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.


Figure 1. Model of Cumbernauld Town Center. Source: Marcel Krenz. Cumbernauld Town Centre-Brudtalist Beauty.
Figure 2. Model of Cumbernauld Town Center.
Source: Marcel Krenz. Cumbernauld Town Centre-Brudtalist Beauty.

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).

Figure 2. Model of Sha Tin New Town Plaza by Sun Hung Kai's project manager K.M. Chan. Source: Building Journal. Oct,1983.
Figure 2. Model of Sha Tin New Town Plaza by Sun Hung Kai’s project manager K.M. Chan.
Source: Building Journal. Oct,1983.

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.


Krenz, Marcel. Cumbernauld Town Cetre-Brutalist Beauty. 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/cumbernauld-town-centre-brutalisms-inner-beauty-marcel-krenz

Wigglesworth, J.M. The Development of New Towns. In Dwyer, D.J. (ed), Asian Urbanization: A Hong Kong Casebook, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1971.

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


  1. It’s nice that you’re taking on a broader analysis with other developments of the time period. With the cases you have posted (and possibly others to come), can a broader strategy of “multilevel pedestrianization network” be summarized? Are there typologies that can be abstracted?

  2. It is interesting to see Sha Tin as a case study in parallel to the analysis on the Central pedestrian network. Although a multilevel pedestrian network is found in both areas, the resulting use and atmosphere in the two cases are unique from each other. The context of Sha Tin as a new town makes its urban fabric vastly different from the commercial-oriented Central. The masterplan approach taken in Sha Tin versus the commercial drive of the footbridge system in Central again contribute to the divergence. I am keen to learn more about how the stakeholders involved (both the planners and the end-users) lead to the distinctive results in Sha Tin and Central.

  3. I think the elevated pedestrian network has characterized Sha Tin Town not only among the 18 districts in contemporary Hong Kong but also in her history. Looking back to the development timeline of New Town in Hong Kong, Sha Tin was developed together with Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan as the first phase, while Fanling, Sheung Shui and Tai Po were developed afterward in the 70s as the second phase. As mentioned in the article that Sha Tin Town Planning was succeeded to link up the open spaces with the town centre and residential estates in a multi-level pedestrian network with the aim of providing a family-friendly living environment. I wonder what is the difference in the pedestrian network planned in Sha Tin to the other New Town developed in parallel. A further question is why this kind of planning was not adopted in the Town Planning of those towns developed later on.

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