Stray’s cyberpunk town had a real-life role model – and that no longer exists, and for good reason

That's how crazy and built-up Kowloon looked, the city that served as inspiration for Stray.

That’s how crazy and built-up Kowloon looked, the city that served as inspiration for Stray.

Stray not only inspires with the furry protagonist, but also with the atmospheric cyberpunk city. There was a real source of inspiration for these, namely Kowloon Wall City. As unusual as this name sounds, so is the history of this very own city, which was embedded in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Kowloon hasn’t existed for almost 30 years – and with good reason. The city was a rather chaotic and disreputable place, but it also held a certain fascination for many people.

Kowloon: Chaos in a small space

It’s all about this: In an interview with Stray Producer Swann Martin-Raget reports that the city was an inspiration for Blue Twelve Studio co-founders Viv and Koola. About Kowloon he reports:

It was a very peculiar place because the crowd density was very high and the construction seemed almost organic; she was mesmerized by the amount of detail.

The producer doesn’t exaggerate with that. For a time, Kowloon was the most densely populated city in the world. The Crazy Borders documentary by the German-French cultural broadcaster Arte describes the place as a vertical slum and gives a few numbers: “359 buildings, like stacked building blocks, 2.5 hectares of floor space [Das entspricht in etwa 3,5 Fußballfeldern]33,000 inhabitants”.

Here you can take a closer look at the picture without the cat.

Here you can take a closer look at the picture without the cat.

Only one thing was not possible: build higher than 14 floors. Otherwise the planes taking off from the nearby airport would have gotten stuck on the roofs.

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More about Stray:

Drug dealing, triads…

And a surprising number of dental practices without a valid license: Things got wild in Kowloon, as we learn from Arte. This was mainly due to the difficult legal situation and the unclear areas of responsibility. Hong Kong was in British hands for quite a while, while China considered Kowloon its own territory. So the British police handled the place very cautiously and the chaos was allowed to thrive. Kowloon was more or less lawless and the quality of life was at a very low level.

Disreputable and yet popular: As Arte reports, the district had a bad reputation, among other things because of the hygienic conditions. On the other hand, the cheaply offered goods would also have had a great attraction – possibly also the many dental practices. One problem for Hong Kong dentists was that Chinese licenses were not recognized there.

If you want to know more about it, we recommend the 10-minute summary by Arte:

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Incidentally, the nickname “Wall City” dates back to the time before the high population density: Initially, Kowloon was a Chinese fort surrounded by a wall. Incidentally, the last hour of the strange place struck in 1993. Since the city was demolished by the following year, after the evacuation had begun years earlier. A park can now be found at this point, which no longer resembles the jungle of houses in the slightest.

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The town that our stray roams through in Stray is by far not as densely populated as the original was once the case. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to see how and why the chaotic structure inspired the developers.

Had you heard of Kowloon Wall City before? How do you like the cyberpunk city in Stray?