Hong Kong / Interiorization of urban street and public space

 The lack of land in Hong Kong leads to the problem that urban public space is compressed to the extreme. The dense skyscrapers and heavy traffic makes the surviving public square lose their vitality. Under this circumstances, the traditional division of street, square, indoor space is not flexible enough anymore. It becomes the responsibility for the buildings and the complex to act as the connection and public space.


At the turn of the 21st Century, the urbanistic and commercial benefits of sky bridges, or say connecting the buildings above the ground level, has become widely recognized. The government and private developers began to reach cooperation on fulfilling the system. The redevelopment of the Alexandra House retail podium in 2003 led to the remove of the existing first-floor external podium walkway. As compensation, based on the planning agreement with the Hong Kong government, Hongkong Land created dedicated internal passageways through the building, which are linkd to the existing external footbridges and allowing 24-hour access to the public. In exchange, Hongkong Land acquired an additional 5200 m² of developable area by the Building Department, which translated into an additional floor of retail during the redevelopment [3].


With the government’s stepping in, the similar concept is achieved in the redevelopment of The Landmark form 2003-2007. Internal 24-hour dedicated public passageways are incorporated, with adding a new vehicular drop-off on Queens Road, linked by many more escalators to the footbridges and MTR stations [3]. To some extent, the walkway systems were developed to connect the existing buildings, while during the time when the system matures, the walkways influence the interior space in return.


Built in the same period, Two International Financial Centre is designed to be an important part of the city fabric. Since it is connected to the Exchange Square and harbor front with dozens of walkways, there is a large number of people passes through 2IFC every day. 2IFC acts as a focal point as well as an essential passageway for those walking from Central to the outlying island ferry piers. Furthermore, it is designed with various public space, upgrading its identity to a more urban level, which includes the large rooftop garden, outdoor public platforms and indoor atrium for different performers.  As said by architect Rocco Yim, who has designed many of Hong Kong’s landmark buildings, “This is our new public realm. Instead of just streets and plazas, we also have this indoor network connected by lifts, escalators and bridges.” [1]


As mentioned in previous narratives, there is kind of aformal urbanism in Hong Kong, where planning normally cannot catch up with capital development and public’s adaption. Thus, much aformal spaces generated. Art exhibitions and political protest occurs in shopping malls, sidewalks become salons or workshops, domestic workers gather on footbridge on their day off, and streets become restaurants or dance halls. Hong Kong demonstrates the viability of public space that do not resemble a street, a courtyard, a square.


Figure1. Central elevated walkway system penetrated into many building complex, retrieved from Wikipedia



[1] Dewolf. ”Many bridges to cross”.Chinadaily. 2011. Available at


[2] EI-Khoury, Robbins. “Chapter 7: Hong Kong – Aformal Urbanism”. Shaping the City: Studies in History, Theory and Urban Design. Routledge. 2013

[3] Robinson, Antony. “Beyond Icons: Developing Horizontally in the Vertical Realm”. CTBUH 2014 Shanghai Conference Proceedings.2014

[4] Luming, Chunfang. “The link space between urban building-complex and transport system in Hong Kong”.2015. Available at




2 Comments on “Hong Kong / Interiorization of urban street and public space

  1. I think one of the most successful factors for Central to develop into such an extensive well-connected elevated walkway system is the integration with the commercial building particularly the Indoor portion by the Landmark and the podium of Two International Financial Centre. In Central where the district is mostly packed with commercial high rises, without the integration of the indoor space of the podiums as part of the elevated walkway system, there could never be such a new elevated plane for the human to navigate around Central. I agree with what you said of Hong Kong demonstrating the viability of public space that do not resemble a street, a courtyard, a square.

  2. I always have the concern that public space is being ate up by the developer which replaced us with their privately owened public space. As I know, the so-called ‘public space’ and the rooftop garden of IFC are not open 24-hours and activities of people are under the control of the property owner with various rules. I wouder if this new realm of public space would rationalize the occupancy of public space by developer and people’s true understanding of what public space should be like.

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