246 pages, 6 x 9
approx. 150 color, 50 b&w illustrations
Hong Kong’s Dreamworlds of Consumption
Edited by Stefan Al
University of Hawai‘i Press
Hong Kong is the twenty-first-century paradigmatic capital of consumerism. Of all places, it has the densest and tallest concentration of malls, reaching tens of stories. Hong Kong’s malls are also the most visited, sandwiched between subways and skyscrapers. These mall complexes have become cities in and of themselves, accommodating tens of thousands of people who live, work, and play within a single structure. Mall City features Hong Kong as a unique rendering of an advanced consumer society. Retail space has come a long way since the nineteenth-century covered passages of Paris, which once awed the bourgeoisie with glass roofs and gaslights. It has morphed from the arcade to the department store, and from the mall into the “mall city”—where “expresscalators” crisscross mesmerizing atriums. Highlighting the effects of this development in Hong Kong, this book raises questions about architecture, city planning, culture, and urban life.
The book is so chock-full of information and imagery . . . Mall City is a great book for those who want to get lost in the shopping meccas of a fascinating world city, without actually getting lost.
At the nexus of density, humidity, topography, and shopping, Hong Kong has spawned more malls per square mile than any place on earth. This fantastic book decodes and graphically depicts an environment both apart and ubiquitous; a convulsive form of public space in a liquid territory where intensely contested politics, commerce, and sociability weirdly merge like no other city.
Hong Kong may be packed with the most shopping malls per square kilometer in the world, but Mall City is packed with the most drawings, information, and fascinating mall facts. The book dissects, categorizes, and displays all kinds of intriguing data on the city-state’s shopping complexes and culture. Its richly layered analysis perfectly matches Hong Kong’s multi-story machines for consumption.
Stefan Al has again produced a book that provides a sharp lens on radically new urban forms that are emerging in China. While his previous books, Villages in the City and Factory Towns of South China introduced the site of production and housing for the migrant labor of the Pearl River Delta, here we enter the phantasmagoria of the enormous interconnected free-trade shopping zone of the Hong Kong Special Administration. Mall City dissects the basic unit of this climate-controlled consumer landscape—the mall. This ongoing experiment in a continuous architecture of consumption reaches its horizontal tentacles to all corners of the mountainous island city through an efficient mass transit system, and ascends vertiginous heights through towering expresscalators climbing vast atria. This beautifully illustrated book is a must-read for those who wish to understand the future of public space in high-density cities.
Stefan Al is a Dutch architect and associate professor of Urban Design at the University of Pennsylvania. Al has worked as a practicing architect on renowned projects such as the 600-meter-high Canton Tower in Guangzhou and the preservation of world heritage in Latin America at the World Heritage Center of UNESCO. While in Hong Kong, he served as a founding member of the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design and an advisor to the Harbourfront Commission and Environment Bureau of Hong Kong government. He is the editor of Factory Towns of South China: An Illustrated Guidebook and Villages in the City: A Guide to South China’s Informal Settlements.
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