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Conditions of the Hong Kong Section: Spatial History and Regulatory Environment of Vertically Integrated Developments


This dissertation explores the urbanism of Hong Kong between 1967 and 1997, tracing the history of Hong Kong's vertically integrated developments. It inquires into a Hong Kong myth: How can minimum state intervention gather social resources to build collective urban form? Roughly around the MacLehose Era, Hong Kong began to consciously assume a new vertical order in urban restructuring in order to address the issue of over-crowding and social unrest. British modernist planning provided rich approaches and visions which were borrowed by Hong Kong to achieve its own planning goals. The new town programs and infrastructural development converted Hong Kong from a colonial city concentrated on the Victoria Harbor to a multi-nucleated metropolitan area. The implementation of the rail-property development model around 1980 deepened the intermingling between urban infrastructure and superstructure and extended the vertical urbanity to large interior spaces: the shopping centers. Metro stations were fused with the basement of superstructure and formulated a rampant podium structure connecting the towers and the ground surface. Underlying this urban form is a planning system based on speculation, calculation and contracts. This dissertation is composed of three parts. The first part (Chapter 1 and 2) positions the phenomenon of "Hong Kong Section" in the historical lineage of metropolitan urbanism, or the "Culture of Congestion," defined by a breed of urban scholars including cultural critic Walter Benjamin and architect Rem Koolhaas. The second part (Chapter 3) is a review of the planning history of Hong Kong on the basis of a series of colonial city plans and programs, with a focus on its evolving vertical integration. It argues that the vertical order results from planning regulation and programmatic demands. The third part (Chapter 4 and 5) investigates two types of "Hong Kong Sections": the interiorized exterior (networked pedestrian space clustering around metro stations) and the exteriorized interior (retail center as interiorized public space). The conclusion states that the specific planning regulation and programmatic demands of Hong Kong has yielded a new Asian urbanism and a new vision for considering the relationship between urban form and population density.

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