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.
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.
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.
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:
- To build a multi-level circulation system in Central.
- Crowding generates both problems and opportunities for the city.
- The “measured in terms of dollars” strategy should be put forward respecting the public good
- “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.
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.