Today, a bird’s eye view of Quarry Bay would grant you a quintessential view of Hong Kong’s Eastern District–an endless concrete jungle of urban developments.

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But Quarry Bay was at one point home to the world’s largest sugar refinery, and stands as a symbol of Hong Kong’s industrial past. Though sugar refining in the region has long ceased, the bay has in recent years garnered a sweet, sweet place on the itineraries of tourists and filmmakers alike thanks to the staggering beauty of a certain residential building. 

That iconic building is the “Monster Building”–a conglomeration of five public housing complexes conjoined to form one behemoth structure. When standing in the narrow inner courtyard, the surrounding apartments seem to loom over the viewer, with each densely-packed unit resembling a piece within a vibrant checkerboard. 

Screenshot from Youtube

As seen in the 2014 “Transformers: Age of Extinction”, the sheer size of the Monster Building also makes for the ideal action movie scene! From evil drones scurrying up the building’s exterior, to protagonist Cade Yeager as played by Mark Walherg falling through canopies with the antagonist on his heels, a good portion of the final battle in the film takes place in and around the building. 

After all, there’s nothing Hollywood loves more than manic chase scenes in packed everyday Asian settings; and where else in Hong Kong oozes “packed” as good as the Monster Building?

The building made another feature on the big screens in 2017 too. This time in Rupert Sanders’ “Ghost in the Shell”. Through the magic of CGI, the centre courtyard was transformed into a dramatically gloomy battleground befitting its role in a water fight scene.

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More recently, the Monster Building’s colourful facade has made it the subject of many photographers and highly sought after by tourists as a photo backdrop. While this may act positively on the area’s tourism, one concern remains–the building was never meant to be a tourist attraction to begin with. 

See, while the building may see flocks of tourists snapping away, it’s also where locals eat their dinners, hang their laundry, and go by their everyday lives. Exasperated residents have taken things into their own hands by hanging signs which forbid photography, though if you were to visit the building today, you probably won’t be the only one still trying to get that perfect shot.

Fun Fact

A slinky rooftop lounge in Quarry Bay is aptly named Sugar–an ode to the area’s sugar refinery background perhaps?

Text by Ng Shen Lee

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