Any visitor flying over the sprawling city of Hong Kong might marvel at how this once small fishing village has sprouted into a highly stylized metropolis within the short space of a century. Even more intriguing is the rapid pace with which neighbourhoods transform, a similar trend of which takes place in major cities such as Stockholm, New York, or London. An old meatpacking district can become the centre of a heaving bistro revival scene, shipping yards can turn into cosmopolitan museums, and old prisons can become farmers’ markets.
The formerly industrial district of Kwun Tong is great example of patchworked urban agriculture – not too far off from the cyberpunk world dreamed by Kazunori Ito’s Ghost in the Shell, with decaying graffitied walls sandwiched between steel and glass towers. The evolution of Hong Kong has a role to play here, leaving behind the concrete bones of the 1960’s manufacturing era by leaps and bounds into a service-based economic machine.
It’s hard at first to get excited about an old manufacturing district like Kwun Tong, because a casual walk through the streets will reveal nothing more than the same greyed, pastel blocks that cover the rest of the city. Factory buildings rarely evoke the same charm or detail as the romantic turrets featured in Victorian architecture, or the complex joineries of a Wagoya type Japanese roof. They’re practical and straightforward, large grids with pully systems and rattling lift doors. The increasingly expensive rent and labour cost in Hong Kong has forced many companies over the last two decades to vacate their corrugated iron gates and reestablish factories further north in Mainland China.
But space is rarely left vacant for too long in this city, and thanks to some daring entrepreneurs we’ve seen the rise of industrial cafes – a breath of fresh air for the dusty streets of Kwun Tong. These cafes take full advantage of the abundance of space and are furnished simply: a table built from a discarded door, polished concrete floors, and the odd upcycled neon street sign attached to a brick wall. They’re not easily found either, and are usually stationed in hidden corners of an industrial complex. The magical connectivity of the internet ensures these places are found and frequented every day by the busy worker bees of Kwun Tong, sustaining this grassroots approach in a cutthroat F&B scene.
Hong Kong’s cityscape will always be in a constant state of flux, and we’re lucky to live in a time where creative minds can breathe life into otherwise discarded spaces. For now, I’m happy to share some of these hidden, special places, filled with good food and passionate people.
HOW café// Block AB, 3/F, How Ming Factory Building, 99 How Ming Street, Kwun Tong
Syut by tfvsjs// Unit B,10/F, Gee Luen Factory Building, 316-318 Kwun Tong Road, Kwun Tong
Wabi Sabi Coffee // Room C, 4/F, Everest Industrial Centre, 396 Kwun Tong Road, Kwun Tong
/ Written and Shot by Anne Berry /