A Thousand Windows in Second Life

A Thousand Windows, September 2020 – click any image for full size

Lotus Mastroianni and Fred Hamilton (frecoi) are back with another region design that will likely be around for a month(ish) for people to enjoy. Their most recent builds have tended to have an urban design rooted in the physical world, starting with their take on a Brazilian favela back in May of 2020 (see:  Visiting A Favela in Second Life), and this latest design continues this theme, appearing to be inspired by a part of a place that lies very close to my heart.

With A Thousand Windows, Fred and Lotus seems to take as their inspiration the tight-knit tenement blocks located in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong’s Kowloon peninsula. Mong Kok is a place I’ve visited on numerous occasions in my life (notably as a result of once living in Hong Kong many, many, years ago). I say this because, while there is no outright pointer to Mong Kok within the build, parts of it appear to pay clear homage to the district.

A Thousand Windows, September 2020

Take the 737 airliner passing overhead, for example; to me, it sits as a reminder that the district once lay beneath one of the approaches airliners had to make in order to touch-down at Hong Kong’s former airport at Kai Tak, a short distance away.  An approach that had aircraft practically scraping the roofs of the tenements, as made famous in many a photograph.

Elsewhere, in fairness, the region could have been inspired by any number of densely-packed housing units in the orient, but for me, Mong Kok is the place it brings to mind, even if Kai Tak did cease operations more than 20 years ago, having been replaced by a much larger, purpose-built facility built (much like Kai Tak) on reclaimed land, but out at Chek Lap Kok island, sitting off the north coast of Lantau. However, the focus of the build isn’t airlines or airports, but rather the densely-packed nature of the old tenements and the lives that go on within them.

A Thousand Windows, September 2020
There is a huge world out there, but what happens behind all those windows? what lives and worlds are hiding there? How many eyes peer into the fleeting reflections of so many lights?

– About Land, A Thousand Windows

This is actually a question I can remember asking myself, both as a youngster living in Kong Kong, and as an adult tourist who has made many return visits. With their shoebox sized (by western standards) living spaces, stacked one atop the next in grey, slab-like concrete towers cut through with narrow roads and alleys set back from the broader through routes of places like Yua Ma Tei occupying the main thrust of the Kowloon peninsula, parts of Mong Kok always struck me with a sense of mystery as to what was going on behind the blinds-shouded windows and narrow verandahs strung with laundry that so often formed the face of the squat tor blocks as they looks at the world.

All this is marvellously captured with Lotus and Fred’s design, which has been ideally set within a twilight environment to emphasise the volume of windows representative of people packed into so tight a space.

A Thousand Windows, September 2020

Set within four façades representative of five floors of apartment blocks, the region presents a number of tower blocks of similar height with narrow streets and alleys running between them. Neon signs hang from the sides of buildings and laundry hangs from verandahs – again a common sight I remember from Mong Kok. Most of the buildings within the setting are shells, although one or two contain interiors, making exploration worthwhile.

As well as the narrow streets sitting within their concrete canyons, the region offers elevated walkways from which the view can be appreciated, as well as offering the way to some outdoor spaces. And if you look hard enough, you might find an elevator leading up to the rooftops of one gathering of blocks, a couple of seats located just a across the roof from the elevator top from which to admire the view of the 737 passing overhead – and the visitors passing below.

A Thousand Windows, September 2020

Opportunities for photography, either by day or night, can be found throughout – as can be seen in the Flickr stream Lotus and Fred use for their builds. I admit to finding the sound scape accompanying the build a little odd – particularly the loud buzzing of flies (although that could perhaps be hornets of wasps, both of which could be a summertime nuisance in Hong Kong when I was little) but this can easily be ignored, leaving one to remain fully immersed in the setting.

All told, another enticing, attractive build. And just in case you haven’t seen photos of airliners over the actual Mong Kok district, I’ll leave you with the following.

A 747 passing over the broader streets of Mong Kok as it descends into the former Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong – catch the 737 sitting above A Thousand Windows

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3 thoughts on “A Thousand Windows in Second Life

    1. Did I mention the Walled City? 🙂 . That was actually just a small part of Kowloon. Mong Kok, the area I refer to in the article, is something entirely different and much larger.

      The Walled City, for all its infamy, was actually just 2.6 hectares in size. It stood on a small area of land between the much larger Mong Kok and Kai Tai areas of Kowloon City.

      Like all of Hong Kong, Mong Kok and Kai Tak saw a rapid expansion in population in the 1960, given rise to a new form of tong lau tenement building, a minimalist, utilitarian and frequently uniform design which became very much a staple of architectural design for the decades that followed. Unlike the buildings cramped into the Walled City, which grew entirely unregulated and organically, the tong lau of Mong Kok were properly regulated (even if only basically served by water and power needs) and presented as recognisable “city blocks”, bounded by main thoroughfares such as Nathan Road and / or by smaller streets, many of which could also be the homes of open-air markets during the daylight hours and by night become places from which you could look up at the lights of hundreds densely-packed windows.

      Thus, while the face of Mong Kok has been changing over the last few decades (in particular, the removal of building height restrictions following the transfer of airport operations to Chek Lap Kok has meant many of the old tenements have given way to “gentrified” high-rise apartment blocks), the design at A Thoussand Windows far more brought to my mind the tight-knit communities of those old tong laus far more than any thoughts of the old Walled City – which is not, of course, to say that Fred and Lotus weren’t influenced by thoughts / pictures of it.

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