Cities without ground

Via BLDGBLOG I came across a wonderful book called Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guidebook. It’s a book about a city (Hong Kong, obviously) so dense, interconnected and labyrinthine the notion of ground really doesn’t hold much weight. Both physically (HK is built on steep slopes) and culturally (there is no concept of ground). Instead, ‘verticality’ is order of the day. From their website:

Cities Without Ground explores this condition by mapping three-dimensional circulation networks that join shopping malls, train stations and public transport interchanges, public parks and private lobbies as a series of spatial models and drawings. These networks, though built piecemeal, owned by different public and private stakeholders, and adjacent to different programs and uses, form a continuous space of variegated environments that serves as a fundamental public resource for the city. The emergence of the shopping malls as spaces of civil society rather than of global capital— as grounds of resistance— comes as a surprise. (Emphasis added)

I love the last sentence. What could be more intriguing than re-conceiving these centres of exhaustive, voracious consumer capitalism as fertile spaces of resistance? There’s also some great maps of the kinds of routes one (as a pedestrian) can take through these multi-level, public-private passages. Moreover, what does this mean for the map itself? The kinds of maps the Cities Without Ground authors (Jonathan Solomon, Clara Wong and Adam Frampton) have created are somewhat awkward and don’t really look like they have any navigational use. This, of course, is why they are so fantastic. They really say something about the difficulty of delineating the very messy spatial characteristics of a city like Hong Kong. Something that many other cities just don’t have.

The photo below is from their website: