Your insider’s guide to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Eye

Architect and photographer Vivien Liu’s (@vdubl) gritty yet beautiful images of Hong Kong’s dense cityscape attract a huge Instagram following. She takes us on a pictorial tour of some of her favourite sites and sights near Central and beyond

  
From the older districts such as Sheung Wan to the new like Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong’s buildings tend to point in one direction – up

Some 300,000 people are packed into concrete cookie-cutter cubicles that make up the new town of Tin Shui Wai, developed in the 1980s

GROWING UP IN HONG KONG, I was surrounded by high-density apartment blocks, soaring office buildings and crowded streets. The architecture didn’t stand out in terms of good design. Their matchbox style and cookie-cutter shapes made the cityscape appear monotonous. Designing these buildings seemed to offer little room for creativity.

Since taking up photography, I see things differently. People reacted to what I had thought were utilitarian cityscapes in a way that I didn’t expect. The repetitive patterns of windows, the towering concrete jungle and the gritty, pedestrian packed streets became a wonder to those who have never visited or lived in such environments. I then began to look at Hong Kong with fresh eyes, scrutinising its details, lifestyles and traditions.

  
Whampoa Gardens is testament to the height restrictions imposed on Kowloon buildings before Kai Tak Airport closed in 1998. Washing dries overnight in To Kwa Wan

The photographs express my interpretation of beauty in Hong Kong. I try to amplify or filter features so the viewer can immerse themselves in the work, and imagine what it’s like to live here. In the process, I learn the value of our culture through capturing its beauty. The need to preserve what makes our city unique becomes more important to me.

Photography allows me to recognise the potential for good design through observing and experiencing the city. For example, I see the advantages of living in a compact environment as sustainability becomes more critical. Hong Kong can be a case study for living and travelling efficiently. So many over-crowded, overly commercial and repetitive buildings inspire me as an architect to try to make a difference in any space.

Vivien Liu captures her home town from the ground up, and captivates an international following

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