Manuel Alvarez Diestro

Photographer Manuel Alvarez Diestro gives these monolithic boneyards a grim celebration.

Hong Kong is an incredibly packed city, so why should its cemeteries be any different? Shoe-horned into the urban hillside, these terraced monoliths of granite and bone dominate the skyline like the architecture of a forgotten, death-obsessed civilization.

It was actually the similarity between these structures and those of ancient civilizations that attracted the interest of Manuel Alvarez Diestro, a self-described "photographer of cities" from London. He explains over email:

The inspiration for the specific angle to conduct this series came some years ago when I was visiting the Roman amphitheatre of Leptis Magna in Libya right before the Arab Spring. From its top after climbing its many steps, I would see the different seating levels (the cavea) surrounding the stage right next to the Mediterranean Sea. Looking at this particular ruin right next to the sea, I remembered the Hong Kong cemeteries that I climbed some months before in order to view the city from the top. I saw a clear resemblance with the similar scales, levels, and circular shapes. There's also the fact that the cemeteries, like the Classical ruins, are normally next to nature and in a prominent location where they can be easily seen.

Alvarez Diestro had been sniffing around for a Hong Kong project with an unusual angle, and in the graveyards found the perfect material. Over the past two years he's taken several trips to the city to shoot the cemeteries, lining them up with tall buildings and other vertical structures to show their titanic scale.

If this series appears a little grim, visually speaking, that's intentional. "Most of the times the images were captured very early in the morning and right before dusk," the photographer says. "I also decided to travel during the rainy season, as I did not want to portray the sky as sunny and blue."

Have a look at how the living city exists in the same super-dense environment as its dead. There are 10 portrayed in the full series, including ones in Tsuen Wan, Fanling, Chai Wan, and (for the purposes of this story) the rather unfortunately named Happy Valley:

Photos used with permission of Manuel Alvarez Diestro. H/t Designboom

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a tiny house in Oregon
    Design

    How Amazon Could Transform the Tiny House Movement

    Could the e-commerce giant help turn small-home living from a niche fad into a national housing solution?

  2. The downtown St. Louis skyline.
    Perspective

    Downtown St. Louis Is Rising; Black St. Louis Is Being Razed

    Square co-founder Jack Dorsey is expanding the company’s presence in St. Louis and demolishing vacant buildings on the city’s north side.

  3. A portrait of Jay-Z.
    Equity

    The Roots of Jay-Z’s ‘Black Capitalism’

    Now partnering with the NFL, Jay-Z centers wealth-building in his activism, as many African Americans have before him—but without much success.

  4. Environment

    What U.S. Cities Facing Climate Disaster Risks Are Least Prepared?

    New studies find cities most vulnerable to climate change disasters—heat waves, flooding, rising seas, drought—are the least prepared.

  5. Warren Logan
    Transportation

    A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

    Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.

×