Middle Man Hong Kong

How to theorize a city that operates without theory? Such is the challenge of Hong Kong, where the combination of a growing population and limited land has cultivated an instant-fix mentality. There is neither time nor space for architectural ideologies, only pure pragmatism. But this habit has created fragments of an ideology – that there is value not only in resolving the conflict but also highlighting the two sides. The middleman functions in the same way, a bridge that is also always looking for more gaps to fill. This project, formatted as a series of video essays, investigates the city as a middleman of this uneasy duality, and the tools used to deal with the two extremes, from buildings (Entertainment Building) and objects (Escalator) to scenarios (Porosity vs. Solidity).

Because Hong Kong’s urban landscape has undergone such drastic changes, its architectural qualities are easily diluted – by broad historical narratives or narrow typological studies that shuffle buildings into timelines and categories. This video series will function as a body of references for local designers and the larger community interested in the architecture of the city. Like a close reading of a novel, or video essays that analyze a specific aspect of a film, this project seeks to provide comprehensive analysis of individual architectures rather than a portrait of the city. We believe the local design culture will benefit from having a shared set of references – historical, ideological, visual – to discuss, interrogate, reinterpret.


Location: Hong Kong
Year: 2017
Narration: Thomas Ting
Team: Evelyn Ting, Paul Tse, Johanes Mikha Gunawan, Tracy Miao, Joyce Yiu
Supported by Design Trust
Special thanks to Joao Barroso and Shiyu Wei

Episode 1 - Middle Man

Episode 2 - Character

Episode 3 - Escalators

Episode 4 - Palm Trees

Episode 5 - Three Banks

Episode 6 - Parks & Toilets

Episode 7 - Reflection

Episode 8 - Spam

Episode 9 - Stations

Episode 10 - Port

Episode 11 - Shortcuts

Episode 12 - Island