The sloped streets of central Hong Kong are steeped with layers of personalized vernacular events that seem to leak from shops, hawker stalls, and humble hybrid living quarters of all kinds. Architecture is consumed by – actually buried under – these material and programmatic layers of daily life and cultural ritual, which shift with the ebb and flow of a never-abating street-market urbanism. Crates, cages, ropes, gates, shutters, awnings, and tarps of a functional aesthetic are weathered with time into a vibrant chroma-scape that echoes the glistening, damp patina of a work-life culture woven inextricably together.

Within this incredibly consistent and vernacular chaos, are the sacred, syncopated, visual and olfactory events of the street shrines, miniature architectures of domestic worship – always colored red, always smoldering with the warm ashes of incense. The ubiquity of the shrines is startling; the variation among them, more so. Spirits, good and bad, abound in great density in the hyper-populated, old core of Hong Kong, and wary residents and shopkeepers take no chances in ignoring them. Embedded, suspended, cantilevering, and anchoring each shop – and each shopkeeper – to the fabric of an ever-expanding vernacular metropolis, the shrines are the fasteners, joints, and hinges between the physical city and the metaphysical city.

To plot the spatio-temporal relationship between these two simultaneous dimensions of Hong Kong‘s urbanism, we intend to construct an architectural cartography of this city.


Collaborator:  Nancy Margaret Sanders, former Director of the Hong Kong program at the University of Florida

Team: University of Florida students