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High-Rise Living in Asian Cities.



Belinda Yuen and Anthony Yeh, editors

(New York: Springer, 2011), 202 pages.

With a rapidly growing global population crowding cities, the need for high-density housing has never been greater. However, these types of buildings tend to polarize people. To some, they represent modernity, elegance and urban sophistication. To others, they are symbols of crime, soullessness and depressing solitude. What accounts for these differences in perception?

In High-Rise Living in Asian Cities, Belinda Yuen and Anthony Yeh set out to answer this question by analyzing two cities famous for their residential density: Hong Kong and Singapore. For from being centers of crime and decay, these two Asian metropolises are known for being some of the cleanest, safest and most prosperous cities in the world.

Residents in the two cities report satisfaction with their high-rise homes, even preferring to live on higher rather than lower floors. In comparison, survey respondents in North American and European countries still prefer low-density, low-rise living. Yuen and Yeh consider several factors that affect adaptation to high-rise living. Most interestingly, the authors write that the heavily Chinese populations in Hong Kong and Singapore--unlike other ethnic groups--appear to have a cultural predilection toward density. Highrise building complexes that engender a sense of community through shops, restaurants and shared green space tend to be for more popular than facilities lacking those amenities.

Can these characteristics be exported to cities beyond Asia? Alas, Yuen and Yeh do not say. Instead, they focus mainly on specific details that may only be of interest to those with a background in architecture and urban planning. For everyone else, High-Rise Living in Asian Cities is unfortunately hamstrung by its reluctance to tease out the larger implications of its conclusions.

Matthew Schiavenza

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Author:Schiavenza, Matthew
Publication:Journal of International Affairs
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2012
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