UIA Seoul World Architects Congress

Seoul 2017

This article explores the Background City, i.e. the everyday city we inhabit but fail to acknowledge and argues for its relevance in establishing the cultural identity of a city. The discussion focuses on the anonymous and marginal architecture of Hong Kong, a city that embodies the idea of city as background, coming into existence virtually by accident, it is today a manufactured and superimposed urban amalgam that has to constantly adapt to mitigate the hard realities of dwelling within extreme density- more than a city Hong Kong represents an urban condition.


The article further makes the case, in line with the writings of the Italian anthropologist Franco La Cecla that architects, urbanist, and planners are today no longer able to engage and appreciate the everyday urban condition, and by association have lost the capacity to observe. Within Hong Kong’s invisible conditions lie the daily narratives of how citizens inhabit the city, a constellation of occupied spaces where local customs survive and form the real, as opposed to the “real estate”, living organism that is Hong Kong. By switching the attention from individual architectural works, the foreground city, towards a layered background, we can understand ways to categorize and transform Hong Kong’s rich urban fabric and at the same time retain its essential cultural DNA.


Keywords: Background City; Urban Conditions, Urban Dialect, Hong Kong, City Inhabitation.


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3 - 7 September, 2017


Prof. Peter W. Ferretto