As I mentioned last week in The Lightstream Chronicles, I spent ten days in Hong Kong over the Thanksgiving holiday to present a paper to the Cumulus Open Design For Everything Conference. It was my first visit, even though I have been researching Hong Kong since embarking on The Lightstream Chronicles online webcomic/graphic novel. I have assembled a rich trove of photography and combed the city and neighborhoods where scenes from the story take place using Google Maps and Google Earth. I have interview natives and frequent visitors as well. Nevertheless, taking all my research into consideration, there is nothing quite like a real-life street view and immersion into this city of 7.3 million people. Surprisingly, it is not even in the top 25 cities of population density, but it certainly feels like it could be.
Based upon the dramatic number of buildings exceeding 50 floors, the speculation that this metropolis will continue to grow upward is a realistic one. In 140 years a Top City Spanner that begins at the 50 story level is also within the realm of logical succession. One thing I did not anticipate, however, is the rate at which the old Hong Kong is being replaced with shiny, new architecture. Gritty, deteriorated, residential, low-rise housing is rapidly becoming 50 story apartments with luxury-brand retail on every corner. If I were to re-envision this, the edgy look of Mong Kok in the graphic novel, I would replace it with a similarly edgy albeit modernized version of the gentrification currently underway.
Currently, a walk through the streets of HK, especially on the island side in neighborhoods like SoHo, it’s hard to orient yourself visually. Every building around you towers high above so there is no sense of what lies beyond your immediate location. Occasionally, a gap in the architecture reveals some other towering landmark, but it does little to help with navigation. You just have to know where you are. Undoubtedly, that is what the residents come to master. As we near the final seasons of The Lightstream Chronicles, I will do my best to incorporate some of these real-life discoveries into the story.