Kickstart the Latest Edition of ‘City of Darkness’: The Authoritative Text on Kowloon Walled City

  • 18 Mar 2014
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  • Architecture News Editor's Choice

20 years ago, Greg Girard and Ian Lambot published “City of Darkness“, a book which documented life inside the notorious Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong during its peak in the late 1980s. When the high-rise slum was cleared and demolished soon after in 1993, this collection of photographs, interviews and essays became a eulogy of sorts, becoming one of the key texts on the most densely populated place the world has ever seen.

Two decades later, Girard and Lambot have revisited the book – and to fund this new edition, they have turned to Kickstarter.

Read on after the break to find out what’s new in this edition and how you can help fund the book.

© Greg Girard and Ian Lambot

With a full twenty years between the publication of the original and this new book, Girard and Lambot were able to approach “City of Darkness Revisited” with fresh eyes. In the early 1990s, the existence of was a current issue, and a politically controversial one; now, it is a historical and cultural topic. Though this means that a direct experience of the city is no longer possible, on the other hand it means that people are more willing to open up about the controversies involved.

This has enabled new sections about the City’s architecture, the City’s peculiar legal status, the myths and realities of the Triad’s activities there, and how the police tried their best to keep up with each new development.

© Greg Girard and Ian Lambot

There are also essays focusing on the ongoing life of Kowloon Walled City since its demolition, exploring how perceptions of the Walled City have changed over time, from being shunned by most Hong Kong residents during its lifetime to now being seen, almost with pride, as part of the territory’s rich cultural heritage.

The look of the book is also getting a major overhaul: in addition to the new graphic design by Susan Scott, the time and distance has also allowed the authors to revisit their photographs: “both of us have come across images either omitted or used in a minor way that make us wonder now, what were we thinking? The new book will allow us to make amends, adding new images here and there, and giving due prominence to others previously hidden away.”

An infographic produced by the South China Morning Post to mark the 20th anniversary of the Walled City’s demolition. Image Courtesy of South China Morning Post

New photographic material, both new and old, has also surfaced: previously unpublished photographs of the City from the 1960s and 70s, as well as numerous drawings and images from popular culture created since the demolition demonstrate how the Walled City continues to influence popular culture.

The new edition of City of Darkness promises to not only retain its authoritative status on what life was like in Kowloon Walled City, but also to become one of the foremost historical authorities on the Walled City as an urban and cultural phenomenon.

To back this new edition, visit the Kickstarter page.

Cite: Stott, Rory. "Kickstart the Latest Edition of ‘City of Darkness’: The Authoritative Text on Kowloon Walled City" 18 Mar 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 20 Nov 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=487667>
  • Geoff Eberle

    “without any architects” Wrong good sir, Kowloon city had architects volunteer typically from the council in there spare time to help facilitate the people, secondly some of the buildings were replicas of surrounding buildings, which could constitute a form of indirect designing by the architects. :)