Great moments in urban planning

In most parts of the world, architects and developers might consider aesthetics. They incorporate design features that add character or please the eye. Sometimes local codes make it compulsory, as with a setback guideline requiring a building to taper off at the top 20-Fenchurchto improve air and light. (And sometimes they go too far, as with the repulsively hideous 20 Fenchurch in London, or the grotesque structures of Mainland cities.)

In Hong Kong, where it is government policy to starve the people and economy of space, every inch is precious and every commercial tower maximizes its volume by being as straight-sided and block-like as possible. The few exceptions are prestige projects like big bank headquarters. See the contrast at Cheung Kong Center – ‘the box the Bank of China came in’.

So how do you make an office block look elegant and attractive? Just joking! Of course – you don’t. This is Hong Kong and developers, tenants and passers-by couldn’t give a damn. As redevelopment has become more frenzied in recent years in Central, architects have been giving ever-lower priority to appearances. The latest fad in this uglification trend is to clip bits of plastic onto building façades to create a sort of mesh effect. They are clipping a ‘module’ or something on at a site on Des Voeux Rd below left…

ClipOnBldg

On the right is an even nastier example on Lyndhurst Terrace, which lights up at night. I hereby name this ‘the 1960s sci-fi film set’ look.

While the private sector merely makes the city look vile, the government is intent on destroying it as a living environment. Transport planner-psychopaths are excelling themselves on the reclaimed land in front of Central’s IFC Mall. The following panorama photo shows the current view looking west from the walkway between the mall and Pier 3. I count at least eight lanes of road side by side…

8-lanes

Number 1 provides access to the side of the mall and feeds into 2, which is partly obscured by barriers. Numbers 3/4 and 5/6 are twin-lane roads dividing (westbound) and merging (eastbound). A space between 6 and 7 covered with construction materials may be a 9th lane. There could be a 10th hidden behind the barriers on the other side of 7. Certainly number 8 is behind them – that’s the road nearest the piers, where you would be dropped off to catch a ferry.

So some deranged highways lunatic has managed to cram at least eight and possibly nine or 10 lanes alongside one another.

Our tax dollars at work.

 

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15 Responses to Great moments in urban planning

  1. Chinese Netizen says:

    Actually, none of the lanes are for traffic, in the classical sense. They’re sanctioned Alphtard parking lanes for the elite and revered since so many people are bitching about them causing mayhem in the heart of Central.
    Who says Hong Kong doesn’t have a responsive government?

  2. Cassowary says:

    That’s clearly not enough lanes. They should have been planning for the future. Thanks to the meddling environmentalists and their Harbour Protection Ordinance, this is the last reclamation in Victoria Harbour. There’s room for at least 36 lanes on there! And they want to build, pfft, a park! What a waste of taxpayer dollars. I demand more lanes immediately!

  3. WTF says:

    Silly lad, those roads were not, 6 or 10 years earlier, designed as lanes; their function was to keep the masses off of what was sold as public space in order to get the monies from LegCo.

    The monies were got and spent, but now it seems that the occupy protesters have thrown a wrench into that little scheme of not building gathering points for protesters by showing roads can do just fine. One can imagine the gnashing of teeth on that one.

  4. reductio says:

    Well, I think it’s a good idea to have an open-ended road planning environment. This will enable those workers presently working on the Bridge to Nowhere to seamlessly transition over after its completion. Win-win!

  5. Red Dragon says:

    Looks like you’ve contracted a nasty case of Qian Jin Syndrome, Cassowary.

  6. Watch out. You’ll be joining me on a Dahon folding bicycle next. I can show you all the pavements, back streets and alleyways you need to go down to avoid being crushed by double deckers, teenaged van drivers with lethal metre-long wing mirrors and frustrated taxi drivers who want your blood. After you pass the first hundred virtually stationary minivans in traffic, you get a boner.

    Terrorism isn’t terrorism when it has money behind it. We call it urban planning.

  7. Dreck says:

    HK Disneyland offers another good example of excessive infrastructure seemingly built in the interests of the construction/govt crony cabal. The failing theme park is served by approximately 1o lanes of highway plus a dedicated railroad. Apart from bicycles, very little traffic there ever.

  8. dimuendo says:

    Sadly, excess lanes not new. If you look at Victoria park from Central Library then count the number of lanes of traffic. At one point nine (although admittedly two are tram lanes).

  9. Stephen says:

    @Cassowary,

    Remember the Government breached the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance building this monstrosity in the first place ! Of course they appealed it as urgent infrastructure or such nonsense was exempt. My question to lawyers out there is, if we start seeing the Government selling commercial plots of all this lovely new harbourfront land they’ve built themselves, would that be illegal ? Hardly urgent infrastructure ? BTW Presumably Dutch Paul’s proposal to limit transport to non-emission spewing means along Des Voeux Road got nowhere ? Suppose it’s difficult to get consensus amongst a group of braying Alphard’s.

  10. Red Dragon says:

    Stephen,

    As a bitter enemy of the “greengrocers’ apostrophe”, I am obliged to point out that the last word in your otherwise flawless contribution contains one.

  11. Old Newcomer says:

    Despite the law saying that any harbour reclamation must be for essential purposes only, every plan for the Wanchai-Central Shopping Mall, sorry Bypass, has contained an element of retail space. But then this is from the same government which constantly reminds us of the need to strictly comply with the Basic Law while consistently ignoring its requirement for Hong Kong to have a balanced budget.

    On your other point, while it’s true that most Hong Kong high rises are architectural disasters, I do like Central [sic] Plaza – an elegant skyscraper in the classic New York tradition.

  12. Gerald says:

    Looks like it helps the argument for pedestrianising Queens Road Central though…

  13. Qian Jin says:

    Can anyone remember the Government’s original explanation as to why Hong Kong island needs this Central bypass when basically, all the traffic is heading to park in Central anyway ?

  14. RSG says:

    One day, all of Hong Kong will be Chow Tai Fooks and Sasa, filled in with vast expanses of concrete baking in the hot summer sun.

  15. Old Newcomer says:

    @Qian Jin – probably to help CITIC reduce its losses on the little-used Western Harbour Tunnel.

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