The Exclusionary Nature of Hyperdensity: Hong Kong’s Volumetric Urban Compaction as Liveability Model for Exclusionary Interiorised Settings

G Bruyns, Henry Leonard Endemann, Ching Lee, Darren Henry Nel

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


East Asian urbanisation is characterised by complex processes of extensive densification. Fuelled by rapid economic growth, Asian cities’ size, scale and physical dimensions remain incomparable with any Western setting. During the past 30 years alone, a variety of concepts have attempted to further define hyperdensity, layering and intensity as core principles of Asian urban development. Although these concepts extensively explore the physical properties of development, few examples are available that provide insights into the behavioural and social dimensions of such complex morphological settings. This paper explores the effects of urban compaction and volumetric urbanism on liveability in East Asian cities. Hong Kong exemplifies an extreme scale and rate of densification. Podium developments—commercial plinths elevated above street level that connect large residential towers to commercial complexes—are one of the city’s most common development types. The hypothesis is that the combination of different types of podium developments results in the interiorisation of the urban realm, which compresses public services, social engagements and behavioural conditions into diverse privatised and fragmented ‘public interiors’. To explore these conditions, this paper first outlines the conceptual premise of reading urban settings through the lens of volumetric urban compaction—a conceptual framework that combines urban compaction and volumetric urbanism. Second, the paper discusses theories that deal with the links between spatial settings and behavioural traits. Privatisation is of particular interest here, including those processes in which the private and the public become interchangeable conditions or where the temporary occupation of functions occurs. The different concepts—volumetric urban compaction and interiority—are studied within Olympic City, a podium development in Kowloon (Hong Kong). Through fieldwork, the case is investigated in terms of the different elements that make up Olympic City’s spatial configuration and how space is used by different user groups at different times of the day and week. The case study shows that Hong Kong’s development follows an economically driven model of volumetric urban compaction; it supports a larger privatisation strategy that depends on the interiorisation of the city to an extent that makes the overall structure highly exclusive, static, and controlled.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBuilt Environment
Publication statusSubmitted - 5 Jun 2022


  • Volumetric urban morphology
  • Urban interiors
  • Density
  • Liveability
  • Hong Kong


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