels and communications. I agree with Abbas that “he local is preserved, but in the process becomes dislocated. Gentrification here means not just a general upgrading, a rise in class; it means essentially a specific appropriation and infiltration by an elsewhere of the local” (Abbas, p. 195). It is important to note that Hong-Kong invested much emotional and real capital in a favorable outcome, but it is a “way of selective exclusion” rather then a careful planning and transformations. Hong-Kong have traditionally placed high value on frugality and savings, seeing virtue in austerity and plain living. The spending of accumulated resources on lavish or frivolous adornment, at least spending beyond a family’s means, was usually belittled.
I agree with the claims and arguments explained by Abbas concerning ‘indifference and disconnection’ in the city growth. Increasing income and advances in technology are affecting the structural components and building techniques used in the city, thus it distorts beauty, social significance and historical value of the buildings. Not only has the sudden surge in cash income been accompanied by an unprecedented housing boom, but there has been appreciable change in the attitude towards architecture and housing. I agree with Abbas that “the metamorphosis also an anamorphosis” (Abbas, p. 193). The city lost its natural beauty and comfort becoming ‘an airport‘ and a place of mass consumption. This dramatic aggregate increase, however, masks the diversity as well as the great variation from one household to another even within the same city region. “As a result, space is in danger of being deprived of what does not ® t conventional ideas of affectivity and pleasure. It is deprived of perversity and fascination. It is deprived of choice” (Abbas, p. 199). Roads were rammed through city neighborhoods, and whole communities were demolished, without any regard for historical preservation, local life-styles, or aesthetic considerations. There is rarely a hint of anything transcendental, anything which goes beyond human experience and does not satisfy the daily needs of a family.
Modern life in Hong-Kong is often harsh and often dreary, yet generally the future is faced optimistically, even though tinged with a generous amount of fatalism. Harmony at home and a wish for numerous descendants round out the common themes which are symbolically represented in a dwelling. Indeed, harmony as a central theme of Chinese society is forgotten by city planners and architectures. Trying to apply innovative and modern approaches to architecture and landscapes, they ruin beauty and historical significance of Hong-Kong.
Abbas, A. “Building, dwelling, drifting: migrancy and the limits of architecture” Postcolonial Studies: Culture, Politics, Economy, 1:2 (1998): 185-199