HONG KONG/ THE RISE OF SHA TIN TOWN CENTER & MULTILEVEL PEDESTRIAN NETWORK since 1960
In Sha Tin Town Centre there is a distinctive urban scenario with the significant contribution of the multilevel pedestrian circulation system (Figure 1). While the pedestrian system of Central was developed as a gradual piecemeal process, Sha Tin was built according to a detailed master plan which was generated by the government agencies and consultants. In 1961, the planning of Sha Tin was studied as the Mark I new town of Hong Kong. In the Sha Tin plan reviewed in 1961 there was a town center located over a railway line. The plan was modelled after Vallingby and Cumbernauld (Figure 2), of which the town center appeared to be a self-contained megastructure with a series of multi-decked structures overlaying on each other. However, this utopian experiments was turned down due to lack of financial support led by the change in British political climate. Although the initial plan was not eventually executed, the impact of its architecture and rationale last for the following decades in Hong Kong.
In 1962 the first Outline Development Plans for Sha Tin was approved and published. Later in 1965, a multi-purpose commercial redidential development will be developed to maximize the amenities. In this proposal, the pedestrian and vehicular traffics was recommended to be segregated in a detailed planning stage. In 1969, the first plan for the center was generated with a series of open space which were linked by a central pedestrian route. This plan was doubted on one negative factor which was the vulnerability to hawkers.
In 1973, British planner William Holford joined in the design of Sha Tin Town Center. He proposed a plan with a continuous elevated podium concentrated on a central commercial core, which was eventually opposed by the government since it was considered impractical to involve various developers in the same project. This was not the first time Holford proposed a mode in which the public and private enterprises should combine and cooperate into a consortium.
Although the proposal by Holford was turned down by the government, the development mode he proposed was later adopted by Hong Kong MTRC while developing the Hong Kong Station complex. Such consortium between the public and private was also proved to be effective in Central although in a rather piecemeal manner.
In 1976 the Territories Development Department drafted a plan where the elevated pedestrian deck and commercial podiums were maintained. In this case, the neighborhoods and the activity centers were physically linked by a segregated system of pedestrian and bicycle paths.
In the final plan of Sha Tin, the permeability of the spaces successfully dissolved the enormous building masses. The pedestrian network smoothly linked the train station to adjacent estates and open space. Hence a family-friendly experience is provided by the interplay among the multilevel pedestrian network, the galleries, roof gardens as well as the uninterrupted cycling system, which linked the Sha Tin Town Center with the peripheral estates and open space. (Figure 2).
In the rise of Sha Tin Town Center, the multilevel pedestrian system was proved to be crucially effective in activating and improving the public or communal space. In a multi-programmed space, the pedestrian circulation was incorporated into the chain of production and consumption, which benefits both the developer and the customers. Although the development of Sha Tin Town Center was a rough and long process from the 60s to the 80s , the conception of a multilevel pedestrian network has been carried on since the initial proposal. The pedestrian network was utilized more than a tool for smooth circulation among different zones, but rather, a social instrument to resolve functional conflict and congestion in Hong Kong.
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