Only If—

is a New York City-based design practice for architecture and urbanism.

Cities Without Ground

Cities Without Ground

Hong Kong is a city without ground. This is true both physically (built on steep slopes, the city has no ground plane) and culturally (there is no concept of ground). Density obliterates figure-ground in the city, and in turn redefines public-private spatial relationships. Perception of distance and time is distorted through compact networks of pedestrian infrastructure, public transport and natural topography in the urban landscape.

Without a ground, there can be no figure either. In fact, Hong Kong lacks any of traditional figure-ground relationships that shape urban space: his, edge, center, even fabric. Cities Without Ground explores this condition by mapping the three-dimensional circulation networks that join shopping malls, train stations and public transport interchanges, public parks and private lobbies. These networks, though built piecemeal, owned by different public and private stakeholders, and adjacent to different programs and uses, form a continuous space of variegated environments that serve as a fundamental public resource for the city.


“[Cities Without Ground] represents a valuable piece of work. It captures this specific moment in time, and shows… the informal social arteries on which the city thrives.”
—The Guardian

Cities Without Ground is “an homage to a quirk of Hong Kong’s urban landscape: The fact that it’s possible to walk for miles above ground, thanks to the city’s densely layered pedestrian bridges that crisscross the sky, connecting buildings and spanning wide boulevards.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“Cities Without Ground… has attracted attention from the technical, urban-planning-obsessed set, but for the traveller it helps to demystify a complex and multi-layered city.”
—BBC Travel

“Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guidebook… provides a totally fresh perspective on Hong Kong and the result is frankly amazing.”

“In Cities Without Ground, Adam Frampton, Jonathan D Solomon, and Clara Wong take you through the vast interior public world of Hong Kong’s pedestrian street network. With this guide you can travel for miles and miles without ever touching the ground: an interior world superimposed on the city. In an age of rapid urbanization and unstable climate, might this be a model for the future?”
—Volume Magazine

“Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guidebook… [creates] the first-ever maps showing the extent and variety of [Hong Kong’s pedestrian] networks… the book comprehensively documents the walkways through highly detailed drawings and 3D models.”
—The Atlantic Cities

“In their conceptually avant-garde book… three architectural specialists lay out complex layered maps of the extensive walkway systems in Hong Kong. You’ll never see the city the same way again.”
—HK Magazine


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How to Buy

Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guidebook is available for purchase at the follow locations:

In Hong Kong and Asia, the book can purchased at Page One or Eslite. In the United States and North America, the book can be purchased through ORO Editions or In the UK, the book can be purchased through

For bulk ordering, please email info [at] for distribution information.

Project Information

Publisher ORO Editions, San Francisco, USA
Date 2012
Format 128p Paperback
200mm x 140mm / 7.8in x 5.6in
ISBN 978-1-935935-32-2
Authors Adam Frampton, Jonathan D Solomon, Clara Wong
Team Cyrus Penarroyo, with Mark Berlinrut, Kenneth Ip, Gweny Jin, Gigi Lau, Margie Tam, Cong Wang, Joey Yim

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