HKG/ The Hilly Topography: From extremely hilly to very hilly

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There are semi-outdoor cafe, and even a yoga studio that will extend their class to the public space on the flat land at the two sides (the shopfront are covered by the White, Black and Blue extendable canopy respectively). Owners and customers are usually resident from the Tai Ping Shan district or nearby neighborhood. They usually walk to Tai Ping Shan because they believe parking their private vehicles along the road will simply destroy the relaxing, “secret-garden-liked” atmosphere. Some westerns said that they own a bike but they usually will not bike here as they’d rather walk up the slope instead of biking up. (Photograph of Pound Lane in Tai Ping Shan district today, 2015, Judy Chu.)

Tai Ping Shan’s typology was extremely hilly, and it is still very hilly.

According to the record form Hong Kong museum of Medical Science Society in 2006, there were written description about local housing in the Tai Ping Shan district back in 1894 — “They are mainly brick houses…built on a 30-40 degree slope…”

Taking data from disability system, a “2:12 slope ratio” is 9.5 degree while it is already the maximum ramp slope recommended for residential use with assistant. A “3:12 slope ratio” makes 14.5 degree, which is the maximum ramp slope recommended for loading unoccupied wheelchair. From the two sets of numbers, the steepness of Tai Ping Shan can be imagined– 40 degree is almost triple of “3:12 slope ratio”.

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There are few school located in the Tai Ping Shan district currently. Students have to walk up and down everyday in order to access to public transport — even they are taking private school bus arranged by the school — as there are no minibus, nor bus that has a stop within the district. It one choose to walk up towards the Mid-levels, the closest main road will be Hospital Road which connects the end of Bonham Road and start of Caine Road. In reverse, if one chose to walk down towards the coastal area, the nearest main road will be Hollywood Road. However, it still takes another 10-15 minute to reach the tram station and Sheung Wan MTR station. The photo is taken at 3pm when there are two senior students of a primary school with prefect badge, helping to organize the junior students to cross the road and get on the school bus on Hospital Road (Photograph of Pound Lane in Tai Ping Shan district today, 2015, Judy Chu.)
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Tai Ping Shan itself seems to be a community which has its slope on both North to South and East to West axis. It seems that the Hospital Road is already the least sloppy out of all the walkways and roads. The Hospital Road has its two end connected to Second Street (towards Sai Ying Pun Section) and Seymour Road (towards Tai Ping Shan Section). The boundary of Hospital Road is marked by Eastern Street (in Sai Ying Pun Section) and Caine Road (in Tai Ping Shan Section). It has such name most probably because it was linked up with three hospitals in Sai Ying Pun back in 1880s. The three medical heritage site are: (1) Former Government Civil Hospital in 1880s, now Tsan Yuk Hospital. (2) Site of former Lock Hospital in 1880s, which is currently occupied by the Prince Phillip Dental Hospital and part of the Sai Ying Pun Jockey Club Clini. (3) Site of former Civil Hospital Annex and Quarters for Medical Superintendent, currently is the site of King George V Memorial Park. (Photograph of Hospital Road near the conjunction with Bonham Road and Caine Road which marks the edge of Tai Ping Shan district, 2015, Judy Chu.)

The extremely hilly topography has enlarged the consequences caused by drainage and sewage. When a house is located on the slope, the steepness of the site might have caused some of the unit having no window for ventilation. The poor living condition as such leads to hygiene problem, that had also become a very key point for the spread of plague in 1890s.

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This is a school located on the slope of Kui In Fong in between Po Hing Fong and Tai Ping Shan Street. It is a one-way road, yet its dead-ended. The only way that a vehicle can circulate into the school or Blake Garden which is just opposite to this school, is to drive in from Hollywood Road to Square Street, then U-turn in Kui In Fong to leave. Mostly because of the unique history Tai Ping Shan had gone through int he past 180 years, the district is not favorable for vehicles as it was never planned for it. (Photograph of a school located on the slope in Tai Ping Shan, 2015, Judy Chu.)

Although it claimed that after the area was burnt-down and rebuild, the degree of slope was adjusted to 12 degree, some of the area looks 1-2 degree steeper than it claimed. No matter what, since all the housing in Tai Ping Shan district were being rebuilt anyway, the problem of blocking neighbors’ window no longer exist as the housing policies were being modified. Tenement housing were built with the requirement of shorter depth after the break out of plague. In addition, even it is being rebuilt in the recent decades, the general building typology has already transformed from expanding horizontally to growing vertical.

All in all, though it is still very hilly, it is more inhabitable overall.

 

1 Comment on “HKG/ The Hilly Topography: From extremely hilly to very hilly

  1. It is a very inspiring perspective to look at the development of architectural typologies of Hong Kong Island. The influences of the topography on the living environment and daily practices of the residents are quite prominent and both the large-scale urban fabrics and the small-scale street front are closely linked with the hilly topography. The role of tower growing vertical in balancing the bad side of the slopes which were part of the reasons of the past plagues provides us a new way to think the vertical city’s pros and cons. I would like to see more detailed narration about how the old relationships between the buildings and the slope before the plagues happened are different from the current ones.

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