Being HK

Glances of perplexity: A Short Walking Manual to Hong Kong’s Hidden Conditions.

Hong Kong 2019


John Berger (1926-2018) the late artist, critic, poet and radical British thinker wrote profusely about how we as humans look at things.  Through looking we comprehend, “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak” is the opening sentence of his 1972 book titled “Way of Seeing” where Berger outlines in 7 essays, the process of seeing: to paraphrase Berger, the way we see is affected by what we know and what we believe.  The five walks here presented in this short article, taken through the island of Hong Kong, are an attempt to capture why and how this city stimulates our imagination, through the act of wondering we learn to appreciate the other, and I would argue the “real”, city that is ingrained with fascinating hidden narratives. 


When you live in a city, the quotidian tends to become invisible, we become unable to focus on the mundane experiences that make up our everyday life.  The reasons are multiple, from being distracted by our phones to straightforward absent mindedness, however as a result we become immune to perceiving Hong Kong’s unique “background”[1] atmosphere.  This “other” city, a parallel Hong Kong embedded with local stories and collective rituals, requires a different state of mind to be noticed: a slower, open and more flexible mindset that challenges assumed preconceptions and allows the “here and now” reality to take over.  Once this way of looking has been enabled, Hong Kong transforms into a city of infinite wonders, the antidote to the banality of the generic city.


I have always been fascinated how architects have been inept, compared to film directors, to work with Hong Kong’s background.  From a cinematic standpoint, Hong Kong’s background (there are no real architectural icons) serves to generate a context of dynamic intensity, think of recent films such as “Ghost in the Shell” (2017) or Wong Kar-wai’s 1994 classic “Chungking Express”.


Research Team

Prof. Peter W. Ferretto

CHOI Sungyeol

LAM Man Yan Milly

LIU Ziwei Paula

WANG Haoran Howard


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