Filippo Testa

Borders & Territories

Surveillance and Decay

Surveillance and Decay seeks to unveil a dystopic scenario for the future of Hong Kong and its inhabitants. With just a few years away from 2047, the region is already de facto undergoing a controversial process of reunification with China. To that end, this project situates itself within a foreseeable future of “troubles”, leading to an increase of surveillance and control over the territory. By proposing a surveillance bar, hosting a high-tech detention centre, wrapped around a new infrastructure system connecting the city to the mainland, the architecture poses itself as a critique of the current history of the autonomous region. It is a satire and by no means a real argumentation for architecture that should exist. However, even if the present proposal tends to hyperbolic exaggerations, all the elements of the project are to some degree real.


The “One country, two systems” constitutional principle is set to expire in 2047, therefore, given the relentless tension between mainland China and Hong Kong, a scenario of protests and repression is quite likely. With a growing strong identity and a weak sense of cooperation towards the CCP agenda, the people of Hong Kong certainly do not want to comply with the Chinese takeover, as the present political riots have widely shown. This scenario would, in fact, involve clashes between the protesters and police, forcing China to enhance its control over Hong Kong and its people.

Heading towards 2047, the technological advancement will grant a higher level of surveillance through the scrutiny of data, automated control points, and AI. This will possibly lead to a less ‘physical’ control but rather a data and technology-based surveillance.


Starting from an analysis of the current infrastructural system of the Hong Kong - Zhuhai - Macau bridge, connecting mainland China to the autonomous region, the architectural intervention situates itself within the artificial island hosting the Border Control facilities. The island is in itself a border, drawing a line between the two countries while being the entry point to the city. It is not a geographical border, being situated within the Hong Kong territory, but it is effectively a highly controlled security check. By 2047 this area will lose its primary function, gaining a new condition of a borderless edge. The border, in geographical terms, will be erased, but the physical one will stay (at least temporarily or metaphorically) with the ruins of the buildings that were part of the facilities.


The intervention aims at advancing the control over the flow of people as a first step: a new surveillance facility that hosts an upgrade to the highway infrastructure, which is passing within it. The bar acts as a surveillance hub and detention centre, for China to exert influence and state its sovereignty over Hong Kong, by using new technologies for the control of people’s flow, monitoring over who is entering and (especially) exiting the old British colony.

On one side, the intervention becomes a new intersection for travellers coming from mainland China to enter the Hong Kong territories, connecting the existing bridge to the city centre, the Lantau Island new developments and the New Territories with Shenzhen up north.

On the other hand, the surveillance bar hosts an automated prison that wraps itself around the infrastructural spine. The concept consists of an isolated module per person, 4x4m cage with a bed, a desk, a toilet and space for any utilities needed. Everything is supplied (water, electricity, heat, food) by a system of tubes, automated, and controlled by a central tower. The tower is also the place where the prisoners are judged, sentenced, and assigned to their cage. The module is then set in place through a rail system until the term of imprisonment has ended.


It is a satire and by no means a real argumentation for architecture that should exist. However, all the elements of the narrative presented in the project are to some degree real in the context of Hong Kong. The project presents a satirical future where the current exercising of sovereignty over Hong Kong is exacerbated to its maximum levels of control, through a prison where the cell module is even bigger than the infamous ‘cage homes’, typically found only in Hong Kong.

The ridiculousness and darkness of the project exist simply because it is a reflection of our own reality. At last, the project does not only pose itself as a criticism but, paradoxically, almost as a solution to the housing crisis.


Who is the real prisoner?