Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sha Lo Tung - Journey to the Hong Kong's Past

We were invited to a research trip to Sha Lo Tung, and old abandon village in Hong Kong New Territories. It has been a lovely trip into the past of Hong Kong where small settlements were placed in large valleys in the mountainous and extreme topography of the region.

Left in an uncertain stage, the village rapidly decays due to the extreme weather condition in Hong Kong. Apparently the villagers sold their property to a developer in the eighties with the promise to get new houses built. As the developer faced opposition for his plans to build a golf resort he also scrapped the plans for the replacement houses for the villagers. Since then the site is doomed to a halt, all development plans are suspended as well as the situation for the original villagers.

At this point it is nature which benefits from this situation, being an important site for dragonflies and damselflies. And to be frank: It is not the worst case scenario. The nature is beautiful, a long open valley is crossed by a lot of little streams at the bottom of Cloudy Hill. It is uncommonly very quiet and scenic for Hong Kong with only a few visitors even on a Sunday.

The question remains what to do with such sites. They are too rare in Hong Kong to just be left alone to total decay.

Not that we promote conversation, yet the site offers a great opportunity to understand the roots of the Hong Kong urbanism: Other than many cities, Hong Kong has never evolved on a graphical plan but developed rather pragmatically along the topography. Urban typologies like the terraced planning have been a result, creating intermediate platforms which are neither public roads nor private terraces. They can be clearly seen in these early settlements of Sha Lo Tung already.

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