These Surreal Photos Of Hong Kong's Ageing Towers Aren't Doctored

German photographer Michael Wolf captures the ageing high-rise culture of Hong Kong, which has more buildings over 150m tall than any other city in the world. The modern face of Hong Kong was formed, like New York and Chicago, by a fire.

In 1953, as refugees from mainland China surged into Hong Kong, one of the city’s largest slums burned to the ground, tens of thousands homeless. The British governor at the time, Alexander Grantham, saw a solution in an emerging form of modern architecture: the prefabricated concrete tower.

Wolf moved to Hong Kong in 1994, three years before the official handover from England to China. But as his photos attest, Grantham’s fingerprint endures, in the towers that make up the bulk of the city’s low-income housing stock. In Wolf’s new book, The Architecture of Density, he collects some of his most staggering architectural photos of the city’s supertalls. We’ve seen the city from above and below, but straight on is somehow more dramatic, right?

You’re probably wondering how much doctoring these photos received. The answer? Surprisingly little. There’s no clone tool at work here, just a few adjustments to remove things like the horizon line and any errant patches of sky. The buildings themselves actually exist as they’re shown: a repetitive network of floor plates and windows, which often bear a hint at the lives inside thanks to errant hanging laundry and souped up a/c units.

Low-income housing in Hong Kong, a geographic aberration hemmed in by tropical forest and ocean on all sides, is a problem without an answer -- just like it was in Grantham’s day. But according to BLDGBLOG post from 2012, the city has found a way to fit new infrastructure into the existing city: a network of artificial underground caves. Let’s just hope the same concept never extends to people.

[The Aesthetics of Destiny]


    I was trying to take photos like these when I was wee young 16 year old with my $100 Kodak point and shoot when I visited there years ago. Truly an amazing city, and I can't wait to get back.


      No not tilt shift, notice the whole photo is in focus? Yeah that's how you can tell these photos weren't taken with a tilt shift lens.

        Actually, Tilt-Shift lenses were originally designed for use in architectural photography. To combat the "Lean" of buildings and to make sure the whole building was in focus as it disappeared away from a traditional lenses' focus area of incidence. So the question that sparse pictures of architecture was taken with a tilt-shift lens is not a long shot.
        For the record, however, I feel these were taken with a high-end, rectilinear, wide-angle lens.

    It's an amazing city. It's like someone got a giant cookie cutter for buildings in some areas....

    Yes it is true that most of these building in a single housing estate would look the same. Altough the occupants may be low income, the amount of technology that most of these households have would beat what we have here everyday. How did I know that? I used to live in one of these in Kowloon before moving to Australia. Also, by no mean these people would live a boring live, with shops that closes at 10-11pm at night monday to sunday, window shopping is jsut as fun.

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