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Blog // Travel
May 20, 2009

Central Waterfront Development (Improving Hong Kong 2 of 3)

The Hong Kong waterfront is a paradox: a dynamic working harbour and a fantastic city skyline whilst also being one of the most inhospitable harbourfronts in the world. Parks and seats would help, a buffer from the relentless highrise would help even more and some good food and entertainment would complete the picture. Sadly, the […]

The Hong Kong waterfront is a paradox: a dynamic working harbour and a fantastic city skyline whilst also being one of the most inhospitable harbourfronts in the world. Parks and seats would help, a buffer from the relentless highrise would help even more and some good food and entertainment would complete the picture.

Sadly, the current plans to develop the Central harbourfront have too little of this. Part of the problem is a government mindset that considers 10 story buildings “low rise,” that doesn’t really understand how walking can be joyful, that people might like to eat outdoors, or that some existing vistas and aspects of Central could be enhanced by the development (and may already be “world-class).

The development proposals and ideas coming from the government don’t function on a human scale. All to often the cave into real estate rhetoric (whatever we do, we need to increase retail space and office space), or petty politics (IFC built out some vistas, so it’s time to build out some of theirs). But, a more telling place to start would be with people, with the human proportion of the development.

Put a person, one person, in front of the under construction pier 10 on a hot day and ask what does that person feel and experience?

First off, they will feel hot, because there’s no shade – there’s just concrete. They will feel dwarfed by the highrise that encircles them, but somewhat relieved that it is at a distance. They might like to sit down, maybe have a nice drink or something to eat. They will also be assaulted by the noise, of course it is construction, but traffic noise in general, especially in the high rise noise traps that make up much of this city, is well beyond human comfort levels at most times of the day. If the noise can’t be totally blocked out then some entertainments would be nice.

The planning should start from there – comfortable walking, shade, easy distraction, good food and drink and relaxation are no public commodities that are available everywhere in Hong Kong, but they could be part of the Central Harbourfront. In fact, if they were this would be one of the great world waterfronts – seriously.

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