I was reading John Jeremiah Sullivan’s essay, Unnamed Caves, about Native American cave art in Tennessee, from his fantastic collection, Pulphead. He describes a plateau riddled with caverns and tunnels. It is karst topography, soluble bedrock that has been eroded by water worming through. I was familiar with the famous karst landscapes of Halong Bay in Vietnam and the chimneys around Yangshuo, a tourist and climber’s town in nearby province, Guilin; these are much older landscapes, the towers survivors of the water’s insistent tunnelling. An anthill doesn’t seem to be an ideal place to build, but it’s geologic not human time that matters, and the porousness of the rock has advantages, particularly for cities like Hong Kong pressed by geography.
Hong Kong grows ever up but now it seeks to grow down, using the hollows and the caverns beneath the city for unsightly infrastructure projects. No doubt this will also raise a lot of money as the now unneeded municipal land can be sold off for immense sums to the cabal of developers.
Soon though, given Hong Kong’s class prejudices, public works will not be enough and the working public will be seen to. The under-class will become literal; nannies will be banished from the cardboard-lined corridors in Central and forced downstairs on their day off; cage men will become cave men. Down into the catacombs the hoi polloi will be herded to be among the shit and the mire, trading their cramped, air- and sun-less rooms for the same. It is the great answer until floating cities arrive.
Originally posted March 31, 2012