MDes Talks: A First Impression (So Far)

Always begins with a question – one that is hard to answer makes you think.

Not that it was the first time I heard it, but this time was different. Somehow, I took more time to reflect about it. On the way to a fisherman village at Tai O, a friend of one of my classmates posed a question to me: You come from Brazil, what did you think of Hong Kong so far?

I might managed to give a quick answer then. But after allowing some thoughts later, the word that emerged was: Intense.

Why Intense?

Although Sao Paulo have some nice places to go at night, some parks, shopping malls, gathering spaces and even some 24hr places to eat, it's nothing compared to Hong Kong.

First, let's talk about numbers to have a better understanding of the whole picture:
Sao Paulo has 1.523km² and about 12 million inhabitants, with a population density of 7.904 hab/km²; whereas Hong Kong has 1.104km² and about 7,2 million inhabitants, with a population density 6.544 hab/km².

SP/HK-Google Earth
Google Earth

A Small, Compact City for Everyone

Hong Kong has a smaller total land area and lower density compared with Sao Paulo, yet this city has many things to show. It is multicultural (such as Sao Paulo), but it has an incredible diversity of places: from big shopping malls to tiny little shops in the middle of the street, huge parks with walking routes, historical places, fisherman’s villages, beaches, fun parks, and many places to get lost.

SP/ HK-Density
SP/ HK-Density

Moving in the Speed of Light

Best of all: the city is well-connected by networks of public transportation, displacing habitants efficiently from one place to another – by MTR, bus, taxi, trams, ferry, boats and even covered moving walkways and escalators – under any weather conditions.

SP/ HK-City Center
SP/ HK-City Center

SP/ HK-Highways crossing geographical limits
SP/ HK-Highways crossing geographical limits

As Professors Gutierrez and Dr. Portefaix described in their book « Mapping HK », Hong Kong has the speed of light. You can get around the city conveniently in multiple ways, and fast. There is no lack of options.

SP/ HK-Higher above the streets
SP/ HK-Higher above the streets

Certainly the chronological clock time is the same around the globe, but the sense of time, or the psychological time seems faster in Hong Kong than in other places. I learnt to be mindful and organized when it comes to schedule planning, otherwise, within a blink of an eye, a day or week has gone by and it’s time to go.

SP/ HK-Night life
SP/ HK-Night life

Contrasting City Vibes

One of the most impressive things is how the scenario changes from week days to weekend.During the week, everybody is going up and down, rushing to work, taking care of their kids, and most of all, working so hard.

When Saturdays come, the vibe magically changes. You can see people gathering together in athleisure outfit everywhere. Hiking, cycling, playing badminton, rowing, water skiing, or going to remotes places to visit and maybe to get some fresh air.

SP/HK-Weekend plan
SP/HK-Weekend plan

A Utopian City in Real Life

We discussed the theoretical « utopian cities » often in spatial design.

In my view, it seems that HK is very close to one model of a utopian city from the 18th century– a city with many distinct levels, hyper-connected, having countless activities in different places, but all are as if compressed in time, to be happening at the same point of time.

W.H. Corbett's 1913 drawing, City of the Future.

In comparison to Sao Paulo, Hong Kong has much more life and vibrancy and this is what it makes this place so unique- the superposition, justaposition of time and space, surrounded by lights and movements during all day.

Of course this is just one perspective and the first impressions of a foreigner, but there are other topics and issues than can be discussed further.

Photo Credit: Sylvia Yeung, unless specified.

* The pictures are fragments of the city and sometimes, may not represent the entire city.

Posted by Sylvia Yeung - Living the 20's years old issues and doubts. Born in Brazil, with the heart in Hong Kong. Graduated in Architecture and Urban Planning at Mackenzie Presbyterian University, Sao Paulo. Living and exploring the concrete jungle and mix of emotions contained in the city where the journey of the ancestors began. A current Master's student in Urban Environments Design (MDes).
MDes Talks is a series of Student Blogs contributed by students in different specialism under Master of Design Scheme. It is set out to share students’ first-hand experience in the d-school pedagogy, their projects, takeaways, and student life in general.