Hong Kong's vertiginous rise has meant the demise of mom-and-pop-style barbers, diners and pawn shops, as well as the removal of their iconic neon signs. But the city lives on through Tony Lai and Maggie Chan's intricate models that capture an old way life -- much of which no longer exists.
Examining the models close up, one sees exacting detail in the tiniest of objects -- from the crinkled ends of mushrooms in a Cantonese dish (an effect achieved by burning the 'tops' with a tea candle) to incense sticks, each less than an inch long and decorated with elaborate dragons. Even the miniature televisions play '80s soap operas on loop.
1/14 – "Dragon Creek Terrace"
This building was demolished in 1980, but Lai keeps the memory of it alive through his miniature art. Credit: desky che
Tony and Maggie's practice, TOMA Miniatures
, exhibits the pair's works throughout the year. Lai says that older visitors can spend a long time examining each of the models, seemingly nostalgic for a past that is quickly disappearing.
This feeling may have been compounded by the recent 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from Britain to China, as well as anxiety about the coming decades. In 2047, the "one country, two systems" system will expire, ending the guarantee of freedoms that Hong Kong currently enjoys -- and spelling uncertainty about the future and identity of its residents.
Although the work is tiring and offers little financial return, Lai says that the positive response he receives from the public fills him with a sense of purpose. "It's like you have a destiny," he told CNN, from the partners' studio in Hong Kong. "You have a destiny to bring back the memories that Hong Kong people have lost."
Watch the video above to find out more.