Improving Hong Kong (1 of 3)

A recent edition of TimeOut (HK) carried a provocative cover story - Make Hong Kong Better (We Replan This City). The cover article was a surprisingly good read. In fact, recent months have seen Time Out (HK) demonstrate a more considered, mature and reflective approach to Hong Kong.

Some of the suggestions for improving Hong Kong, like a rooftop garden on the Museum of Art, less restrictive rules in public parks and banning evening traffic in Lan Kwai Fong (why stop at evenings?) are great. Others, like relaxing noise ordinances in mixed areas (residential/commercial), hosting large concerts in Hong Kong Stadium and buidling a “super club” are not all that helpful or relevant to the broad public.

But regardless, it’s good to see public debate about these issues being supported by a populist magazine like TimeOut. Even more important are the features on major current developments in Hong Kong, like the West Kowloon Cultural District, the Kai Tak redevelopment and the Central Harbourfront plan.

Kai Tak is the site of Hong Kong’s old international airport (you know the one with the crazy/scary flight paths between highrises?). There are final plans to redevelop the site into what can only be described as a concrete horror. A new cruise terminal is needed as is a new stadium, but the waterfront will be another unfriendly concrete roasting pan and most of the site will be given over to transport and roads.

It’s a feature that hits you time and again as you move around the harbourfront in Hong Kong – how much space is given over to roads (and bus terminals), how unfriendly the walking spaces are (with far too few seats, no grass, where there are trees they are too small or sick to give shelter and only the worst in cheap take out food to eat, or restaurants hidden in malls and hotels).

In many ways, the Kai Tak development is a case study in what is wrong with so much of the Hong Kong habourfront and some the mistakes that the goverment should try to rectify with the two other big redevelopments that are currently being planned – Central and West Kowloon. Tomorrow, I’ll consider those in a little more detail.