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Comin Jeremy Yves

PhD Student

Email: 15484300@life.hkbu.edu.hk

Cultural sustainability and the representation of the past in Hong Kong: an assessment of Mei Ho House’s revitalisation

When I visited Hong Kong for the first time back in 2007, I was attracted, like many, to the pictures of the spectacular skyline of Hong Kong Island. It was a short stay. Besides a quick cross-harbour trip to Tsim Sha Tsui to snap the skyline, I only explored Hong Kong Island. Later, when I came on my second trip, I started to explore other neighbourhoods. That is how I got lost in the lively streets of Yau Ma Tei, Mongkok, and Sham Shui Po. If the street level felt very different from my previous experience in Hong Kong, the urban landscape of Kowloon also offered a striking contrast: few tall iconic towers to use as a landmark and no urban canyon so deep that the sunlight never seems to reach the ground. On the contrary, the buildings bordering the narrow streets on each side of Nathan Road, much lower than the towers on the Island, looked surprisingly human albeit their obvious age and decayed aspect. They appeared somehow alive with clothes hanging from the windows, with different sort of additional features on every floor (such as verandas and air conditioners), with their entrance door permanently open and with their small shops. This might be, as Chu & Uebegang (2002) point out about Yau Ma Tei, because such neighbourhoods still feature local traditions such as business clustering or street food. These make the neighbourhood represent a rich testimony of the socio-cultural heritage of the grassroots population in Hong Kong. In some areas these buildings would constitute the major part of the landscape, replicating themselves on entire blocks, making me feel like I was in what seemed to be Hong Kong’s ‘old town’ although I was outside of the historical core of Hong Kong. I was fascinated by what these buildings were telling me about the past and present life, and the fact that there still existed visually harmonious urban areas in Hong Kong.