‘Abandoned Buildings, Cities, and Towns’.

Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong

A project by ‘WebUrbanist’, this open archive of photographs titled ‘Abandoned Buildings, Cities and Towns’, documents sites from across the world that time and people have seemingly forgotten. The eerieness and sense of alienation conveyed by many of these photographs however, is largely determined by the absence of people, rather than a shabby aesthetic or fatigued facade of the particular place.

In the specific context of a rapidly developing and increasingly urban capital, where abandoned buildings and spaces are the antithesis of the vast building projects occuring across the city, the question of what exactly abandonment means and how this is played out in theory and in practice needs consideration. Are we referring to the physicality or functionality of a building? Does abandonment mean a lack of due care and attention to the structural condition of a building, or to those who use it?

An interesting case is that of Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong. It is described by the website as ‘a loophole, a glitch never meant to exist. It grew organically devoid of building codes and largely absent of legal oversight, a kind of organic tent city times one thousand. As it grew without rules some areas were cut off entirely from natural light and air, crime ebbed and flowed and everything grew densely packed until the government finally intervened – evacuating the city and demolishing what remained.’ Should the outcome of Kowloon be seen as a model for Phnom Penh to use when dealing with legally and politically ‘challenging’ buildings, or one to be avoided?

For more information see WebUrbanist.

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