Hong Kong has been defined as an “IntenCity”, a word that expresses a combination of different urban qualities. These include concentration, density, complexity, and verticality, whose overlapping exhibits a new level of intensity that is somehow more than the sum of its parts (Shelton, Karakiewicz, and Kvan 2011). However, in this complex urban structure, most of the public spaces, especially those in old urban areas, are poorly managed and designed. These spaces, created by adopting a rigid, top-down approach and general solutions to a variety of sites and different urban conditions, are not attractive and do not facilitate social interaction and community activities. High-quality open public spaces can significantly increase a city’s attractiveness by encouraging business investment and improving living conditions. In recent years, the citizens of Hong Kong have started to become more aware of the importance of the public open spaces in the city. A number of not-for-profit organisations, such as the Hong Kong Public Space Initiative, Designing Hong Kong and UrbanactionsHK, have been set up to focus on promoting the use of public space in the community through thematic workshops, educational projects, and research studies.
This international competition challenges undergraduate students of schools of architecture, landscape, urban planning and design to propose alternative and innovative design schemes to revitalise four public open spaces in the Central district of Hong Kong. In cities today, public space development projects require a flexible approach; no single strategy can address the specific needs of every community or the unique conditions of each public space. What’s the role of public spaces in the contemporary city? How to create an inclusive and vibrant space where the community can be fully represented? How can urban design encourage social interactions between different users? How to upgrade existing public spaces by using an integrated and comprehensive people-centred approach? These are some of the critical questions that the participating students have to address in this competition. A multidisciplinary team of highly-recognised experts coming from different backgrounds, including architects, urban designers and planners, will evaluate the students’ proposals with their invaluable knowledge and insight. The winner of each site will receive an award of US$800, while the runner up will be awarded US$200. A certificate will also be issued to each of the honourable mentions. The project will be exhibited at the School of Architecture of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and at the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design.