Sha Tin Field Walking

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A day in the life of a new city explorer.  I usually set off with a map on which I’ve outlined a few research-based destinations, a compass, water, comfortable shoes, a camera (or two), a sketchbook, and my ipod.  By the time I reach the metro, I’ve charted out a course for the day.  There’s always room for flexibility and chance.  There’s always time for thinking and getting lost.  And, when I don’t have a guide to show me around…. getting lost is part of the agenda.

In contrast to existing cities, new cities are typically more organized, peaceful, safe, and clean.  Systems of transportation, infrastructure, and development have been designed to work in concert from the beginning.  There are simply less people populating the public ways.  There is a certain minimalism about it all.  Some years ago I saw a Mies exhibit in Chicago in which the Art Institute was displaying some original drawings and reconstructed models of Crown Hall and the IBM building.  The exhibit finale was an erie animation of the IIT campus.  We stood in the dark watching slow-moving people float around Miesian free space while ghostly notes reverberated from different corners of the room.  Weird, right?  But kind of cool.  I am reminded of that otherworldly sensation when I walk around these new spaces.  Especially when I have something like the Cinematic Orchestra flooding my noise canceling headphones.  In India, this type of isolation wasn’t possible.  Welcome to China.

I floated off the metro into the central hub of Hong Kong’s Sha Tin.

Sha Tin: Sha Tin has grown from a rural township of about 30 000 people in the early 1970s to a major community of about 624 500 people today. Sha Tin New Town (including Ma On Shan) has a total development area of about 3 591 hectares for a planned population of 735 000. The new town is built on land mainly reclaimed from the Tolo Harbour.
Published by the Information Services Department,
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government
Feb 2009

I was curious to see what made this place tick.  I walked around a massive upscale shopping mall adjacent to the train station.  Typical.  Almost really disappointed, until I discovered the hierarchy of shopping and living that radiated from this central mall (that they actually call “New Town Plaza”).  The further I walked, the more local Chinese establishments I ran into.  I had homemade Hong Kong Honey Tea in one glass cubicle.  Entire blocks are layers of streets, elevated walkways (so cars and pedestrians are separated), and towers of housing above.  This made for some really interesting sections.  I think this type of layering is worth studying.  I documented activity with time lapse photography and I plan on drawing up some sections to show these slices of the city and the activity that takes place within.

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