Hong Kong City Harrisburg

There is no doubt that the Hong Kong skyline wows. I first saw it from the airplane as I was arriving from Shanghai and was bowled over. The city more than earns its moniker as the most vertical city in the world. Hong Kong has more than twelve hundred skyscrapers and more buildings above 500-feet than any other city, including the International Commerce Center which is the third tallest in the world. More than one-third of the hundred tallest residential buildings in the world are located here, which is one of the things that really set the city apart. I have made a study of big cities, but there is nothing like this anywhere.

The primary reason the city is so tall is that there is a finite amount of buildable land. Because the area is so mountainous, there is simply very limited space to sprawl. Because of this, there don’t seem to be any buildings still standing from more than about fifty or sixty years ago. Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula are extremely vertical, apparently with most buildings stretching at least fifteen stories. While the city overall has many modern glass and steel structures, I have been surprised by the large number of incredibly ugly concrete apartment buildings built during the mid-twentieth century. The government recognizes the problem of a decaying building stock. About a decade ago it created the Urban Renewal Authority to begin the process of redevelopment. The authority has faced resistance from concerned citizens but is moving forward with the substitution or overhaul of archaic buildings, particularly in a few neighborhoods ripe for gentrification. Regardless of these very real concerns, the skyline as seen from either side of beautiful Victoria Harbor remains absolutely stunning.

Perhaps because it is so vertical, Hong Kong also has the most used public transit system in the world – as measured by the percentage of daily trips that use it (more than ninety percent). This is true despite the fact that it is relatively expensive. The reality is that despite its cost, it is far better than owning a car given space restrictions and the high cost of parking. Like Manhattan, this is a geographically enforced reality that should be a model for cities that don’t face the same constraints.

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