Artist sets eyes on Hong Kong block he modelled from the web in Australia for a viral art sensation 

Joshua Smith created his famous miniature model of the run-down building at 23 Temple Street, Kowloon, from Google Maps and photos, having never visited Hong Kong. We took him to see how the real thing compared

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 April, 2018, 8:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 April, 2018, 2:17pm

Australian artist Joshua Smith is best known for creating the miniature version of a run-down Kowloon building that became a viral sensation in 2017. However, until a team from the South China Morning Post took him to Temple Street last week, Smith had never seen the building in person. 

In fact, Smith had never left his native Australia until he was flown here for the recent Streets of Hong Kong exhibition, let alone visit any of the foreign cities that have provided inspiration for his incredibly detailed artworks.

Smith creates his miniature buildings by working with Google Street View and photos sent in by his Instagram followers around the world. He crafts the structures out of fibreboard, cardboard and plastic, with some taking up to three months to complete.

Smith says the model of 23 Temple Street made last year is his most ambitious project to date and is now in the hands of a Hong Kong collector after being sold at auction in New York.

During his first visit to the building, Smith says it was smaller than he expected and some details had been changed. But he was excited to be able to explore the interior and roof of the building, and enjoyed meeting a couple running a shop on the ground floor and showing them pictures of the model.

While he has created miniatures of buildings in cities as far afield as Kaohsiung in Taiwan and New York, Smith says Hong Kong had always been the city he had wanted to visit the most. He first developed a love of the city and its dilapidated buildings through watching the city’s kung fu films as a youngster.

Fan of Hong Kong films makes replica of old Kowloon building sight unseen, using Google Maps

While in Hong Kong, he unveiled a new model based on an old shophouse on Des Voeux Road West. 

The artist says he is inspired by urban decay, and explains that the characteristic grime and wear and tear that add such realism to his work is achieved by applying layers of paint and chalk.

“I notice all the little details – the cigarette butts and the newspapers on the ground – and if I can make people see the beauty in decay, then my job is done.”