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Kowloon Walled City: An Illustrated Guide

A massive illustration drawn just before it was demolished captures life in the city down to the tiniest detail

I don't have the time or space to fully introduce Kowloon Walled City if you've never heard of it before--countless others have already done so, and done a great job--but suffice to say it was an architectural marvel and a cyberpunk icon that inspired, well, almost everything you've ever seen (Ghost in the Shell!) or played (Stray!) that featured dystopian, crowded and man-made spaces.

With its population exploding in 1945 and its demolition coming in 1994, it's existence in a specific time and place in the world has long made it a fascination of historians and nerds alike. But because it's gone, and was so difficult to fully document, it can be tough to get a real idea of what the scale of the place was like beyond some old footage, photos and first-hand accounts.

It used to be the most densely-populated space on Earth! By a lot! But individual visual records, no matter how comprehensive, have just never been able to capture the reality of what life must have been like in Kowloon Walled City like this cross-section by Hitomi Terasawa.

Illustrated for the book Kowloon City: An Illustrated Guide, which is now long out of print, the panorama depicts the city in its entirety, showing just how chaotic life there must have been, and the architectural slapdash that led to its ever-changing interiors often being described as a "living organism".

This hi-res scan from the book was recently uploaded by Belarius, who adds that while the original version with Japanese annotations is no longer available, one without them is present in 2014's City Of Darkness Revisited, which is still available.

As a noted cross-section enjoyer I'm in love with the detail here, from the tiniest piece of furniture to the ricketiest walkway, but what makes this truly special is the addition of some of the city's 35,000 inhabitants going about their daily lives, doing everything from playing in playgrounds to performing bathroom renovations.

You can see the full spread in all its glory here.

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