China - A Planner's Journey

Hong Kong

Skyline of Hong Kong Island with Victoria Peak rising in the background

Hong Kong was our introduction to China. This former British colony is an economic power house. The vibrancy of the city is obvious within a few moments of setting foot on its streets.

The view from the Kowloon waterfront of the historic heart of the city on Hong Kong Island is breathtaking. This is the place where the British Raj first sunk its talons into China. Every evening a light show displays the wonders of this skyline to viewers across the branch of the bay separating the Island from the Kowloon Peninsula. A ramble through the urban environs of Hong Kong Island conveys the sheer magnificent energy of this city.

Kowloon

The Kowloon Peninsula is not currently as impressive as the skyline of Hong Kong Island, but it appears to be developing in a similar direction. The image to the right conveys the chaotic energy of Kowloon.

Kowloon Park about half a kilometer north from the public promenade facing Hong Kong Island, provides more than 10 square kilometers of natural and recreational space for contemplation, exercise, and the acquisition of knowledge (the latter in the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre). As illustrated by the left image, it is a welcome shady respite from Kowloon's pulsating commercial regions.

The slides below give some sense of this vibrant part of the city, both on land and water. The first image shows the Mass Transit Railway Tower under construction in the Union Square area of Kowloon. When it is completed, at 474 meters, it will become Hong Kong's tallest building and the fourth tallest in the world.

The water scenes focus on the Kowloon waterfront opposite Hong Kong Island. The tunnel provides pedestrian access across a busy street. Underground shopping centers are sometimes located along these subterranean pedestrian walkways. If the kinetic energy of the place is communicated, the slides have done their job.

Click on the image to the right to generate a series of views from the Kowloon section of Hong Kong

Historic Preservation

Marine Police Headquarters prior to restoration

At the corner of Salisbury Road and Canton Road in the Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood of Kowloon is an excellent example of Hong Kong's increasing recognition of the benefits of restoring and integrating historical and traditional structures into the modern urban fabric. The complex in question is the former Marine Police Headquarters constructed in 1884.

Marine Police Headquarters in May 2007

This restoration was moving forward at full bore in May 2007. The original raised platform on which the building, plaza and trees were set had been excavated to the street level.

The site will be developed into a heritage hotel with food and beverage outlets, and retail facilities under the former platform. The completion date for the project would be 2008. The seriousness of the preservation objective of the restoration is emphasized by the extreme effort being taken to save the trees and freestanding round building formerly emerging on the raised surface. The photo on the right illustates this preservation process.

H Graem © 2007