Hong Kong in 2050: Gardens fight gentrification, cocktails against condominiums
Artist Kacey Wong and urban farming group put on show of cynicism about the future at urban living and architecture biennial in Kowloon Park
A mobile mojito bar, a miniature urban farm - the Hong Kong portion of a biennial showcase for ideas about architecture and urban living has injected a dose of cynicism this year, perhaps in response to objections that the previous edition was seen by some as propaganda for gentrifying old neighbourhoods.
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Visitors to Kowloon Park – where the Hong Kong portion of the event, staged jointly with Shenzhen, is being held – can drop by artist Kacey Wong’s mojito bar. He will be inviting visitors of a drinking age to join him in a moment of decadent nostalgia. The bar has a miniature, built-in mint patch, providing one essential ingredient of the cocktail. An old-fashioned turntable plays LPs of Cuban music and familiar jazz tunes while Wong creates his delicious concoction.
“The theme of this event is ‘the world in 2050’. By then, most of my friends will be dead and there will be a shortage of farmland and water. We will all have to grow our own food, hence my mini mint farm.
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Also, the Hong Kong that I know and love will have disappeared, so all we can do is be nostalgic,” says the artist, who produced a lot of work critical of the authorities during the Occupy Central movement.
Another farm-themed participant is Very MK, a group of urban farmers who were vocal critics of the decision to stage the 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture in Kwun Tong. “We were very much against it since it would pave way for the gentrification and bulldozing of the district,” says Chen Ho-lok, one of the group’s members.
They are rather bemused by the fact they have been allowed in this time as an exhibitor.
Their 100 sq ft farm in the middle of Kowloon Park has herbs, vegetables and a papaya tree growing in what looks like a disorganised allotment. “This is a reflection of how many Hong Kong people live. You cram everything into tiny partitions,” Chen says. Very MK has called it “Tree Gun Farm”, a reference to politician Christopher Chung Shu-kun’s nickname.
There is, however, a limit to official tolerance. Very MK has received complaints from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, manager of the park, that its farm is too messy.
The Hong Kong show hasn’t gone completely hippy. One of the main displays is a sealed, air-conditioned dome co-organised by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and Schindler, the Swiss company best known for its lifts.
This showcasing of green technology and an expensively produced “immersive film” are very slick and corporate. Nonetheless, they do point to some very interesting designs for buildings and transport.
Led by The Hong Kong Institute of Architects, and co-organised with Hong Kong Institute of Planners and The Hong Kong Designers Association, this year’s event features around 60 exhibitors whose works are spread all across the expansive park.
“The central locale means that we will draw visitors who wouldn’t normally have come to the event and we really hope that it will appeal to visitors of any age, especially the young, since they will be the ones in charge in 2050,” says Sarah Lee, the events arts and culture curator.
The biennale is on from December 11, 2015 to February 28, 2016.