A fascinating phenomenon in a high dense city such as Hong Kong is the resourceful way in which empty surfaces are temporarily appropriated for a variety of uses
Roller shutters of a vacant shop taken over by advertising posters
Turning the shopfront of a failed business into an informal stall
Bank shopfront is borrowed to showcase items for sale
Shopfront of a bank closed for business on a weekend becomes a display surface for hats that include a mirror for the buyer to see if the hat fits
A temporary display or Chinese paintings along the walls of a bank closed for business
A street bollard used for advertising repair services
Railings to prevent jaywalking is turned into a temporary advertising space
Railings become bicycle storage space
Railings as support for temporary cardboard partitions used by the domestic workers and as backrests on weekends
Walls of a vacant building used for writing protest notes on unlawful eviction
A group of elderly and retirees using the space below the highway to play chess. In space starved Hong Kong, one can find many ingenious way of maximizing the use of limited space in the city.
"I use the old program pamphlets from the Cultural Center and spread them carefully over the floor. Important to have at least 2 layers to prevent the cold from seeping through. I overlap the pamphlets to make sure my 'mattress' is not scattered all over during the night. Don't worry, the pamphlets are for events that have already passed and we make sure they are disposed off in the morning. We don't want trouble from the authorities. We are also doing the earth a favor too by recycling these pamphlets!"
Personal belongings of a homeless residents neatly bundled up and secured to public seats during the day. At night, the space is transformed into an outdoor bedroom.
"My sleeping space is very simple. The most important thing for me is to protect my neck and chest from the cold at night. I use a cardboard box and slip my body inside when I sleep. It helps me to keep warm that way. The columns here are excellent for sleeping! I can rest my head on the inclined ground between the columns and they are wide enough to protect me from the cold wind."
"You need to pick a branch that is not too dry because it will break if you bend it. Thread the collar label through the twig. Squeeze it into the gap between the tiles and slowly turn it upwards to lock the twig in place. The gap between the tiles on the columns are big enough to hold a twig and I can also make a few clothes hangar.
"We sleep in the 24-hour McDonald's during the winter months, when it is too cold to sleep outside. Much more convenient than sleeping on the street or in the park. It's also cleaner but the overhead lights can make it difficult to fall asleep. But you get used to it after a while. They are kind enough to allow us to spend the night there. But some of the branches will deliberately close off a section by putting a barricade around to prevent people from using the tables. Some allows you to sleep not not lie your head on the table. They will come wake you up if they find out." We can also ask for water from the counter and use their washrooms during the night."
I'll go to the 24-hour internet cafe if I have some money. I'll just buy a drink and a cup of hot noodles, and pass my time surfing the web or sleep."
The story of the Wa Fu community space began almost 30 years ago. The place was a destination for residents living in the near by housing estate to leave their statues of porcelain deities when they relocated or when the religion was no longer practiced by the younger generation after the passing of the elderly family member. The stepped profile of the ground leading to the sea is an ideal site to place the deities. They are secured individually by a layer of cement to prevent them from toppling over during a typhoon. Through time, a sea of porcelain deities began to take shape and are cared for by a group of elderly residents. Some deities are protected by simple shelters while others share their spaces with toy figurines that were also left here. A self-constructed shelter serves as both a community space for the elderly and for them to keep their belongings. A well close-by provides fresh water for cleaning after taking a dip in the sea. We are told it is a popular activity among the elderly and younger residents. Some come for a swim early in the morning before heading off to work.
The hillside informal shrine in So Uk Estate is connected to a larger network of elderly walkers and informal social spaces. The shrine is situated along a path that winds up the hillside, which is a favorite spot for the mostly elderly residents and housewives to engage in their morning walks and exercises. The shrine is often a stop over for the residents. They would offer incense or a simple prayer at the shrine on their way up or down the hill during their morning exercise routines. Besides exercising, the residents have also undertaken small, self-initiated actions along the various exercising spots; such as plant caring, building of small concrete steps to link disconnected parts of the hillside and allow a safer walk up the hill, introducing resting spots, setting up support facilities for the morning exercises, and repairing broken planters. Water for the plants is collected from the natural run-offs from the hill in small pails and buckets. The So Uk Estate shrine and the adjacent exercising spots are excellent examples of bottom-up initiatives in place-making. It makes a strong case for allowing urban dwellers to take control and have the opportunity to shape their immediate spaces in the city rather than top-down initiatives that often miss the point and cost much more than they should.
An aluminum can compaction shop in Hong Kong nestled among other trades in the city. Compacted aluminum blocks lie on the sidewalk ready to be shipped to the recycling plants.