[Video Essay] Disappearing City

Site: Playground

Theme: Disappearing City

Method of conducting research:

I did a couple of field observations in different playgrounds during the busiest hours of the day, during sunset. By shooting the playground both horizontally and vertically, I recorded the number of people hanging in the sites. I further developed my conclusion that there were not as many children playing in the playgrounds as it used to be.

The theme, setting and components

The story, disappearing city, follows “me” and my friend when we were still the best friends during my childhood. After elementary school classes, we very often spent our happiest time playing at a playground located just behind our school. I could still remember the laughter and jokes we made. We wrote down our wishes on a piece of paper, and it was scrolled and put into a bottle, which was buried underground in bushes planted in the playground. We made a promise that we would come back to the same place, undig our bottle, and read our wishes out loud together on the same day of the twentieth year. All I wished was everything could stay the same and never grew old. Twenty years later, I keep my promise but only memories remain, and the bush and bottle were covered by concrete and the park became a skyscraper. The video emphasises the city’s ever-changing places because of renewal and development throughout time, in order to illustrate the hypothesis, The value of infrastructures is homogenizing in Hong Kong.

Credits to Lam To Hing (Director of the video)


In the video, we could witness the playground from being crowded to deserted and finally disappearing due to the urban redevelopment. The footage of the playground faded out (getting smaller and smaller) in the video, this had hinted that the playground had been disappearing as time flew by. Meanwhile, the video highlighted two major factors leading to the aforementioned phenomenon: the impacts of the outbreak of the pandemic, and the competitive environment among the Hong Kongers of all ages.

Accounting for the outbreak of COVID-19, the usage of the playground has been greatly reduced. According to the Legislative Council (2017), the number of public playgrounds in Hong Kong was 635. However, under the COVID-19, these playgrounds were all closed (Hong Kong Government, 2022). It can be seen that the choice of leisure for children was much less, especially under COVID-19.

Besides, the learning environment in Hong Kong is highly competitive, particularly in primary schools. It is suggested that the total daily study time of primary and secondary schools is 10 hours per day, they would be lacking leisure time for the need for sleep (Legislative Council Research Office, 2018; OECD Publishing, 2020). This reflected the stress and workload Hong Kong students are facing, resulting in the lack of leisure time that would decrease the usage of playgrounds.

Indeed, every infrastructure had its meaning and differs across different people. In this case, the playground would be full of childhood memories for mostly the neighbours and students living and studying nearby. Regarding the history of playgrounds, the earliest formal playground was built in Germany in 1885, and the Playground Association of America was originated in 1906 to promote the ideas, layout and designs of playgrounds (Nettler, 2013). According to Rubin (2014), famous NBA player Andrew Wiggins had revealed that the playground in his old public school had contributed a lot to his childhood memories. Similarly, we would have a lot of childhood memories surrounding playgrounds, highlighting the importance of collective memories, and the significance of architectural entertainment. Architectural entertainment is defined as the design that focuses on amusement and could be referred to as any building and structure with no restrictions on its location and functions (Craven, 2019; Ferguson, 1996).

Meanwhile, playgrounds would be associated with the local culture. Abbas (1993) stated that the architectural sites would not vanish without a trace but may be related to the Hong Kong culture, thus building a sense of identity as a Hong Konger. Without a doubt, most of us spent our childhood in the playgrounds, especially the playgrounds in Hong Kong are easily accessible and with a highly playful atmosphere. At the same time, it is suggested that a renewed playground with a nice visual identity design could foster a sense of identity in public facilities and ultimately the city there are living in (Zulkarnain et al., 2020).

In short, although the usage of playgrounds is decreasing, they still have their value that should not be replaced by skyscrapers’ homogenizing value of architecture. More importantly, it is indispensable for the preservation of these places where collective memories were hidden.



Abbas, A. (1993). Building on disappearance: Hong Kong architecture and colonial space.

Craven, J. (2019, July 3). Designing for Disney. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/who-are-the-disney-architects-175972

Ferguson, P. P. (1996). [Review of The City of Collective Memory: Its Historical Imagery and Architectural Entertainments., by M. C. Boyer]. Contemporary Sociology, 25(6), 778–780. https://doi.org/10.2307/2077287

Hong Kong Government. (2022, January 5). Latest arrangements on LCSD public services. Hong Kong Government. https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202201/05/P2022010500734.htm

Legislative Council (2017). Public playgrounds in Hong Kong. Legislative Council. https://www.legco.gov.hk/research-publications/english/essentials-1718ise04-public-playgrounds-in-hong-kong.htm

Legislative Council Research Office. (2018). Overall study hours and student Research Office well-being in Hong Kong. Legislative Council. https://www.legco.gov.hk/research-publications/english/1718in05-overall-study-hours-and-student-well-being-in-hong-kong-20180130-e.pdf

Nettler, J. (2013, September 19). Playground Preservation: Protecting the Cultural History of Slides and Swings. Planetizen. https://www.planetizen.com/node/65205

​​OECD Publishing. (2020). PISA 2018 Results (Volume V): Effective Policies, Successful Schools. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD. https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/639ec0b7-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/639ec0b7-en#chapter-6

Rubin, J. (2014). Wiggins returns to roots; Top pick in NBA draft relives happy playground memories on visit to old public school. Toronto Star, p. S5.

Zulkarnain, A., Soenarjo, H., Sugandi, P., & Fergiani, F. (2020). Preserving village culture, identity, and sense of belonging through visual identity design for public children playground (case study: Mekar Bakti village, Panongan regency, Tangerang). IOP Conference Series. Earth and Environmental Science, 452(1), 12064.

3 thoughts on “[Video Essay] Disappearing City

  1. SubinHwang  says:

    The message that you are trying to convey is quite related to my video “Isolated Video,” which also shows how students get to rely on cyberspace. As technology develops, children are more accessible to mobile phone games than playing out. More children refuse to go out since the mobile game is more provocative and intriguing. Thus, children playing out in playgrounds gradually decreased. Then, due to the COVID, the children are confined to stay in indoor spaces that even their parents cannot control them from relying on cyberspaces, leading the disappearing phenomenon worse.

  2. Wong Ming Chun Markus says:

    This video is mind-provoking yet soul-terrifying in a way that the video blends the reality with imagination, summoning the terror in me. I like how you present the filming environment by combining the sound and instill pictures, reminding the past activities in pre/post-COVID. But I wonder how and in what way you would also present more disappearing architectural purposes like cinema and bars due to COVID rather than only focusing on one specific activity like playing in the playground. In my opinion. disappearing architecture being your gist in the video has more to explore and convey.

  3. Sammie says:

    An interesting study into the changing usage of the playground across time and you integrated various references into your text well. The video is presented in a creative manner, with some parts evoking a rather eerie atmosphere. Is there a special meaning to having the photograph of the playground becoming smaller rather than having it fade out?


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