As you look up, the towering buildings rise with your gaze on all three sides, leaving only a small, U-shaped gap of sky. Known as Hong Kong’s “Monster Building,” this concrete giant is part of a group of private housing towers that was built in the 1960s. Architecturally, the complex can seem ugly and even oppressive – but in recent years, this spot has been a favorite haunt of Instagrammers and amateur photographers looking to capture its unique symmetry and density.
The Monster Building is located in Quarry Bay, a relatively quiet district in eastern Hong Kong Island. Despite its nickname, it is not a single building but an E-shaped complex composed of five interconnected towers. Built in the 1960s, it was one of many public housing developments owned by the government, providing heavily subsidized accommodation for the city’s low-income residents.
In the 50s and 60s, Hong Kong experienced a population boom as waves of refugees flooded into the city in order to escape the political chaos of mainland China. This led to a severe housing shortage – tenement buildings quickly became overcrowded, and the poorest of the refugees built rudimentary squatter villages on the hillsides out of wood and metal sheets. The crisis forced the Hong Kong government to launch a public housing program to house the city’s poor.
The Monster Building is typical of public housing towers built in this era: the apartments are small and densely packed, while the pragmatic architecture reflects the utilitarian austerity of postwar Hong Kong.
This previously little-noticed complex has become a popular place to take photographs in recent years, and even served as the location of a chase scene in the 2014 film Transformers: Age of Extinction. However, the public has since been banned from taking photos of the iconic tower complex.