From January 2013

Former Wan Chai Police Station

The end of last year was rather busy and chaotic so I’m a bit behind on posting but I thought I’d share a few photos from DETOUR 2012: Design Renegade which was held in the Former Wan Chai Police Station (灣仔警署署) late November – continuing last years theme of opening up decommissioned buildings to the public for the duration of the festival.

Prison Cells

The No. 2 Police Station (二號差館), as it was known, was built in 1932 and originally faced directly onto Victoria Harbour before land reclamation left it inland. The station closed in 2011 and is awaiting redevelopment.

No. 2 Cell

Inside the building retains many of the signs of its former purpose – including the prisoner cells which look as unwelcoming as you might expect.

Police Station Cell

Ignoring the unfathomable ‘art’ installation, it’s not hard to imagine the prisoners locked up in here, with nothing but four concrete walls to stare at and toilet facilities which consisted of a hole in the floor.

Prisoner Drinking Water

A bilingual sign reminds prisoners of their rights to drinking water.

Language Identifier

For those who couldn’t understand Cantonese or English there was a helpful chart that foreign prisoners could use to point out their language so that an interpreter could be called.

Red Guard

One cell had former police officers accoutrements painted in bright red.

2012 Hong Kong Design Year

2012 was Hong Kong Design Year.

Block Chart

This block chart represented the recorded soundscapes of the local Wan Chai neighbourhood which is home to some of the cities richest and poorest people.

Cardboard Contours

A cool wooden contour map.


When asked the question of how Hong Kong’s urban development could be improved it’s nice to see someone had a sense of humour!

Hanging Plants

Random hanging plants.

Team 4

District Crime Investigation Team 4 and their good luck deities.

Faux Patriotism

My favourite installation was a room with horn, which when blown into activated a fan to raise the Chinese national flag!

Report Room

Some of the signs in the station had stickers on them which I think was an indicator that they should be preserved.

We Serve with Pride and Care

“We Serve with Pride and Care”.

Where was the last place you freaked out?

“Where was the last place you freaked out?” – probably trying to walk home through the ever-crowded streets of Mong Kok!

deTour 2012

A watchtower outside the police station compound. Were they expecting invaders?


Outside there were a few weird and wonderful sculptures.

Glowing Water

A sign next to this read “100% pure unfiltered Hong Kong Tap Water – Drink at own risk”. As with last year the building and the surrounding neighbourhood was somewhat more interesting than the exhibition but perhaps that was part of the idea.

A Week in Tokyo Part 8 – Sugamo

While Harajuku and Shibuya are squarely aimed at the younger generations in Tokyo, it’s easy to forget that Japan has an ageing population with more than 20% of people being over the age of 65. So where do all these older folk go to shop? One popular place is Sugamo (巣鴨), otherwise known as “Grandma’s Harajuku”. Read more

Dancing With Light

Japanese artists seem to have become extremely adept at combining motion graphics, projection, and live-action choreographed dance into some mesmerising acts which caught my attention over the last year. Below are four of the best. Read more

A Week in Tokyo Part 7 – Yokohama

During my week in Japan last November I took a couple of trips outside the capital to nearby cities, the first being to Yokohama (横浜市) which lies south of Tokyo in Tokyo Bay – a half hour journey from Shibuya on the Tokyu Toyoko Line (東急東横線).

Cosmo Clock 21

I got off at Minatomirai (みなとみらい) station in an area known as Minato Mirai 21 (みなとみらい21) which translated means “Port of the Future in the 21st century”. After exiting the shopping mall above the station the first thing you’ll see is the Cosmo Clock 21 which is a giant ferris wheel combined with the worlds largest clock.

InterContinental Reflection

This particular vision of the future was conceived in the 1980’s and as such is looking a bit dated and overly stark.

InterContinental Yokohama

The InterContinental Yokohama Grand hotel is shaped like a giant yacht sail.

Yokohama Landmark Tower

Nearby is Japans tallest building – the Yokohama Landmark Tower (横浜ランドマークタワー), standing 296 m high. It reminded me a lot of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – not exactly pretty.

Landmark Tower Sculpture

Outside is an enormous steel sculpture called the ‘MokuMoku WakuWaku Yokohama YoYo’ which was designed by Hisayuki Mogami in 1994.

Yokohama Street

Rather bleak and sterile boulevards.


More of the twisted YoYo.

Nippon Maru

The Nippon Maru, a historic navel training ship, is docked outside.

Minato Mirai 21

You can get a better feel for the scale of MM21 as you walk towards Bashamichi Station (馬車道駅) but it looks much better at night. Notice the Tower Bridge copy in the background!

Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History

Yokohama was the first port city which opened up Japan to the rest of the world in the mid-19th century and the area around Bashamichi Station has many historic buildings built in a western style during this period.

Yokohama Yellow Taxi

Yellow Yokohama.

Bashamichi Gas Street Lights

The area was also the first place in Japan to have gas-fired street lights which have recently been re-installed.

Autumn in Yokohama

Despite being late in the season there was still some beautiful autumn colours on the trees lining the avenues.

Autumn Painter

I came across many groups of older folks doing oil and watercolour paintings.

Master & Apprentice

Being Japan there were of course other groups diligently sweeping up the fallen leaves.

Gentleman Observer

Yokohama also has a famous Chinatown but I gave it a miss seeing as I already live in China! To be honest I found half a day in Yokohama more than enough so perhaps I think more research will be in order before visiting again.

The UK welcomes you

British Council Education Hong Kong AD

I was walking home in Hong Kong last night when I passed this really cool billboard from the British Council advertising UK education. Full version below.

British Council @UK

As a confirmed map geek I really liked this take on the classic London Underground tube map which represents subjects as stations on a fictitious @UK network layout.

Last year the UK government also ran a nicely executed GREAT Britain image campaign, promoting Britain overseas as one of the best places to visit, study, work, and invest in.

Too Many Apps Spoil The Broth

Look at the picture below of my iPhone home screen and tell me what’s wrong with it:

Messaging Smartphone Apps

Yes, you guessed it: every man, women, child, dog, and online service has their own messaging app these days and it’s driving me crazy. Do I really need 12 apps, which basically do the same thing, to keep in touch with everyone?

It all started a few years ago when WhatsApp initially took off and was then copied dozens of times triggering a spiral into the nightmare of trying to keep a mental note of who’s using which app and then navigate the idiosyncrasies of each.

Not only have messaging apps become segmented by service (Facebook, Twitter, Skype…) but also by region; KakaoTalk in Korea, LINE in Japan (from Naver), and WeChat in China (from Tencent) etc. Interestingly WhatsApp has completely failed to innovate and is looking increasingly dated compared to the others.

While I realise this is a first world problem it would be great to see Apple, Google and the like come together to agree on an open messaging standard which works cross-platform. These are the features I would like to see baked in:

  • Send text, audio, photo, video, location and contacts to individuals or groups
  • Video conference with one or more people simultaneously over any network
  • Location aware channels for conferences and coffee shops etc.
  • Mandatory encryption and privacy controls

Sadly it’s unlikely because they all already have their own competing solutions but if a startup like Cobook can unify half a dozen contact services then surely someone can?