Mad 3D maze-city of Kowloon

Salim sez, "Photoblogger Dark Roasted Blend has found some excellent footage (Cantonese with English Subtitles) of the (now bulldozed) 'Walled City of Kowloon'. You might remember, that this was a quirk of history - a small region of land which for political reasons could not be policed by the British when they managed Hong Kong. It proliferated for years without any building regulation or law-enforcement. It became a vast chaotic 3D maze."

Battleship Island & Other Ruined Urban High-Density Sites (Thanks, Sal!)


  1. I’ve been interested in the Walled City since encountering it in William Gibson’s Bridge books – thanks for the video links.

  • Kind of reminds me of exploring Pike’s Place Market when I was younger. If you got off the beaten path and climbed where you shouldn’t be, you found some amazing things indeed.

  • I love this stuff. Wish I had the gumption to explore more of the “ruins” that are available here in Chicago.

  • Argh, this entices the edge of a recall from me, but I can’t recall completely… I know there was a Cyberpunk story, where one of the protagonists gets help from an asian who dwells either a IRL city or online city that was built just like this, a 3d Maze city where only a few street clans of asians ventured….

    Was it in Burning Chrome? or was it part of Idoru?

    1. It was Idoru, there was a virtual version of the walled city. SPOILER… A copy is being built physically at the start of All Tomorrow’s Parties.

  • 3D videogames, ruins of Chernobyl with gigantic antenna

    Ghosts Of The Future:

    With “an existing gigantic antenna located within the Chernobyl exclusion zone. On some of our photos taken during the trip to Chernobyl the body of the antenna is seen on the horizon spanning several hundred meters across. So some unofficial sources claim, the waves emitted by the antenna were psychoactive. The antenna was directed onto Western Europe and preoccupied with a long-lasting military experiment on psychotropic influence onto human psyche.”

    1. Coruscant? Isaac Asimov came up with the idea over half a century before and called it Trantor, capital of the Galactic Empire, in his Foundation stories. In Coruscant, you can see the population walking under open skies. Not so in Trantor, where over 45 billion people live under a metal shell that covers the whole planet, with only a few open-sky observation decks for the curious tourists.
      The Trantorian equivalent to Kowloon would probably be the Billibotton Sector, deep within the innards of the city.

  • I have family that lives in the area and I never knew about all this. That’s pretty cool.

  • The park they built in its place is quite dissapointing though. No reason to go visit the Kowloon Walled park unless you’re nearby anyway.

    1. I totally agree. It negative justice to the triumphs of the citizens abiding in Kowloon.

      There are quite a few fascinating photo essays from Kowloon. There was a heroine production facility, concrete mixing facility, Butcher, internal package delivery system, dental hygienist, and even steampunkishly brass tube-a-phone /talky things.

      Also, pedantic sidenote, the manji for Kowloon reads “Nine Dragons!” If you like this subject, Google image search this: 九龍

  • I went to visit Hashima last month when I was in Japan. Haunting. Such a post-apocalyptic cityscape only a few miles from Nagasaki.

    Pro-tip: the official tour stays on the site of the old docks and away from the really interesting stuff for safety reasons, so it still might be worth the bother to find an independent boatman to bribe (I think the island still belongs to Mitsubishi, so any visit other than the official tour is trespassing) to take you out there to do some proper urban exploring.

  • All I can think of when I hear Kowloon Bay is..

    Wayne Campbell: This guy is good.
    Benjamin: I picked up a little Cantonese while I was in the Orient. You know, you sound a lot like you’re from Kowloon Bay as opposed to Hong Kong.
    Cassandra: I waw BORN in Kowloon Bay!
    Benjamin: There you have it!
    Wayne Campbell: This guy is really good.

  • From above it looks like a particularly hellish Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 map.

  • I’m pretty sure this is the inspiration for the main city of Kaineng in the game Guild Wars – Factions. A sprawling multistory maze of buildings/shacks slapped together, where building roofs make up upper level streets. Looks almost exactly the same…

  • This looks like a prototype for that insane “ultra mega city” that buddy built in SimCity.

  • fell in love with the place over a year ago thanks to the web.. cleaning up my hard-drive found some pics of it a few months ago and fell in love all over again. Surprised to see people mentioning it on boing by this point but I guess it will occasionally pop up in peoples writings and thoughts. (and yes I know its about a new post at drb)

    “So the only law in effect was the free market?”

    well, since it’s lack of rules applied to everything instead of just the financial system then one should say it was built on anarchy.

  • There was some policing of The Walled City, as it was then known, albeit of a primarily symbolic nature, for political reasons. The Brits had to make a show of exercising some kind of authority over the place.

    I was in fact for a while the officer-in-charge of the Walled City Patrol unit of the Hong Kong Police. 1969, I think it was.

    The “city” was really no more than about two by four city blocks of densely packed and crumbling low-rise apartment buildings. It was controlled by consensus via a network of traditional relationships – between career criminals, the triads who protected them, and the local police. Shanties and cocklofts filled every possible void between the concrete walls. It was a fascinating if downright sleazy labyrinth; home to opium and heroin divans, gambling joints, a ribald sex industry, and open sewerage.

    It was also well known for a row of shops housing traditional Chinese dentists, who operated their clinics with impunity on the outer fringe of this little patch of “sovereign Chinese territory”. They were the closest thing to respectable the city could wear as a mask.

    The Kowloon Walled City was a veritable Pirate Utopia; a thriving Temporary Autonomous Zone in the very heart of a British Crown Colony.

    Maybe some day I’ll get around to writing about it but I need to keep my demanding day job. I need a patron. :)

  • Only the third video is Cantonese with English subtitles. The first video is Japanese with English subtitles. The second video has no narration or subtitles.

  • I’ve been obsessed with the Kowloon Walled City since I read about it online somewhere. I have dreams about it all the time. When I finally returned to Hong Kong, I made a pilgrimage to the site. Today it’s just a big underutilized park, but in the middle is the old Chinese garrison building. Imagine that! Underneath that huge emergent 20th century pile is a little Qing dynasty stable house! They still had the original sign out front.

  • Richard Paul Russo wrote a trilogy of noirish/cyberpunkish mysteries set in a near-future San Francisco that had an area called (I think) The Core that has a lot of similarities to the walled city. I’ve always wondered if Russo based The Core on the walled city or if it was just good extrapolation on his part.

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