Please know that I mean absolutely no judgement here, but when I saw Michael Wolf's photos of Hong Kong high-rises, I panicked...
Like actual heart-rate-increasing, claustrophobic, stressed-out panic, even though I was a million miles away, merely looking at a photo. This has never happened to me before, so I thought perhaps we should discuss it.
You see, though I've always lived in cities, I've never lived or worked in a building anything like the ones shown above. I've never lived higher than the 3rd floor, finding great comfort in the fact that if I absolutely had to, I could jump out the window. I'm not saying it would go well, but it's not like living on the 300th floor. I like to be near to the ground, to be able to see all the passers-by and daily bustle — I think I would feel so separate from my city if I lived way up high, though I know that penthouses are some of the most coveted spots in the world, so a lot of people must feel differently. (Obviously, a luxury penthouse would be a very different experience than a housing project high-rise — I'm just referring to the distance from the ground.)
I've also never lived in a building with more than, say, 20 units. There have been some tiny (at least by U.S. standards) apartments in my past, but they were in fairly small buildings. I can't imagine what it would be like to live near that many other humans. With close-to-home developments like San Francisco's micro-apartments, it seems inevitable that living this tightly-packed will be come more and more common around the world.
As I said up front, I do not mean any of this as judgement. I don't know the story behind the buildings in Michael Wolf's series The Architecture of Density, only that they are part of "Hong Kong’s highly compressed, often brutal architecture", and I would never want to cast aspersions on the people that live there. I'm just trying to imagine what it would be like, the same way I'm trying to imagine my upcoming move to a little house surrounded by 2,000 acres of prairie, with cornfields for miles beyond that (the thought of which has also made me panic a bit, if I'm being honest). What's it like to live so close together, and what's it like to live so far apart? If you've ever lived in a skyscraper-type building with hundreds or even thousands of units, how did you like it? How did it feel?