theastralcity

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Inspired by another post here on Tumblr, I decided to look into the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong a bit more, it truly was one of the most amazing and terrifying places on earth.  Being slightly smaller than an NFL stadium, the structure was built of 350 smaller interconnected buildings and hosted, at it’s peak, a population density of 5 million people per square mile.

To put those numbers in perspective, this would be like taking the entire population of metro Philadelphia, the 4th largest in the US, and putting it in 1 square mile instead of 1,744.

The area was also largely ungoverned and unregulated.  Factories, apartments, schools, temples, churches, shops, cafes, hotels and almost anything else one could imagine were housed within the structure that never had a full blueprint of it done. Buildings were built onto buildings, expanded, rebuilt, and re-purposed as needed without a central authority of any kind.

Within the structure, natural light was almost non-existent, and an unknown number of miles of jury-rigged wires provided electricity to everything.  Water constantly dripped down to the lower levels from both rain and leaking pipes, while garbage filled every passage.  A constant yellow haze filled the structure and there were never any government safety inspections.

The Kowloon Walled City was demolished in the early 1990s as part of the deal that returned Hong Kong to the Chinese from the British. The entire area is now a park.

I find places like this fascinating, it is just incredible what we, humans, build and live in. This, hive, for lack of a better term, was one of the most interesting structures I’ve yet looked at.

For a documentary shot inside of the Kowloon Walled City, check here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lby9P3ms11w

…and then when I look at these beautiful things, images and styles that I have fallen so in love with, I am reminded that they were built so very many years before I was born.  For almost all of us these wonderful treasures of style, power and grace were always of a time past. What amazing hope in the Great Depression these works of brilliance would have brought forth by human hands…

…if only the same could be true in our time too.

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The Chungking Mansions are probably the closest thing today in Hong Kong to the Kowloon Walled City.  This complex however has much more rule of law, if still rife with illegal activity. As opposed to Kowloon’s industrial base, Chungking is a primarily commercial center.

The Chungking Mansions serve as the center for Hong Kong’s minority populations, and it has been called the unofficial African Quarter of the city. It features 2 shopping malls and many cheap hotels and guest houses which provide housing for the complex’s residents.

The Economist ran a great article in August of this year about the complex where they say it is the greatest example of the downtrodden side of globalism anywhere.

The article can be accessed here: http://www.economist.com/node/21526300

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The London North Eastern Railway Class A4 “Streak”

Now for another installment of the things-that-I-find-very-pretty file, this class of locomotives, as well as being the fastest proven steam engine ever built, was an icon of British Deco design.  Introduced in 1935 they were the LNER’s major answer to a technological rivalry between Britain and Germany.  They are still one of if not the most beautiful locomotives of all time.

Clement Attlee, voted many times over as one of the greatest Prime Ministers in the history of the United Kingdom, served from 1945 to 1951 in the position and was Winston Churchill’s Deputy Prime Minister during World War II.

After the war, when he lead the government, he brought Britain through the austerity period while raising the standard of living for the people by 10% a year, instituting living wages across all sectors, starting pensions for most workers, doubling spending on education, starting the National Health Service (universal healthcare) and maintaining full employment for the British people.

Attlee proves that even in times of economic hardship, government can help the people, and indeed make their lives better despite the challenges, but only so long as the people in that government put the people first.