[VIDEO ESSAY] Subdivided City_KIM Daeun

Subdivided City


Hong Kong has been designed with maximum efficiency when it comes to space. The effects of high land price can be observed in the densely populated, vertically packed structures. Property developers use every tactic while toeing the line of legality when it comes to maximizing GFA. One of the unfortunate outcomes has been the lack of public space, and lack of open space. This can be seen in the narrow corridors, small lifts, and in many cases, the lack of a lobby. The narrow spaces 


The concept of small spaces leading to anxiety is not novel. Claustrophobia is a widely accepted phobia in which a person feels anxious and scared in a small spatial environment. The feeling of being trapped and not being able to breath have been listed as common side effects. However, research shows that small spatial environments affect more people in their daily lives than previously thought. Some research findings include: small spaces causing anxiety and tachypnea (rapid breathing) 

“ Staying in a too narrow space can lead to some people becoming anxious or short of breath” (Ma, 2021), narrow spaces and the spread of disease (UMC, 2021). 


Hong Kong can feel like an impersonal space,  given the compact environment that has been designed with the lack of personal living quality in mind. The narrow corridors and small living space somehow alienate neighbors rather than bringing them together. The lack of personal space leads to people wanting their privacy even while they are in close proximity to each other. In a compact  train, most people are seen to be looking at their phone screens while being surrounded by people pushing against each other. It can be seen as a defense mechanism to protect oneself in a potentially dangerous environment. 


With the odds stacked against the feeling of community being felt, upon closer inspection touches of warmth can be seen. To show the perseverance of the human connection, I have recorded touches of intimacy through video and photographic documentation. I have drawn upon personal experiences and observations to conduct my research. In first half of the video, I cropped out the horizontal filming of the video- cropping the video to be vertical to show the narrow perspective of my first impression/ unobservant view. It conveys the depression and lack of self being permeated through the small space. I have angled the phone downwards to show my disinterest and sadness towards the built environment. In the middle of the video, I have inserted a personal experience that happened to me that changed my perspective on the kindness of my neighbors. I included a scene in which my landlord left my mail on the doorstep for me. He later said that he saw my mail getting piled up and thought I had missed it (he sometimes checks the mailbox with my permission for mails addressed to him). I had previously thought that my neighbors did not really care for me or each other. But i started noticing things that I had missed before. The luscious garden that our security man keeps at the corridor leading to the building, the little tips posted by neighbors for safety, ancestral offerings, and hints of personal touches in the small shared space. I had missed the sofa permanently set in the corridor leading to the lift, a corridor too narrow to be called a lobby. Older residents could be seen here discussing things throughout  the day with the guard. I had thought it was complaints about the building and neighbors based on the tone. I later learned that  they were talking about their daily lives when they started to include me in passing conversations in Mandarin, because they know I can’t speak Cantonese. I hope that this video essay can convey the warmth of the community one can experience in this confined space if only one tries to look closer. 


Physics of Fluids, news release, Dec. 15, 2020

Citation: Ma, N.; Ma, S.; Li, S.; Ma, S.; Pan, X.; Sun, G. The Study of Spatial Safety and Social Psychological Health Features of Deaf Children and Children with an Intellectual Disability in the Public School Environment Based on the Visual Access and Exposure (VAE) Model. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 4322. https://doi.org/10.3390/ ijerph18084322 Academic Editors: Jitse P. van Dijk and Paul B. Tchounwou Received: 19 January 2021 Accepted: 16 April 2021 Published: 19 April 2021

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