HKSAR – Forming the Landmark Atrium – Part 2

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figure 1 model render of Landmark Atrium

Le Corbusier announced in the 1920s that streets “no longer worked”. It may be that traditional streets are no longer sufficient in carrying flows that have vastly different speeds and purposes. Shielding consumers and passer-bys from radiation and vehicles, the Central Elevated Walkway is programmatically similar to the European urban arcade or Japanese underground arcade, encouraging the consumption of space at different paces and different times, in this case particularly to domestic helpers who suffer from their lack of private gathering spaces.

Occupiable and walkable for the public, yet this is only a facade to the issue of ownership in these in fact essential passages in Central. In the Landmark, which functions as a core to the smaller branches of the network, the actions of eating, resting, socializing are intrinsically combined with act of spending and consuming. The large perceived public space of the Landmark atrium is but in fact just a shopping mall with a large scale void, with two fold benefits. The void helps circulation in an otherwise impenetrable cluster of towers but it also releases vertical development from regulation, since public space can be traded for FAR, in other words more real estate. This minute transfer of ownership and profit between the public, the state and businesses is echoed in the development of the Central Elevated Walkway Network.

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figure 2 poster render of footbridge between Prince’s Building and Mandarin Oriental

If only Patrik Schumacher was here in Hong Kong with Dame Zaha Hadid in 80s. He would have gotten what he wished for since almost the entire walkway is privately owned. As aforementioned, the first elevated walkway is privately developed for activating Mandarin Oriental and Prince’s building. The main lift lobby and thus the “ground” of Prince’s building is on the second floor. The next pieces of the network was made to connect Jardine house to the General post office and Swire House. Public blends with private in that this bridge actually serves as infrastructure to provide Central District with sea water. After this, connections to Alexandra House, Bank of East Asia and Exchange Square followed, with Alexandra House’s development directly being part the Landmark’s atrium masterplan. Only and only the stretch of the network from Exchange Square to Macau Ferry is possessed and regulated by the state.

Making consumers enter structures at the second level can have the advantage of branding second floor leases to tenants as the same and even more prime locations for tenants. Though it is clear that commercial interest is the driver for these interventions, there is no dispute of the spillover of public benefit. At the core of this phenomenon of privatised ambiguous public space is the indirect decision in the 1948 Abercrombie Report to give the task of the redevelopment of Central district to a powerful multi-industry monopoly. A core right wing assumption is that public benefit is supported by the state, that circulation is ensured through dictating a grid block plan to the city. But this is exactly how the Landmark functions as a prototype that yields a deviation to the archetypical idea of the street, where the domain is by default public, by its usage and its relationship to the interior of building envelopes.

Bibliography:

Banerjee, T. (2000), The future of public space: beyond invented streets and re-invented places, Journal of the American Planning Association, 67 (1)

Cameron, N. (1979). The Hongkong Land Company Ltd.: A brief history. Hong Kong.

Cuthbert, A.R. & McKinnell, K.G. (1997), Ambiguous space, ambiguous rights corporate power & social control in Hong Kong, Cities, 14(5).

Cuthbert, A.R. & McKinnell, K. (2001), Public Domain, Private interest – Social Space in Hong Kong, in P. Miao (ed), Public places in Asia Pacific cities: current issues and strategies, Kluwer Academic Pub., Boston.

Frampton, A., Wong, C., & Solomon, J. (2012). Cities without ground: A Hong Kong guidebook. Rafael, CA: Oro editions.

Hong Kong Institute Planners,: 2001, Des Voeux Road Central Pedestrian Focussed Study, MVA Hong Kong Limited, Hong Kong

Le Corbusier. (1967), The Radiant City, Grossman Publishers, INC. & Faber and Faber Limited, Netherlands.

Moore, R. (2004), Notes on Public Space, in R. Gastil, Z. Ryan, (eds), Open: New Design for Public Space, Van Allen Institute, New York.

Moir, N.: 2002, The Commercialisation of Open Space and Street Life in Central District, available at

Rotmayer. (2010). Publicness of Elevated Public Space in Central, Hong Kong: An Inquiry into the Publicness of Elevated Pedestrian Walkway Systems as Places and Non-places.

Xue, C.Q.L., and Manuel, K. (1999), The Public Space of Urban Hong Kong, The Making of Public Spaces, The School of Architecture, Hawaii

1 Comment on “HKSAR – Forming the Landmark Atrium – Part 2

  1. The historical evidence is a bit thin here. How would use make use of historical documents (e.g. Mall brochures, photographs, tv dramas /movies) to offer a more detailed analysis of the use of the atrium and it’s image to the public eye?

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