A new book, Border Ecologies: Hong Kong’s Mainland Frontier, co-written by Peter Hasdell/Joshua Bolchover

Peter Hasdell, Associate Professor of PolyU Design recently published a new book titled ‘Border Ecologies: Hong Kong’s Mainland Frontier’ with his colleague Joshua Bolchover of The University of Hong Kong. The book is the result of their ‘Border Ecologies’ project conducted since 2008, a research investigating the dissolving border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

The book published by Birkhäuser is now available at Amazon.com.

Border Ecologies: Hong Kong’s Mainland Frontier

Hong Kong’s border with Shenzhen is incrementally dissolving. By 2047, 50 years after the 1997 handover of Hong Kong the border will most likely no longer exist. This will mean the conjoining of the economic, political, and social systems that have so far been able to operate distinctly under the “One Country Two Systems” policy. Hong Kong will become fully integrated into Mainland China. Or will it? The uncertainty surrounding what will actually happen has created huge anxiety for many Hong Kongers. Citizens are concerned about preserving cultural differences and values, language, freedom of speech and their right to vote.

Caught within this debate is the Frontier Closed Area, a buffer zone created by the British in 1951 to strengthen Hong Kong’s separation from the Mainland. Today, it too is being gradually erased and with it over 2000 hectares of land are becoming opened up for future uses. For sixty years, this closed land has remained as a landscape of eco-systems including tidal estuaries, fish farms, primary forests, historic villages and abandoned military posts. In stark contrast, and in just half the time, the village of Shenzhen across the border, has exploded into an urban metropolis of 15 million plus and being the poster-child of China’s economic reform era. This book explores the unique border ecology of this intermediary zone to include specific narratives and their spatial effects that have evolved through the changing relationships between Hong Kong and the Mainland.  Through unpeeling the layers of this uncharted territory, we reveal a complex set of relationships that operate between macro-policies and micro-conditions on the ground. Our design strategies are insertions within this ecology: offering alternate forms of development that are open-ended enough to adjust to the region’s unknown political future. Borders however are not simply divisions between nation states. As our cities become more polarized and segregated producing walled compounds and defensive enclaves, micro-borders are becoming increasingly pervasive. This book frames a wider agenda for border issues to raise critical questions and propose spatial strategies that will have relevance in other urbanized conditions around the world. 


Joshua Bolchover and Peter Hasdell have been collaborating on “Border Ecologies” since 2008. Joshua Bolchover is an Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong and Peter Hasdell is an Associate Professor at the School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Both are architects who have worked extensively in the fields of planning and urbanism. The project began after Raoul Bunschoten, former mentor, teacher and employer, introduced Joshua and Peter in 2007. The shared experiences of working with Raoul at Chora Institute of Architecture and Urbanism and his insights into urban dynamics has been an invaluable common ground, conceptual foundation and a point of departure that have helped shape the project and its methodology.

The book would not have been possible without the support of the Faculty of Architecture, University of Hong Kong and the School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University as well as the following funding sources: the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; Seed Funding for Basic Research, The University of Hong Kong; Department General Research Funds (School of Design), Polytechnic University Start-up Funding.  Additionally, we would like to thank the following people without whose help the book would not have been possible: Matthew Hung for his dedication and commitment to the project in all levels of research, concept development and production; Bas Princen for his photography; Thomas Dahm for the graphic design; Jessica Pyman for her editing and critical input; Mary Ann O’Donnell and Viola Yan Wan for their essay; Brian Wong for his detailed fieldwork; Katharina Kulke and Ulrich Schmidt at Birkhäuser and Siu Hon-cheung for facilitating access to the FCA. Furthermore we would like to thank the numerous people we have interviewed formally and informally during the course of the research that have aided our understanding of the complexities of the border. All project designs, diagrams, images and photographs are the copyright of Joshua Bolchover and Peter Hasdell unless stated below. 

Project team:

Authors: Joshua Bolchover and Peter Hasdell

Senior Research Assistant: Matthew Hung

Research Assistants: Brian Wong; Jonathan Pang; Alana Tam; Su Chang, Kevin Huang, Chan Yat Ning Chester, Maggie Hua.

Graphic Design: Thomas Dahm, Studio Thomas Dahm