Peek Inside the Most Densely Populated Place on Earth
Photos| | By Lauren Boudreau
There once existed a place so notorious, so jammed packed, and so crime ridden, the government had no choice but to demolish it. Welcome to the Walled City of Kowloon – a Chinese city on the outskirts of Hong Kong.
The Walled City was originally a military fort, but became occupied by residents after the New Territories were released to Britain in 1898. The population grew following the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during WWII, and by 1987, the Walled City had 33,000 families and businesses crammed into just 6.4 acres. The area spanned across 300 interconnected buildings.
The city was unregulated by the government, a hub for crime, opium dens, brothels, casinos, cocaine parlors, and built without a single contribution from any architect. Even so, the people of the Walled City lived their lives in peace until it was demolished in 1992.
Canadian photographer Greg Girard, with help from Ian Lamboth, made it their mission to get the inside scoop on what life was really like inside the city. They spent five years getting to know the residents and photographing the buildings.
“I spent five years photographing and becoming familiar with the Walled City, its residents, and how it was organized. So seemingly compromised and anarchic on its surface, it actually worked and to a large extent, worked well,” Girard said, according to the Daily Mail.
The city eventually became a problem for Britain and China, both of whom refused to take responsibility for what they considered a mess.
But despite the city’s awful reputation, the residents went about their lives, having children and starting businesses.
Rooftops became a haven for people to escape the pollution and the cramped quarters of windowless apartments below.
Every space would serve multiple purposes. Children would use their parents work spaces to play and and do homework.
In the photo below, “Food processors admitted they had moved into the city to benefit from the low rents and to seek refuge from the jurisdiction of government health and sanitation inspectors,” according to the Daily Mail.
It is tradition in China for a spouse to take care of her in-laws. Here, a woman and her mother-in-law share a claustrophobic third floor apartment.
When the Chinese government couldn’t tolerate the city anymore, they spent 2.7 billion Hong Kong dollars in order to relocate it’s 50,000 residents and demolish the city in 1992. Many tried to stop the evictions by protesting.
Today, the former Walled City has been transformed into the Kowloon Walled City Park, which takes the form of a Jiangnan garden reminiscent of the early Qing dynasty. However, the now beautiful park still holds some remnants of the past, such as its yamen (administrative) building and parts of the South Gate, which have been preserved there.
The yamen building:
The South Gate: