HKSAR – Forming the Landmark Atrium – Part 1
Hong Kong’s urban circulation model is not far off from one of SPUR’s sections. There is a strong multilevel relationship in Central that suggests the idea of a city within a city: a continuous web of walkways, atria, overpasses and underground tunnels form a single 3 dimensional spaces which connect and disrupt different functions of the city.
Zooming in to the key piece- the Central Elevated Walkway, it is a 24 hour semi-open-air network that allows street performances, terrace spaces for picnics, closed air-conditioned spaces to avoid the summer heat and most importantly fast travel to ‘red hot’ points of interest, ranging from shopping malls to the City Hall and the Victoria Harbor front. The walkway is a hybrid piece of architecture being neither a park nor a bridge. The functions of the walkway exceed pure movement and create potential for diverse urban activity across different periods of time.
During public holidays Filipinas, Tourists and Central-bound Hong Kongese swell onto the bridges, probably since it is the easiest free-of-charge direct access across Connaught Road that reaches the actually publically owned amenities in the district. In the year 2008 there are more than 120,000 Filipina domestic helpers working in the city which have led to Hong Kong being called ‘Little Manila’. Cardboard-fencing occupation of said domestic helpers layers another dimension of urban engagement to the network,and now the walkway crew includes the debut of baggage-dragging affluent Mainland tourists who have come to spend thousands.
The complexity of the phenomena begs the question: How did the “City Without Ground” form? Has this network formed naturally through the people or is it the produce of a grand masterplan? If it is indeed planned through, what process has this planner employed to create something so successful for stakeholders including the general public, the state and businessmen alike?
Hong Kong Land Holdings ltd founder Paul Chater was involved in the Central Reclamation Scheme as an informal Executive Council member of the colonial government and private investor. It is estimated that the reclamation scheme, which began 1889, introduced an additional 59 acres of flatland to the harbor front from beyond Des Voeux road, all the way to Connaught Road. Through this move, Chater gained an obvious head-start in the rat race, gaining leverage in obtaining properties from both Old Central and New central, allowing the possibility of the Landmark Masterplan. Central’s expansion is in direct correlation to the expansion of Chater’s power.
The process of producing the site for the prototypical Landmark Masterplan was tedious. In the collection of Hong Kong Land’s properties, Gloucester Tower is the fourth iteration of the building on the same plot in 130 years time. Lane Crawford House was once owned by Russell and Co, the Sassoons, Babingtons, Ho Tung and Hong Kong Land, no lesser than seven changes of hand over the course of a hundred years, only for the building to be demolished in 1977 as part of the Central Redevelopment Plan. It is at the end of the 1950s that Hong Kong Land gathered a portfolio which included Alexandra House, Prince’s Building, Mandarin Oriental, Swire House and smaller pieces, all being between Connaught Road Central, Chater Road and Ice House Street that formed the basis of the network. – continued part 2
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