HKSAR Where the Public Spillover Ends: Tsuen Wan Footbridge Network

tsuen-wan-map

Following the incident in Times Square, the release of deeds of dedication which requires the lessee to provide facilities and or open space revealed a large amount of private developments are the provider of public infrastructure, in particularly elevated walkways. In the report, of the 54 listed developments in Tsuen Wan, 28 provided footbridges that form the Tsuen Wan Elevated Walkway network, meaning a large part of the network must be private in nature. This allows us to see how Hong Kong has shaped the city through selling and outsourcing the most basic pieces of public infrastructure.

In addition to footbridges and covered footbridges, “sold” infrastructure in Tsuen Wan include:
Open space
Landscape area with pedestrian steps
Access Roads
Pedestrian walkways
Pedestrian passages
Pedestrian routes
Pedestrian arcades
Footpaths
Elevated walkways
Staircases
Promenades
Public right of way
Non-exclusive right of way
Paved way
Public transport terminus
Public light bus terminus

Tsuen Wan was gazetted as the first satellite town in the New Territories in 1961 currently with a population of more than 300,000. Previously known as a industrial and logistics district, it was planned to be a balanced and self-contained New Town after the restructuring of economy. The dates of developments that provide public facilities allow us to conjecture roughly that outsourcing public infrastructure and civic space has been part of Hong Kong’s planning mechanism for both New Towns and other districts. In reality all of these leased footbridges can be closed off if users are not conforming to the use of passage strictly speaking. This is in conflict with the planning of Tsuen Wan, since many of the truck-scale boulevards and highways of the area in the town center cannot allow pedestrian crossing.

new-haven-sha-tsui-road

Despite objections for local property owners, more footbridges were built to accommodate for the commissioning of Tsuen Wan West Station in 2003 since a 4000 person per hour pedestrian flow was anticipated, especially since the two MTR stations were too far from each other for an direct in-gate transit. The elevated walkway in this context does follow the vision of Allison and Peter Smithson and their team 10 peers, though it would hard for them to imagine the repercussion of such large scale deep-seated privatization of public infrastructure, given there 156 projects across 18 districts that do so. In the end the footbridges are not just extra connections that add value to architecture, but are the de facto only connections with which urbanity can function, exactly like bridges over water.

Chan, H. S. [陳曉昕]. (2015). Pedestrianized and elevated for the
community? : review on how multi-layer pedestrian network changes a residential community in Hong Kong. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved
from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5571587

Provision of Facilities and/or Open Space required under lease for the use by the public in private developments completed in or after 1980 (as at June 2016) . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.landsd.gov.hk/en/legco/pgicos/TsuenWan%2080.pdf

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