HONG KONG / EVOLUTION OF THE MULTILEVEL PEDESTRIAN NETWORK IN CENTRAL (1960s)

It has been widely concluded that Hong Kong has the most extensive multilevel pedestrian system all over the world (Figure 1). There is a significant variety of factors involved in the development of this system, such as the landscape, the government, the developers and so on. As an output of the interplay among these factors, the multilevel pedestrian system in return affects many different aspect of the city.

Figure 1. existing and future pedestrian network along waterfront from Sheung Wan to Causeway Bay. Source: Transport Department
Figure 1. existing and future pedestrian network along waterfront from Sheung Wan to Causeway Bay.
Source: Transport Department

The form of the multilevel pedestrian system evolved originally as a response to the steep hillside terrain from the city’s complex street pattern. However, the multilevel pedestrian system was not officially proposed until the time of 1960s.

In 1961, Hong Kong government published the Central Area Redevelopment (Figure 2) which recommended that the smooth and convenient pedestrian flow was equally important to that of vehicular traffic. It proposed linkage among pedestrian areas by subways, bridges or crossings. However, this proposal was proved to be over-idealized because it underestimated the rapidly increasing population.

Figure 2. Dockyard Area Redevelopment Scheme, the section. Source: Central Area Redevelopment, Hong Kong: Government Printer, 1961
Figure 2. Dockyard Area Redevelopment Scheme, the section.
Source: Central Area Redevelopment, Hong Kong: Government Printer, 1961

In 1961, Professor Colin Buchanan conducted a report on traffic architecture, which was considered to be a well acknowledged planning code. (Figure 3) In 1963, R.C. Clarke, who was the assistant superintendent of Crown Lands and Survey Office, pointed out that the planning problems of Hong Kong is the wholly inadequate pedestrian space. He stated that the occupants of domestic buildings eventually return to ground level for two dimensional movements which was a limited way of public communication provided by the city. Therefore, he suggested a double leveled circulation with the pedestrian segregated from the wheeled traffic.

Traffic Architecture and urban transport integration. Source: Buchanan, Traffic in Towns
Figure 3. Traffic Architecture and urban transport integration.
Source: Buchanan, Traffic in Towns

Later in the 1960s and the 1970s, the built environment in Hong Kong was under a rapid modernization. It has been a more and more serious concern that the conflicts between developing a pedestrian paradise city and a massive urban transportation. The society at that time witnessed a wide discussion among planners, the government and the general public on where the city should go. In 1968, a discussion called “Architecture in Hong Kong” was organized among four leading Hong Kong architects including Christopher Haffner, Alan Fitch, Edwin Wong and James Kinoshita. Haffner suggested an elevated pedestrian linkage to explore the spatial potential in Central and Naval Dockyard (now Admiralty). This linkage should allow a continuous flow from shopping arcades to shopping arcades without being interrupted by the busy traffic. The other panelist Edwin Wong was concerned about the issue of human scale during the construction boom. Wong was also opposed to Edwin’s idea and proposed that Naval Dockyard should be kept as open space. After rounds of discussion, they eventually made four agreements on the spatial solution:

  1. To build a multi-level circulation system in Central.
  2. Crowding generates both problems and opportunities for the city.
  3. The “measured in terms of dollars” strategy should be put forward respecting the public good
  4. “Self-contained” communities should be proposed to satisfy the housing demand and to reduce long-distance travel

Eventually in 1969, the Crown Lands and Survey Office introduced a concept of “future urban form” in the Colony Outline Plan (Figure 4), which called for a new approach to encourage a better integration of urban functions which was already existing in many districts in a haphazard form. Hence, a multi-deck city is profiled to integrate communal space, public space, flats, retails and so on.  The Colony Outline plan acknowledged the haphazard vertical integration and suggested a public-private cooperation in an explicit way, which significantly influenced the spatial development of Hong Kong in the following decades.

Figure 3. "New Urban Form" in the Colony Outline Plan, 1969.
Figure 4.  “New Urban Form” in the Colony Outline Plan, 1969

 

Reference:

Buchanan, Colin. Traffic in Towns: A Study of the Long Term Problems of Traffic in Urban Areas, Reports of the Steering Group and Working Group Appointed by the Minister of Transport, London: H.M.S.O. 1963.

Clarke, R. C. Planning in Hong Kong. Far East Architect& Builder. January, 1965, 54-55.

Hong Kong Crown Lands and Survey Office. Colony Outline Plan. 1969.

Simth, Peter Cookson. The Urban Design of Impermanence: Streets, Places and Spaces in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: MCCM Creations, 2006.

Zheng, Tan. Conditions of the Hong Kong Section: Spatial History and Regulatory Environment of Vertically Integrated Developments. University of California, Los Angeles. 2014.

 

 

 

5 Comments on “HONG KONG / EVOLUTION OF THE MULTILEVEL PEDESTRIAN NETWORK IN CENTRAL (1960s)

  1. Hong Kong with such limited space in the city centre is in fact inevitable to have elevated walkways to separate traffic and pedestrian. I believe that the illustrated plan is referring to the reclaimed land outside the tramway, where big blocks of office buildings were erected. In this context, footbridge system with main roads underneath is efficient in directing bypassing vehicles to the waterfront instead of crowding into small streets like the Soho district and area near Lan Kwai Fong. The segregation of zones within the CBD created zones for different uses, such that minimizes the conflicts that could potentially create.

    • Elevated walkways does bring in efficiency by separating traffic and pedestrian route, but in fact I think that it also illustrates a type of brutal-ness towards the existing urban fabric. The way the narrative frames the ‘elevated’ factor into a ‘multi-deck’ one strikes me in a way that bridges do possess opportunities for architectural articulation which might weaken the notion of ‘extruding through existing blocks’. An example of it would be the bridge that extends from IFC to Hollywood road, where the Central Market areas becomes an exhibiting space as a phase of the renewal process.

      • I like your illustration of how the walkway penetrating different building blocks, it triggers me with the images of exploded circulation axons we often made for our studio projects but on an urban scale. Normally we talk about the density and interactions in the city of the ground level, but this fabric in central has evolved into interactions and density between the blocks on different vertical levels. Not only are there more ways to experience the “entrance” of a building, but it also blurs the lines between the urban fabric and a single building.

  2. As mentioned in your entry, in the 1970s, there was conflicts between developing a pedestrian paradise city and a massive urban transportation. I am quite interested in the way how the side of pedestrian paradise city planning was constructed at that time.

  3. Hong Kong has a rich section, revealing the nature of mixed programs of the city. Modern zoning planning strategy and theory was not effective in the case of Hong Kong. Therefore, the designers came up with the solution totally based on Hong Kong parameters. The multilevel pedestrian walkway project was quite successful in Central and Sheung Wan, in that the walkway and passages were not merely footbridges to connect, but also “elevated street life”, well integrated with shops and rich visual connection. The surroundings were also celebrating the idea of multilevel circulation, in that wherever the elevated walkway goes in front of a building, the façade shows strong intension of turning itself into an exhibition window. In comparison, the ones in Admiralty were less playful, (probabaly because of the change of scale) and the pedestrians would always be aware of the fact that the vertical circulation was a make-do decision for the overcrowded condition in Hong Kong.

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