In light of the current political protests in Hong Kong, showcasing a project from the Hong Kong-based Society for Community Organization (SoCO), a non-governmental and human rights advocacy group, seems fitting. SoCO has organized community social actions and civic education programs to encourage political participation since 1972, and it recently brought attention to the unacceptable living conditions of many of the city’s poorer inhabitants in a disturbingly illuminating ad campaign. “Cubicle Dwellers” shows the tiny apartments, averaging only about 40 square feet and too small to be shot from anywhere but above, that over 100,000 people occupy. In these spaces, individuals and families must rest, cook, and store all their personal belongings. Due to Hong Kong’s lack of buildable space, the city has come to be one of the world’s densest, resulting in increasingly tall, tightly-packed dwellings. Indeed, thirty-six of the world’s 100 tallest residential buildings are in Hong Kong, and more people live or work above the 14th floor than anywhere else on Earth, making it the world’s most vertical city. The project highlights how the disparity between industrial growth and human needs can rapidly transform environments, and how an imbalance in the way we distribute our energy resources can paradoxically create places of enormous wealth and widespread poverty.
I was a little torn on posting this because it has that poverty porn feel but it’s just important stuff to realize. The pictures made me think of the hipster-driven Tiny House/Trailer movement. I can just imagine the clickbait headline, “You won’t believe how this family of four live in just 40 square feet!” and inside is an impossibly clean and sparse yet beautifully designed living space. It just seems like the aim in that whole scene is to see who can live in the teeniest space possible (a refurbished dumpster even, for fecks sake) while never giving a thought to the idea of others who live that way because they have to. Oh, hipsters and their irony.