02 Informal

Director/Producer: Tom COZENS
Music: Tom COZENS
Script: Tom COZENS and Professor Chris WEBSTER

Executive Producers: Professor Chris WEBSTER and Dr Eric SCHULDENFREI
Assistant Producer: Alex TAIT
Production Assistant: Winnie YEUNG
Editor: Nick BRIER

Academic Contributors: Sam CHENG, Dr Juan DU, Dr Bin JIANG, Alvan SUEN and Rita WOO
Actors: Daniel CHAN, Doris LEUNG Suk Fong and Xianwei LONG

Informality in cities is both valued and vilified. Planners and architects pursue beauty, efficiency, vibrancy and a healthy environment by overwriting old forms of informality with new ones. Can you design for the informal and plan for spontaneity? Does every city need its residual, marginal and fallow spaces as places for innovation, survival and invention?

Chris Webster, HKU, 2021

Featured HKUrbanLabs:

Urban Ecologies Design Lab (experimental designs for ultra-high density low-income homes)
Virtual Reality Lab of Urban Environments and Human Health (VR/AR design, psychological and neuro-science experiments on the effects of informality, green space and density)


Du, J. (2020). The Shenzhen experiment: The story of China’s instant city. Harvard University Press.

Lu, X., Trumpf, S., & Valin, I. (2021). Interstitial Hong Kong: Exploring the miniature open spaces of high-density urbanism. Jovis.

Webster, C., Wu, F., Zhang, F., & Sarkar, C. (2016). Informality, property rights, and poverty in China’s “favelas”. World Development, 78, 461-476.

Wu, F., Zhang, F., & Webster, C. (2013). Informality and the development and demolition of urban villages in the Chinese peri-urban area. Urban Studies, 50(10), 1919-1934.