Hong Kong has a vibrant set of improvised solutions for outdoor tool storage. This originates in part from a general scarcity of space, but also from what feels like a higher-than-average level of care for a space’s cleanliness (even when not in the midst of a pandemic) and the desire to keep “clean” separate from “unclean.”
This novel shovel storage solution is built into the wall next to the entrance of a building materials store, located in Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po neighborhood. It’s unclear whether these shovels are spending their lives outside to make up for a lack of space inside the shop, or to keep their accompanying dirt outside, or to increase convenience for workers, giving them quick access to their tools when it comes time to load/unload the construction materials the shop traffics in.
This mop storage solution is built into the back of a restaurant across the harbor from the shovels in the trendy Sheung Wan neighborhood. It functions as an “out of sight, out of mind” approach that keeps cleaning implements out of sight of restaurant patrons, while also serving as a space-saving drying behavior (like one of the many I’ve catalogued in my second book, China Out to Dry).
Even in hyperdense Hong Kong, there are a few places where physical infrastructure like pipes is not readily available for repurposing for those in search of a place to hang things outside (as with this restaurant further down in the same alleyway from the above pipe-based solution). In that case, there are still plenty of “aftermarket affordances” (small, adhesive, and helpful plastic pandas, in this case) available for purchase which can help carve additional functionality out of scarce alleyway space.
In the back alley spaces that might be overlooked in other cities, Hong Kong’s retail and restaurant employees look with carefully appraising eyes to ensure they can store the tools needed to do their jobs. Trained over a lifetime of navigating and reimagining the spatial constraints that surround them, they see storage opportunities hidden in plain sight, whether on an open corner of their shop’s wall, on a pipe outside of the rear door, or in the capable grip of a small, solicitous folivore.