The Densest City on Earth: Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong

Kowloon Walled City was a remarkable and unique urban settlement located in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Its history dates back to the Song Dynasty (around the 10th century), when a military outpost was established in the area. However, it gained significant attention and underwent drastic transformations during the 20th century.

Initially, the Walled City was a walled garrison town, but over time, it became a densely populated, self-governing enclave within British Hong Kong. During the Qing Dynasty, the British took control of Hong Kong, but the Walled City remained largely autonomous, leading to a complex and somewhat lawless environment. It was neither under the British nor Chinese administration, which created a unique legal and political situation.

As years passed, the Walled City experienced rapid and uncontrolled growth. Its urban development was characterized by a haphazard expansion, with structures built very close to each other, often resulting in interconnected buildings with narrow, labyrinth-like passageways. The buildings were constructed without proper planning or government oversight, and this led to a maze-like conglomeration of residential and commercial spaces stacked on top of one another, sometimes reaching up to 14 stories.

This massive overcrowding led to severe living conditions, with little access to sunlight and limited sanitation facilities. Despite its chaotic appearance, the Walled City had a surprisingly efficient internal network of services, such as clinics, businesses, schools, and communal areas.

The Walled City's notoriety grew as it became synonymous with a haven for various illicit activities, including gambling, drug trafficking, and other criminal enterprises. Law enforcement had difficulty enforcing regulations within its boundaries due to the unique legal situation and the sheer complexity of the layout.

In the late 20th century, as Hong Kong modernized and urban planning became a priority, the Kowloon Walled City came under intense scrutiny. It was seen as an embarrassment and a public health hazard. After years of negotiations between the British and Chinese governments, an agreement was reached to demolish the Walled City.

In 1993, the demolition process began, and by 1994, the last remnants of the Kowloon Walled City were cleared. The area was then transformed into a public park known as Kowloon Walled City Park. Today, the park serves as a historical reminder of the unique and intriguing chapter in Hong Kong's urban development, attracting visitors interested in its history and architecture.