A significant and often historic part of the urban fabric, staircases evidence a unique stair culture which is increasingly threatened by careless maintenance practices and construction projects. The Hong Kong Stair Archive (HKSA) is a pilot project conceived as a way to inventory and archive outdoor stairs (initially, a selection of ones located primarily in the Central and Western District, HK Island) through an online platform and series of publications. The project methods include the consolidation of archival research on the history of Hong Kong stairs and the documentation of their present state through the work of contemporary professional and amateur photographers, artists, surveys, architectural drawings, and a physical and socio-cultural inventory. A parallel exhibition, Always at the edge of things and between places 永遠在邊緣永遠在過渡 took place 14 May – 03 June 2017 at Connecting Space Hong Kong. It included time-based, interactive and multimedia art and design works which actively extended the public’s notion of stairs as not only physical objects, but also as places where cultural life is situated and explored. The exhibition drew upon, interpreted, critiqued and added to the primarily 2D materials in the online, publicly accessible HKSA, and invited the public to participate not only as viewers, but also as catalysts and contributors. The exhibition, along with its accompanying talks, workshops and a publication, presented and activated the HKSA through innovative and interactive works that built history while also envisioning the future of Hong Kong’s urban landscape.

Ultimately, this project seeks to raise public awareness about the value of stairs to Hong Kong’s history, its everyday life, and its continuance as a liveable city. As key components of a rich, walkable pedestrian environment which occupies steep topography, the physical and social life of stairways needs to be documented, recorded and celebrated, both to increase the likelihood of their protection, and to contribute to a broader historical archive of the continuing development of the city. The Hong Kong Stair Archive captures a typology of infrastructure which has never been systematically or thoroughly researched in Hong Kong, despite their ubiquitous presence and absolute necessity in the efficient navigation of the city.

‘Hong Kong Stair Archive: Documenting the Walkable City’ was conceived and produced by Melissa Cate Christ with funding support from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China [Project No. (PolyU274002/14H) and from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, including the School of Design and the Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics. The exhibition portion of the project was supported by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and Connecting Spaces Hong Kong – Zurich / ZHdK.

Current and past team members and volunteers include: Susanne Trumpf, Au Wing Yan, Adeline Chan Hok Ming, Adam Ching Hang Lam, Alec Hawley, Anson Wong, Adam Cox, Edited, Scott Dietrich, Max Willis, Tiago Patatas, Waiwai Chan, Nicci Ng, Robert Klugerman, Darcy Christ, Wang Wei Jia, Sa Ng, Gilles Vanderstocken, Anita Dawood, Eric Cheung Kat Fu, Stephanie Liu, Vien Sze Wing Yueng, Ellis Chik Li Lam, Jeffrey Ho Ka Kin, Desmond Fung Man Yiu, Haris Hiu Tung Wong, Jack Yuen Lok Him, Jeff Kung, Jeff Ng, Hazel Chan, Sharon So, Verena Leung, Kenny Chau and Put Hui.

For more information on the project, contact macate@polyu.edu.hk