Kowloon Walled City
Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong, was once a military watchpost that protected the area against pirates before China came under British Rule. After the Japan occupied it during WWII, squatters moved in and neither Britain nor China wanted to take responsibility, and it effectively became an independent, anarchic city. There was no police because there was no law, so it was soon thick with brothels, casinos, cocaine parlours, opium dens and unlicensed doctors’ practices. Since it was confined to just 6.5 acres, the city was forced to grow up using every inch it could—300 interconnected buildings layered up 16 stories in a ramshackle labyrinth, so interwoven that the lower levels had to be lit by fluorescent lights because sunlight couldn’t reach. The population flourished, a testament to human ingenuity and survival, but the lawless city wasn’t as romantic as some might think—50,000 people were crammed like sardines into just a few blocks. The average apartment size was 23 square metres, and the living conditions were so far below the rest of the country that the authorities eventually agreed to tear it down. Many protested, but Kowloon Walled City was demolished in 1993 and a park was built on the site—including a scale model of the once-thriving city.