The Dying of the Light
Lurid and dazzling heralds of restaurants, pawnshops and mahjong parlours, these gas-filled glass icons illuminate the night in electric red, green and blue.
Hong Kong’s neon age reached its zenith in the 1960s–80s, but now that age is dimming. Tighter building regulations means the Buildings Department is removing hundreds of signs each year for failure to meet code.
New signs are made of LEDs – brighter and less expensive to maintain, but lacking the distinctly analog, chemical-and-gas allure that only neon can conjure with its softly glowing hydrogen reds and mercurial blues. Only a dozen or so traditional neon signmakers are left in the city; no new apprentices are being trained.
The city, once awash with glowing rainbow phosphorescence, is now watching the extinction of this noblest of gases.