In his new book, Mall City: Hong Kong’s Dreamworlds of Consumption, Stefan Al analyzes Hong Kong as the world’s laboratory of vertical urbanism. The city continues to build ever-higher-density mega-complexes of residential and office towers standing on a podium shopping mall, often integrated with railway infrastructure. These podium-tower developments are cities in and of themselves, accommodating up to tens of thousands of people who live, work and play within a single structure. Stretching up to 26 stories and incorporating stunning vertical atria with dynamic “expresscalators,” these complexes have become one of Hong Kong’s basic units of urban development, like the skyscraper is of New York City. Highly efficient urban forms, they also set in stone a culture of consumerism.
Stefan Al is an architect and urban designer. An Associate Professor of Urban Design at the University of Pennsylvania, he teaches courses and studios on Urban Design and co-teaches, with Jonathan Barnett and Gary Hack, an online Coursera class “Designing Cities” that reaches more than 65,000 students. A leading expert on urbanization in developing countries, high-density cities, and cities of spectacle and entertainment, Als has authored and edited numerous books, including Factory Towns of South China, Villages in the City, Mall City, and Macau and the Casino Complex, as well as a recent work on Las Vegas, The Strip. Stefan Al holds a doctorate in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley, an M.Arch. from The Bartlett, and an M.Sc. from Delft University of Technology.