This competition is part of a three-year research plan focused on the study and assessment of the open public spaces in Hong Kong’s Central and Western District. The inadequate provision of open spaces in urban areas is one of the most recurrent challenges for the Hong Kong government. In various districts of Hong Kong, the provision of open public spaces is well below the standard set by the Planning Department; in addition, the spatial quality of these spaces is questionable. This research aimed to study and assess the open public spaces in Hong Kong’s Central and Western District to provide a set of clear and practicable urban design guidelines for enhancing the district’s open spaces and thereby improving the quality of life of its residents.
The total area surveyed has been approximately 190 hectares, covering a wide range of open public spaces such as parks, plazas, playgrounds, sitting-out areas, gardens, and pocket spaces. After several surveys, we obtained an overall picture of the area under investigation, identifying 28 case studies. The 28 case studies comprise a variety of small to mid-size open public spaces that are scattered across the area and constitute an essential resource at the district level. The analysis of the 28 case studies revealed several characteristics, tendencies, gaps, and mismatches and provided a more comprehensive picture of the role of these open spaces within the district. The analysis of the data regarding the dimensions and typology indicated a prevalence of small and medium-sized spaces with the main typologies identified as sitting-out areas, children’s playgrounds, and rest gardens.
The 28 cases studies selected are in large part designed and managed by the Leisure and Culture Service Department (LCSD). Due to limited funding, the designs of these spaces tend to be quite generic and, as such, adopt general solutions to a variety of sites and different urban conditions. The use of public open space under the LCSD is governed by the Pleasure Grounds Regulation (PGR) under Chapter 132 of Hong Kong Public Health and Municipal Services. Unfortunately, the PGR’s strict rules and guidelines limit the potential for developing public life as well as uses that typically animate a public space such as cycling, skating, walking dogs, and sitting or walking on the grass, which is often not allowed. These open spaces provide different types of facilities such as seating areas, trees or canopies, and children’s playgrounds. However, in most of the cases analyzed, the lack of specificity to the urban context and the absence of an active interface between public and private realms compromise their vibrancy and vitality, and apart from a few examples, it seems that these spaces do not reflect the real needs of the community.
The results of the study will help to compensate for the lack of a planning vision shared by stakeholders and government authorities. The urban design guidelines established will also provide a valuable point of reference for public space policymakers in Hong Kong’s Planning Department, facilitating the creation of a comprehensive and integrated planning approach at the district level. Potentially, the outcome of this work will facilitate a more sustainable upgrading of the existing public space in the core areas of the city, providing a more comprehensive approach to urban renewal in the territory and offering a replicable model for other Hong Kong districts.
The School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong