Hong Kong: Uncertain(ci)ty

Research Centre: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Initiative
Active Dates: September 2016 - ongoing

Principal Investigator: Cole Roskam
Project Funding: GRF


Hong Kong: Uncertain(ci)ty will be the first scholarly monograph focused on themes of risk, crisis, and vulnerability in relation to Hong Kong’s architectural and urban history. My research attends specifically to the tensions engendered by physical, environmental, financial, geopolitical, and viral destabilization within the city over time, and the ways these tensions have shaped architectural and urban design, practice, as well as discourse, in Hong Kong since its founding as a British colony in 1842.

Preexisting scholarship tends to depict Hong Kong’s built environment as little more than successful concretizations of the free market–an urbane “World City” best known for its dense urban form and unyielding efficiency. My research, by contrast, illuminates themes of precariousness underlying these well-worn characterizations. Through this work, I aim to demonstrate the historical relationship between architecture and the perception and reality of instability in Hong Kong.

My project is structured around several architectural case-studies, few of which have attracted any previous scholarly attention. Each building or site is grouped within a particular category of crisis; these include war, governance, immigration, natural disaster, financial panic, contagion, as well as anxieties of identity. Individually, each theme constitutes a chapter that illuminates how singular moments of crisis inscribed themselves within specific examples of architecture. Collectively, these themes reveal the history of architecture’s broader relationship to change.

Enlarge Photo: The Peak, Hong Kong, 1868 (Wellcome Library, London), copyrighted work available under <a href='http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/' target='_blank'  style='color:yellow'>Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0</a>