Extract from http://dornob.com/penthouse-slums-the-rooftop-shanty-towns-of-hong-kong/

Shanty towns are nothing new in large cities with little (enforced) regulation, but this is something you have to see to believe: everything from small shacks to multistory structures, individual buildings to entire villages, all spread out in organic mazes over the rooftops of apartment structures and skyscrapers throughout Hong Kong – a set of smaller communities dwells within the larger surrounding city.

The peculiar looking rooftop dwelling structure may look out of sight from the street view. But structurally, it seems integrated with the building form, taking its shape from the impromptu lifestyles and the spontaneous sprawling of the poorer class of residents.

The penthouse is historically the most prized property of a building. However, this is not the penthouse that we think and imagine. Before the introduction of the elevator – an invention that made the tenth floor far more appealing almost overnight – the poorest people were forced to walk the stairs to their high-up homes.

Living on the rooftop wasn’t a luxury at all.

“The roof is a maze of corridors, narrow passageways between huts built of sheet metal, wood, brick and plastics. There are steps and ladders leading up to a second level of huts. We get lost …. They hear us out, smile back and invite us into their homes.” This is an amazing phenomena – a William Gibson-style vision of urban futures unregulated by building codes and allowed to evolve out of the available space and needs of a city’s people.