HONG KONG/ EVOLUTION OF MULTILEVEL PEDESTRIAN PODIUM 1960s

The multilevel pedestrian podium is an essential component of the multilevel pedestrian network in Central as a hub connected by multilevel walkways (Figure 1). It evolved mainly from the pedestrian deck proposed by the government in the 1960s.

Figure 1. Section showing IFC-Exchange Square pedestrian network
Figure 1. Section showing IFC-Exchange Square pedestrian network.  Source: Arup Hong Kong Station. p27.

 

In 1960, the quality of “environment” became a pressing concern for Hong Kong planners and architects when the city was on the way towards a metropolitan area with a mass transport system. As Colin Buchanan proposed in Traffic in Towns, “environmental areas” are grade-separated car-free pedestrian decks riding over the vehicles or mass public transit. The adjacent retail establishments, offices and recreational spaces are hence adjoined in an integrated pattern by these pedestrian decks. Colin Buchanan’s notion of environmental areas had made a deep long-term influence and was reflected in the multilevel pedestrian typology during the following few decades.

In late 1950s and early 1960s, the Hong Kong planners prepared a series of detailed city plans in concern about the quality of urban environments such as the Central Area Redevelopment (Figure 2). In 1959, the governor called for the Hong Kong Town Planning Board to prepared a redevelopment plan for a 76-acre parcel of land released from the Royal Navy and War Department as well as from land reclamation. This study involved Eric Cumine who was one of the most influential architects in Hong Kong. In the report, British town planner Gordon Gullen’s remarks about urban designs were quoted that a city is more than a traffic problem or a given pattern of streets where the buildings are fitted. It should be a living balance of forces including history, character, commerce, internal invasion and defense and so on. The redevelopment should take these factors into concern and compare their power with the scale of the development. Evidently, the Central Area Redevelopment was proposed under the influence of post-war British planners’ interest in the idea of environment and space. This fascination with the complex urban scenario in day-to-day living experience was represented by the expression of “living balance of forces” and “invasion and defense”. The north bank of Hong Kong Island was already a center of professional, commercial, administrative and cultural activities by the time of 1960. Moreover, Central was also a logistic center of Hong Kong Island because of the vast mail-handling work of the General Post Office, the Star Ferry and the Vehicular Ferry. Without the mass transit system, Central was fulfilled by buses or ferries taken by the commuters. Therefore, the public demanded for a car-free zone for the pedestrian which should be segregated from the automobile traffic. As a result, it was suggested in the 1961 Central Area Development that an elevated pedestrian deck be built. The pedestrian deck was proposed to be 19 feet in height above the ground to cover Central and the Dockyard which is now Admiralty. The intention behind this system is to connect the ferries, bus terminals, car parks and the pedestrian deck so that the commercial value of Central would be further extended.

model of proposed development at Central nad Dockyard, 1961 Source: Central Area Redevelopment 1961
Figure 2. model of proposed development at Central nad Dockyard, 1961
Source: Central Area Redevelopment 1961

In 1960, there were still large patches of green land in the place of the War Department and the Dockyard. There was still a chance for the Hong Kong Government to create a wide and broad outdoor pedestrian deck with an intimate relation to the harbor and natural landscape. However, the plot ratio for Dockyard and Central was 7.5 and 7.7 which would conflict with such an idealistic vision of the outdoor pedestrian deck. At the same time, a large elevated pedestrian deck proved to be unviable since few private business would be accountable for the maintenance of such a large outdoor public space accompanied with decent facilities.
Although the proposal of Central Area Redevelopment was proved to be unviable and over-optimistic, the concept of the pedestrian deck was later developed into multi-storey retail podiums mainly by the Mass Transit Railways Corporation. The proposed pedestrian deck was financed in a way of “value capture” by the revenue-producing properties. Such a strategy can be witnessed in the case of Admiralty Center and the World-Wide House, both of which were built by Cheung Kong Holdings in agreement with the MTRC.

 

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.

Gold, J. R. 2006. “The Making of a Megastructure: Architectural Modernism, Town Planning and Cumbernauld’s Central Area, 1955-75.” Planning Perspectives 21(2):109-131.

Lo, Hong K., Tang Siman, and David Z. Q. Wang. 2008. “Managing the Accessibility on Mass Public Transit: The Case of Hong Kong.” Journal of Transport and Land Use 1(2):23-49.

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.

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