For an magazine <<Cittadino Globale>> of an italian NGO Youth Action for Peace Italia.
Thanks Bruno for inviting and thanks Luana Miriti for translating into italian
Since my little brother was born I had conflicts with him on different issues like fighting over our preferred TV channel, the music we want to play, food or even toilet. The first time my brother fighted with my father, my brother hit his leg on a glass cupboard .It broke and cut him. This bleeding experience reminded us how small our home was and that we couldn’t fight inside.
In history, wars have always been caused by the competition over natural resources like land. In the city where I was born there was always competition over space due to the large number of Chinese migrants from mainland China in the 1980s. I moved to Berlin for an internship. With the very limited salaries I could only afford any expensive houses in the city. However by paid one-fourth of the rent I used to pay in Hong Kong, the size of my room in Berlin is already bigger than a typical public housing unit in Hong Kong. One night I was having dinner with a German architect in her home. When we were having dinner in her kitchen, she said she couldn’t imagine how can she live in a 40 sqm. house. It is too small for her. But for me, I realized that even I were given a 20 sqm. room, I used to put all my things into a corner and squeezed them into a 6 sqm. space. I hadn’t realized this before. Yes, space changes people’s inner behaviors unconsciously.
Space is super limited in Hong Kong. Luckily there are no space wars among general public in Hong Kong. What we are flighting for is money. The crazy housing price have made the city pessimistic : “What? I have been working super hard for 30 years, but it goes to the down payment of a 40 sqm. Flat? So what is going on for my next 30 years?” Under this stressful city, communities and members of the media always try to protest against the developers. Protests and discussions on city planning always happen. However, the hot discussions have scared the planners and no one dares to draw a single line on the map.
I met an italian friend who was born in Naples ,in a district called Scampia. There is a famous housing development called The Vele of Scampia, which was hated by the locals and was regarded as horrible architecture. The Vele was filled up during 1980 by a large group of poor people when there was an earthquake. The district started to settle with people in crowded spaces. And due to the planning of the housing development there is a lack of public facilities in the district. There are no shops, no markets, no hospital. The district is terrible and has a high crime rate.
“It is a question of building which is at the root of the social unrest of today” This is a famous quote of the architect Le Corbusier who believes bad buildings affect society. I have long felt this way too, and last year I went to Cambodia with IDEA project team to build schools. The schools in Cambodia also have poor ventilation and lighting. We deserve a nice living environment and it should be the mission of an architect.
However, are architects doing a good job? We all see the example of the Vele which was built in 1980 and now let’s look to what we have now. My city is filled with high chopsticks and everyone is living in a flat which you might not find big enough for a kitchen. Architects might not be stupid but sometimes, or most of the time they don’t have the power to draw the line. The line is the result of a complex struggle between forces from the government, developer, the society and individuals.
My city is still trapped in the struggle and we haven’t seen the right lines yet. However even though we haven’t seen the right line, I still see harmony in our society. Restaurants put tables and chairs on the streets outside the restaurant so people eat and gather there. We all go to the courtyard to hang our clothes so I got to know my neighbor very quickly. Space is limited but creativity is unlimited. In order to see a harmonic society, it is a question of whether people feel free to use and create the space they like.