Since everybody is already talking about Hong Kong's role in the Snowden matter, let's head over to China for a fascinating example of live-in urban decay. Originally built as a walled-in military barracks, Kowloon Walled City exploded with unsupervised vertical construction in the 1970s. It topped out at 14 stories and housed about 50,000 squatters during its peak in the late-1980s before being torn down by the Chinese government.
The regulations within Kowloon Walled City were similar to the lawlessness of international waters, with government officials adopting a "hands off" policy towards its development and upkeep. Run by Triads, the city was constructed of roughly 500 interconnected buildings that almost completely blocked out the sun from within. These buildings were constructed without the help of engineers or architects, so there's no way in hell they met safety or sanitation standards.
Trash rotted away on the rooftops, gambling and prostitution ran rampant, and the drug trade boomed within its confines (particularly heroin). But despite its dangerous shortcomings, residents seemed generally positive and managed to open small schools and fabrication shops. Despite the tight squeeze (about 40 square feet per person), residents even had electricity and running water.
The fellas over at 99% Invisible summed up the living space pretty well:
"Think about living in a 1,200 square foot home. Then imagine yourself living with nine other people. Then imagine that your building is only one unit of a 12-story building, and every other unit is as full as yours. Then imagine hundreds of those buildings crammed together in a space the size of four football fields."
Nope. Not for me.
For photos of the interior, check out Greg Girard's gallery that includes everything from drug use and unlicensed dentistry to fish balls and plunger manufacturing. It's incredible that it never suffered a major fire with so much refuse lying about.
And click here for a cool infographic, courtesy South China Morning Post.