In South America the slums are attached to the outskirts of mega-cities such as Caracas and Mexico City like wasps’ nests on a cliff face. In a hilly island city like Hong Kong, however, living space is limited. Here you only see the laboriously constructed huts made of corrugated iron and planks of wood in which the poorest of the poor live if you look upwards – they occupy, to put it in cynical terms, a penthouse location.
Some of these rooftop shacks, which in the year 2006 after the government’s first slum clearance programme still housed 3962 people in 1554 households, are up to three storeys high. Improvised structures made of ladders and bits of furniture create connections between the individual parts of the buildings and join these impoverished dwellings into complete rooftop settlements – sociologists even talk of a “self-organising niche architecture” and point to the utopian aspects of this urban way of life.
Over a period of months the Canadian architect Rufina Wu and Hamburg photographer Stefan Canham created a record of the rooftop slums of Hong Kong in photos and detailed sketches. Their work is displayed at an exhibition in Hamburg’s Kunsthaus.