2014年8月10日星期日

Introduction

Hello Everyone,

I am Simon Liu from the University of Hong Kong.This blog is a record of my observations and insights during the field visits of HKU course - "Development Case Studies" on various famous development cases in Hong Kong. These cases are vivid demonstrations of culture and history of HK’s development and their transformation under the economic and internationalization trend. By this blog, I hope to illustrate their history and presence and try to explore their underlying backgrounds and scenarios with my thoughts and understandings. Some are emerging development initiatives in Hong Kong like the “Energizing Kowloon East ”,”Leisure and Tourism Opportunities in Island South” etc.; Some are unique development patterns of Hong Kong like the “Public Housing”, “Small Houses” etc.; Others are special heritages and sites where the culture and history of Hong Kong thrive on like “Pok Fu Lam”, “Fanling & Sheung Shui” etc.

Please feel free to leave your comments if you have any thoughts or perspectives.

Happy Reading!

Simon 

The Prosperity after Fire - Is It Desirable?

Distribution of Population by Type of Housing in 2011
Source: Hong Kong Housing Authority
I was very excited to visit various public housing projects in HK during the 3- day fileld trip, as they appeared in my sight out of the books and reports for the first time.The public housing is an important feature of the residential housing in HK. Generally, it provides affordable housing for low-income residents with various schemes by HK government. It is organized and developed by Hong Kong Housing Authority [1]. The Hong Kong Housing Authority is actually the largest landlord in the world and in 2011, 48% of the entire population in HK were living in subsidized rental/sale housing as surveyed. The projects we visited gave me a vivid picture of their construction and development patterns and enabled me to think more on top of their histories and stories.  



Day 1 Kowloon - Mei Tung and Lower Wong Tai Sin Estate
Walking along the quite streets in Wong Tai Sin and embraced by the “green carpets” all the way round, the area in Wong Tai Sin seems to be an wonderful quiet place for living, which is widely different from the busy and crowded scenes in Central and West of Hong Kong Island. There are 22 public housing estates in Wong Tai Sin District in total.

Mei Tung Estate
Minutes later, we arrived at the 1st project we would visit - Mei Tung Public Housing Estate [2] before we start our detailed survey at the next estate – Lower Wong Tai Sin Estate. Mei Tung Estate has 3 blocks in total and accommodates around 1500 units and 3600 residents there. They are under the Public Rental Housing Scheme by the Housing Authority and built old Slab, non-standard type of blocks. Besides the Mei Tung House, there are also 2 other blocks named Mei Po House and Mei Yan House. The Mei Tung House (picture 1) was completed in 1974 and named “6th Block” and renamed as Mei Tung House in June 1979 and is the smallest housing estate in Hong Kong. The Kowloon Walled City Park (original Kowloon Walled City) is just located opposite the Mei Tung Estate. There is also an “On Kee Kindergarten” located within the estate.We went inside one of the blocks in Mei Tung Estate. The ground floor was poorly decorated and rough. Each upper floor is with low roofs, narrow public corridors, old-fashioned unit doors, holed public windows at lift lobby etc. It seems unimaginable to live in such a place. The pictures below are snapshots inside the building.  


Lower Wong Tai Sin Estate
The Lower Wong Tai Sin Estate [3] accommodates much more population than Mei Tung, in total, around 23,000 residents lived there in 8,400 units ranging from 14-60 sq. m. The lower Wong Tai Sin was developed in 2 phases. The phase I was under the “Public Rental Housing” scheme with intake in 1982. It has 15 blocks in total. The phase II was under the “Tenants Purchase Scheme” with 9 blocks in total and completed in 1989.

So even in one of the most prosperous global city like Hong Kong, there are still population living in poor conditions and this is not a small amount, as I mentioned above, the public housing serves for almost half of the total population in HK. In the process of HK’s fast-pace internationalization and economical development, there also still some internal imbalance, where they are not able to catch up the trend. Facing HK’s long-existing housing history and problems, there are still much effort to make, the authorities should still work hard at providing a more living-friendly environment and better housing facilities such large population.

Day 3 Island South - Wah Fu Estate
Wah Fu Estate
On the 3rd day, we went see one of the most famous public housing development in HK (in my opinion) – Wah Fu Estate [4]. The Wah Fu Estate always appears on the public media. Just in this year’s policy address [5] by HK’s Chief Executive C Y Leung, he stated that the government plans to redevelop Wah Fu Estate, to provide about 11, 900 additional PRH and Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) units. It was one of the oldest public housing developments in HK and the 1st phase was delivered in November 1967. It was also famed by locating in Waterfall Bay, where there is very good natural scenery along the seaside. It was the debut public housing developed in format of towns with marketplace in side. Ancillary facilities also include parking lots, schools and library.

The Wah Fu Estate is a landmark project in the public housing history of HK. But, there is still defect, as some of the old phase blocks there are with structural hidden danger and HK’ s government are considering redevelop those blocks to guarantee safe. The Wah Fu Estate can be recognized as the “luxurious public housing” as it is equipped with comprehensive functions like the marketplace, car parks, school and library, not to mention it enjoys the beautiful seaview and with the waterfall bay nearby. Even some rich people would prefer to live the “public housing”, which has caused some “speculative activities” to some extent, just because the environment and scenery are so great in Wah Fu.


History and Background of Public Housing:

Big Fire in She Kip Mei,1953
There is a long history in HK providing rental housing for low-income residents like the Hong Kong Housing Society, which was founded in 1948. Since the Opium War in 1841, there were influxes of refugees from mainland China suffering from the Tai Ping Rebellion (1850)
, Chinese Revolution (1911), Anti-Japanese War (1937) and Civil War (1949) continuously. The refugees settled themselves in the squattered houses randomly. On Christmas Eve of 1953, a fire broke out in Shek Kip Mei and 53,000 people became homeless overnight. To accommodate these refugees efficiently, the HK government build H-shape resettlement blocks & squatters quickly in original places and later in other places in Kowloon. From then on, the HK government began to build public housing in large scales.

In 1972, the HK governor Crawford Murray MacLehose initiated a public housing scheme named “Ten Year Housing Programme” with aim to resettle 1.9 million people in 10 years. In 1973, the HK Housing Society was established and launched the “Home Ownership Scheme”, the “Private Institution Participation in Development Scheme” and rebuilt resettlement blocks in the following years. In 1978, the 1st series of housing blocks of the “Home Ownership Scheme” was launched officially. From then on, the government changed its attitude towards the public housing development from quantity to quality perspective. They began to focus on facilities and environments within public housing communities. Coordinate actively with the integrated urban development and develop new towns in New Territories. They tried to disperse the population in to new towns to solve the dense and unsecured situation in urban area.

The Ten Year Housing Programme did not achieve its expectation actually as the public housing was tailored for the middle-class and common citizen and somehow less attractive to private investors. In 1987, the government launched the “long-term housing policy” to promote the subsidized purchase housing. At the same time, the Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun new towns were completed, which underpin governments’ development ambitious.

However, in my opinion, there are still some concerns on the public housing in HK and is the super-scaled public housing really desirable? For instance, the 3 cases above, the Mei Tung, Lower Wong Tai Sin and Wah Fu Estates, they resettled the refugees and low-income residents in old days in the shortest possible time. The Mei Tung (1976), Lower Wong Dai Sin (1982) and Wah Fu Estate (1967) were no doubt pioneers of public housing in HK and accommodate thousands of residents who were in urgent need of residence. They contributed a lot to the social stability at that time of Hong Kong.

But there are some other aspects we need to think about:
On an economic logic, the Hong Kong government actually has a long term reliance on land income and  they create the housing problem by government ownership of land – no private land to meet housing demands. Massive public housing projects like above cases were financed rather inefficiently, by income derived from land by land sales proceeds. As the public housing is subsidized, it further intensifies the economic pressure of the government, which seems costly to them, as on average, a 35 sq.m public housing flat may need around USD 1,100 subsidy per month from the government.

On accessibility and transportation viewpoint, the public housing projects are usually in Low mobility, there is always pressure on transportation. For our case - Mei Tung and Lower Wong Tai Sin Estate: during our walking there, we saw seldom public traffic passing by and few bus terminals and stops within vicinity, not to mention the public housing areas are already densely-populated. The residents there have to walk a long way to reach the nearest bus stops or just facilitate their daily commuting by walking. As for Wah Fu Estate, the problem was even more severe. When the Wah Fu Estate was first completed, it did not attract too many applicants as the estate is quite faraway from downtown area. There was not enough public traffic and the narrow Pok Fu Lam Road is the only passage for outside commuting. As mentioned above, the Wah Fu is also one the most populated residential area in HK with 50,000 residents in peak time and in 2011, the population was 27,953[8]. This huge population base within these public housing projects undoubtedly increase burden for transport.

Problematic Structure
Besides economic and transportation pressure, most notable concern to the public is the quality and maintenance problem. Concrete spalling and water leakage are common scenes in public housing. In 1997, HK TV program reviewed that the concrete in 85% of 843 blocks built in the seventies were found below the standard strength of 20 MPA. Some of these blocks were only 15 years old. The Housing Authority also suffered much complaints ranged from water leakage, falling off of tiles and plastering, defective wiring, pavements opened up with no works in progress, lifts under maintenance for months, poor building management… etc. Take Wah Fu Estate as an example, it was one of the “Problematic Public Rental Housing “found in 1980s. There are structural problems inside the building due to low-quality concrete used in the construction. Some of the buildings in Wah Fu Estate need extra steel frame to erect. The giant steel frame need to be installed in the closed parts within the building and some large-scale repairing works are still needed to replace the original concrete and steels.

The public housing is a milestone in HK’s housing development and still a “tower of strength” even today, as mentioned, the housing problem is a long-existing problem and has great influence on the social stability. The public housing played a critical role in providing well-being for low-income residents in HK. If it cannot be dealt with well, there will be a social earthquake as the public housing serves almost half of the HK population.The history of public housing is in fact the history of housing development in HK. However, it seems that the fast-pace and large-scale public housing developments should slow down a little bit and rethink the past tracks when it encounters concerns on “economics, transport and quality”. With the continued population increase in HK and looking forward to the future, public housing have to cross over the “3 barriers” above to drive itself on a “stable high speed.” It is the sustainability that HK needs and the prosperity can only be continued under that way.

References:
[1] Hong Kong Housing Authority (http://www.housingauthority.gov.hk/sc/index.html)
[2] Mei Tung Estate (http://www.housingauthority.gov.hk/en/global-elements/estate-locator/detail.html)
[3] Wong Tai Sin Public Housing (http://www.housingauthority.gov.hk/sc/global-elements/estate-locator/index.html)
[4] Wah Fu Estate (http://www.housingauthority.gov.hk/tc/global-elements/estate-locator/detail.html?propertyType=1&id=2744)
[5] 2014 Policy Address, HK SAR (http://www.policyaddress.gov.hk/2014/eng/index.html)
[6] Hong Kong Housing Society (http://www.hkhs.com/index.asp)
[7] Development of HK Public Housing (http://www.housingauthority.gov.hk/en/about-us/public-housing-heritage/public-housing-development/index.html)
[8] Wah Fu Population Statistics 2011 (http://www.census2011.gov.hk/tc/main-table/A302.html)
[9] 26 Problematic Public Rental Housing Scandal (http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/26%E5%BA%A7%E5%95%8F%E9%A1%8C%E5%85%AC%E5%B1%8B%E9%86%9C%E8%81%9E)



2014年8月7日星期四

Colorful Lifestyle in Old Blocks – Retail Destinations in Kowloon

There are many shopping malls, dept. stores, walking streets in Kowloon. When we were in Kowloon on the 1st day, we visited several famous shopping malls and streets there and got to understand how the culture and history of Kowloon have shaped the unique local retail formats and how the malls are developed under the economic and internationalization trend of the region. What’s more interesting, they all have their respective landmark colors!

Megabox (Enterprise Square) – RED

The first destination is Megabox. It is located opposite of the Zero Carbon Building.  It is developed by Kerry Properties and an important component of the Energizing Kowloon East Plan, which is a 1.1 mil sq.ft mixed-use development comprising of shopping mall and offices.
MegaBox


Megabox is the largest shopping center in Kowloon East. From my observation along the way, we did not see other comparable shopping malls within vicinity. Therefore, the Megabox is inevitably a great supplement in Kowloon Bay and will underpin the local revitalization schemes by meeting local residents and staffs’ shopping and recreation demand. It consists of 4 major Zones – “IN-Style”, “Better Home”, “FAMILY Circus” and “EATertainment” and can tailor the demands of different consumption groups and ages.

The entire project is designed in a traditional Chinese manner with colors in dark red. The traffic design is also initiative, where consumers could get easy access into the shopping mall by direct escalators and the road loop around the mall.


Limitations: Megabox and the Enterprise Square complex is definitely an impeccable shopping and office mixed-use development and a milestone project in the Energizing Kowloon East Plan. However, the location of the development is somehow embarrassing as there is no MTR station nearby. The nearest one – the Kowloon Bay station is still 15 mins’ driving distance (not walking). Consumers have to wait for a long time for their shuttle bus before arriving the mall 15 mins later. And it will surely reduce the footfall.

Telford Plaza – GOLDEN

Telford Plaza
Our 2nd destination is the Telford Plaza [2]. It is one of the largest-scale shopping malls in Kowloon Bay, Kowloon, which is also consisted of Headquarter Tower of MTR, Hang Seng Tower and the Telford Garden. The mall is co-developed by MTR and New World Development and is currently managed by MTR. The Phase I was opened in 1980 and followed by Phase II’s opening in 1997. Further back to the history of Kowloon, Kowloon Bay was at that time an undeveloped industrial area and most of the towers in Kwun Tong were still industrial-use. So the Telford Plaza could be the only large-scale shopping destination in Kwun Tong and even Kowloon East at one time and is a milestone project in the retail development in Kowloon.

Comparing with MegaBox, the location of Telford Plaza seems superior. It is encountered by the footfall of Kowloon Bay Station, Kowloon Bay Industrial and Commercial Zone and Kwun Tong Road with additional contribution by the Public Transport Interchange and connecting to Enterprise Square and the Kowloon East. As discussed above, the traffic access to MegaBox is not good but there are shuttle buses between these 2 destinations, so that they could share more footfalls.

Besides the Phase I & II malls in Telford Plaza, there also other constructions which also contribute to its success. The Golden Road is a pedestrian corridor outside the Telford Plaza and it links to the Telford Tower and Kowloon Bay by footbridge. The entire development is actually in the golden color. It was renovated in 1997. There is also a Garden Plaza providing public open space with lots of convenient facilities. The MCL (Telford Theater) is also famous for its special design and its jewel theme.

Some general feeling: we visited the Telford Plaza on Wednesday, a weekday not weekend, but just standing under the roof of the Golden Road and inside the Plaza, I felt the whole development is really crowded.  I think the location of Plaza is one the most important reason for its success – intersection of various areas and roads, comprehensive supported infrastructure and comprehensive public traffic access. Even today, with lots of industrial towers and old residential development nearby with lots of dense population, the Telford Plaza is an extreme success and had made full use of all there factor contributing its prosperity.

Langham Place – BLUE

 Langham Place
The last destination we visited that day is the Mall of Langham Place after passing through the crowded streets in Mong Kok. The Langham Place was completed in October, 2014. It is a 3-in-1 landmark mixed-use development in Mong Kok, Kowloon with shopping mall, hotel and office. It is a very successful model as the visitors in its hotel and the workforce in its can provide abundant consumers for the mall, not to mention the prosperity of Mong Kok.  
The main color of Langham Place is blue as its curtain wall is mostly made of glasses. The site where Langham Place covered is originally a residential land. It was completed after 10 years of replaning and redevelopment. It is most famed by its architecture design and the entire project is designed as a round-mix and streamlined style. As for the shopping mall (15 levels), the biggest feature is the Xpresscalators from 4A tower to 8-style tower, it is also the longest escalator in Hong Kong.

Take the history and culture of Mong Kok into consideration, the area used to be the “Red Light District” with lots of night clubs. The Regal Group planned to change it to a contemporary and fashioned shopping area with more dynamic. The prosperity of Mong Kok should also thank to the development of Langham Place actually, as it changed the image of the area after it was built.

Resembling Telford Plaza, the success of Langham Place also thrived on its location – the center of the densely-populated Mong Kok. Besides, its development pattern also contributed to its success with enough footfalls coming from its brothers – the office and hotel. The unique architecture design makes it a landmark and recognizable by anyone who visited. And on top of above, it is the strategic transformation of the area underpinned its prosperity, as the old Mong Kok needs high-standard and international project to be its landmark to change its old and vulgar image. The Langham Place just caught up that trend and made its success.

References:
[1] Megabox Website (http://www.megabox.com.hk/index.php?lang=eng)
[2] Telford Plaza (http://www.telford-plaza.com/eng/tp/main/index.jsp)
[3] Langham Place ( http://www.langhamplace.com.hk/tc/)

2014年8月4日星期一

When Development Encounters History — Thoughts on Small Houses

We visited some of the villages in Fanling and Leung Yeuk Tau of the North District on the 2nd day and the Lamma Island on the 3rd day and saw many irregular “3-stories” village houses during our trips. Actually, these houses are commonly known as” small house” or “Ding house” in HK. It is a special development pattern in HK, which is a mixed product of the” history and culture” of the villages in New Territories and I think there is something to talk about on this.


Small Houses in Fanling Wai

When we were in Fanling Wai, found some of the small houses were built there irregularly. Actually, the villagers built their houses randomly within village and there is no detailed plan for that. The villagers could build their house on their granted lands without too much specific requirements. The balconies are towards different directions with windows in different shapes and formats. Some houses are equipped with yards in front of the gate and the boundaries are not organized. The also arrange their “GFA” on their own preference, so we could often see the houses are with different layout and floors, as the villagers just tried to archive the “ 2100 sq.ft maximum” but in different construction designs.


Small Houses on Lamma Island
On the contrary, we arrived at the Lamma Island the next day and found the small houses there seemed more neat and fashioned. They are all built in a uniform design, everything were the same no matter the exteriors, windows, canopies and roofs etc. These houses are also small houses, but the villagers outsourced the construction work to the same contractor and designer, so they came up with the same appearance. The houses just resemble blocks of luxurious houses with more comfortable design and fit-out. As a matter of fact, it also stimulates some speculations.


Small House Under Construction
in Leung Yeuk Tau 
History and background: The small houses can date back to 1970s and they are all regulated under the so-called small house policy which was introduced in 1972. A riot broke out in 1967 and the HK government plan to develop the New Territories. To win support from the local villagers in New Territories, the government initiated the “Small House Policy [1]” in December 1972. In the policy, all male indigenous villagers[2] (over age 18) of recognized villages[3] are entitled to once in a life time an individual house site for housing for himself and his family. The house should meet the following criteria:
  • should not exceeding 700 s.f. per floor(65.03 )
  • not exceeding 27 ft. (8.33m) / 3 storeys high height measured from its lowest point at ground level to highest point of roof excluding stairhood, parapet wall and water tank.




The small house policy was originally a temporary policy by the government. As the new territories is not a well-developed area in HK and the living condition there is quite poor there. The first aim of the policy is to provide better living condition for the local villagers there. And we could see from the picture above, some of the small houses are really beautiful and living-friendly. It is a good step towards further development of the village area in New Territories with local villagers accommodated during the development process; As the male indigenous villagers (Ding , in Cantonese) accounts for a proportion of the population (approx. 240,000) in New Territories and the housing are not enough for them, the small house could solve their housing demand significantly and is definitely a good measure to secure the social stability there. Just take the small houses in Fanling Wai and Leung Yeuk Tau as an example: they are also good demonstrations in maintaining rural village character in HK, which is becoming more and more valuable in HK today.

Considerations: However, there are still some issues we need to think about after on-site visit of the small houses in New Territories. Of the most concerned, I think is the land/sustainability issue. For my understanding, the average personal living area in HK is less than 150 sq.ft in HK. The population within New Territories is less than 800,000, once they have a male posterity, they will be able to build a 2,100 sq.ft spacious house, not to mention the area of roof, garden and garage are not accounted. In 2012, the HK Development Authority also announced that 56% of the government land reserve can be used in the rural development, which means that “60 percentage of the usable land in HK is for 10% of the total population” - what an amazing figure. Facing the intense land supply and housing problems in HK, the small houses are unsustainable. The valuable land resources are occupied in a very inefficient manner. If all of the estimated 240,000 male villagers with entitlements were to be granted small houses this translates to 504 million sq ft of living space or over 2,200 hectares (ha) (allowing for building space between houses) of land area. It is definitely a waste of usable land in HK on top of the intensive land supply problem.

Drainage System of Small Houses
As mentioned above, the construction process and deliverables are not fully regulated by the government. Though the small houses are governed by HK Building Ordinance Cap 121[4] and administered by the HK Lands Department, generally, approval of building plans by Buildings Department is not needed. As a result, there is a potential planning issues for development in the recognized villages. Since the houses were built under no plans, they scattered within the villages disorderly, this will lead future planning difficulties. From my observations that day, I my can also found the disorganized drainage and water systems within these village areas, which have potential sanitation problems.

Beyond above, the speculative trades often happen, as once the indigenous villagers was removed of Restriction of Alienation[5], which allow them to sell the small houses after paying land premium, they may sell their houses to outsiders immediately. Some qualified indigenous villagers also sell their eligibility and sign declarations to developers, which misrepresent their intentions and underpin speculative development. The famous HK TV play “Overheard 3” [6] is actually demonstrated on top of the speculative development over the small houses in New Territories.

The small houses are resulted from the British Colony History in New Territories, which had contributed to its current land unsustainability and planning problems. Under the economic pressures, the small house development is somehow speculative between villagers and developers now. It satisfied the housing demand of local villagers in New Territories and helps to stable the community temporarily, but on a long-term sustainable development perspective and taking the housing problem in HK into consideration, the small houses policy needs to be modified and there should be new balance when sustainable development encounters history. 

References:
[1] Small House Policy: (http://www.landsd.gov.hk/en/legco/house.htm)
[2] Indigenous villagers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_inhabitants_of_the_New_Territories_(Hong_Kong))
[3] Recognized villages (http://www.hyknt.org/img/data/009b.pdf)
[4] Cap 121, Building Ordinance (http://www.legislation.gov.hk/blis_pdf.nsf/6799165D2FEE3FA94825755E0033E532/23D3DEB18A34C224482575EE003EA492?OpenDocument&bt=0)
[5] Removal of Restriction of Alienation (http://www.aud.gov.hk/pdf_e/e39ch08.pdf)
[6] Movie: Overheard III (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overheard_(film))

2014年8月2日星期六

Underdeveloped Tourism Destination – Island South & Lamma Island.

As known to all, Hong Kong is the leading financial center in Asia. The 1st impression come into mind when talking about HK will be the pointed BOC Tower with 2 IFC and ICC erected on 2 sides of the Victoria Harbor. In 2013, 54 million visitors [1] from around the world arrived Hong Kong and most of their destinations are filled by crowded and bustling metropolitan sceneries in downtown area. But if you have a look at the natural map and know a little bit more about HK, actually 70% [2] of the total 1,104 sq.km land are green area. If these natural green areas could be leisure or tourism destinations and further developed, how many more opportunities it could create for HK. Not until we visited Hong Kong Island South and Lamma Island, had I realized those areas has great potential to be a tourism destination.

Waterfall Bay
Waterfall Bay
Waterfall Bay was scenery near the famous public housing project - Wah Fu Estate. Actually, the waterfall is also quite famous itself. The fresh water from the waterfall is said to have given the city its name. In the old days, the ships from and to Guangzhou will always got drink water here and people used to call the place “Fragrant Harbor” and its Cantonese homophonic translation was just “Hong Kong”. The Waterfall Park can overlook beautiful scenery of the Lamma Island. There is a neglected Japanese pillbox in the bay, it is also known as a famous haunted house. When the Wah Fu Estate was open in 1970s, some kids played there but drown. Since then, the authorities closed the roads there and make it as inaccessible as it is today.

The place here is so famous and beautiful but why there are limited people visiting every day? When we arrived that day, we found its only visitors seemed to be the aged residents in Wah Fu Estate. Hong Kong is planning the Southern District to be a tourism destination but the traffic accessibility is still not satisfying in some parts, perhaps that is why the Waterfall Bay is so famous but we saw rare visitors. There should be some effort on that and further improvement is needed on the public access and infrastructure there. Moreover, to prevent any drown accident happen again, some security facilities should also be built if it intends to open to the public in the future.

Aberdeen Promenade
Boats along Aberdeen Promenade
Our next stop is the Aberdeen Promenade. It used to be a busy fishing area and most of the fishermen are from Southeast Asia. However, the fish here were getting fewer and fewer. There used to be prosperous fish market here at around 6 am every day many years ago, but fishing is no longer allowed in HK in recent year, so the fish market disappears. The Aberdeen Promenade is also one of the densest harbors in the world. You’ll find the picture below how the boats are stopped one by one. Since 1970, HK began its large scale reclamation and the promenade was then formed. There are also many recreational facilities within the park and the lots of ferries and boats are stopped along the seaside. There is a “Fisherman’s wharf” [5] plan undergoing and part of the Aberdeen Promenade park is planned as a tourism site by the government. But under the latest plan, the redevelopment scheme seemed shrinking. All in all, the Promenade is a very important linking point and transportation hub for Island south, if the leisure and tourism of this area wish to be underpinned, this Promenade should be improved to facilitate more public traffic. And as mentioned above, crucial issue of this ambition is improving the traffic of Island South !

Lamma Island
Lamma Power Station
Finally, we stepped on the ferry and starting for Lamma Island, which will be the last destination of our 3-day site visits. The Lamma Island[6] is 3rd largest island in HK and 6,000 populations living there including lots of foreigners. When hiking along the path of the hilly island and disturbed occasionally by the giant spiders, we were sweating all over and cannot not remember how long we walked. But we all know that to enjoy the grand sights of the Lamma Winds and Power Station on the peak, we need to remain committed to it until we arrive there. When we were high enough, we caught a glimpse of the 3 giant chimney of the Lamma Power Station. It is a coal and gas-fired power station built for Hong Kong Electric, which provides power to Hong Kong Island and Lamma Island. We found that among the 3 giant chimneys, only 2 are smoking. Actually, the last one is a fake one standing there, just because of Fengshui problem.

Lamma Winds
It was still some distance before we reached the peak and when we arrived there we found the Lamma Winds was already under our feet. I felt as if we were flying together with the Winds! There is an exhibition center for the Lamma Winds, which is a showcase to the public of the sustainability the power station and the government have achieved. But per our observation, the main station power in Lamma is still dominated by coal and gas-fired originated power, so hope the sustainable energy efficiency is not just an exhibition but on a real-case basis.

The Lamma Island is all filled with green and with lots of beautiful scenery spots, just to name a few beside the Lamma Winds and Power Station above: Hung Shing Yeh Beach, Hung Shing Temple, Yung Shue Wan and Tin Hau temples and Tai Peng village etc. All the places are with exceptional natural and historical view and Lamma Island is very resourceful in terms of tourism. The only shortage of the Island should be its traffic accessibility. Until now the only method to get on board the beautiful seems the ferry, the Island is no doubt charming and attractive, but without a sound traffic accessibility, how could the leisure and tourism resources be enjoyed.



References:
[1] HK Tourism Performance in 2013 (http://www.tourism.gov.hk/english/statistics/statistics_perform.html)
 Waterfall Bay (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall_Bay,_Hong_Kong)
[2] Green Coverage in HK (http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%A6%99%E6%B8%AF)
[3] Waterfall Bay (http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%80%91%E5%B8%83%E7%81%A3)
[4] Aberdeen Promenade (http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%A6%99%E6%B8%AF%E4%BB%94%E6%B5%B7%E6%BF%B1%E5%85%AC%E5%9C%92)
[5] Fisherman’s Wharf Plan (http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%A6%99%E6%B8%AF%E4%BB%94%E6%BC%81%E4%BA%BA%E7%A2%BC%E9%A0%AD)
[6] Lamma Island (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/see-do/great-outdoors/outlying-islands/lamma-island/index.jsp)

2014年7月27日星期日

Diversified Living Scenarios – Pok Fu Lam

Pok Fu Lam is located at the western end of the Southern District. The place is famous for its beautifully sceneries of the green mountains, open seaview, the medical (Queen Mary Hospital) and education (The University of Hong Kong). It is also renowned as a residential area in Hong Kong Island with a much diversified living scenarios, as the area has one of the oldest villages – Pok Fu Lam village; one of the largest private developments in HK – Chi Fu Fa Yuen; It is also a reputable luxurious residential area.

Pok Fu Lam Village (Original)
Pok Fu Lam Village
As we all know, the Hong Kong Island is a high-dense and well developed area with high level of internationalization and modernization. The Pok Fu Lam village[1] is actually one of the rare traditional living clusters in Hong Kong Island. Some of the historians and heritage consultants even recognize the Pok Fu Lam Village to be the “Last Village on Hong Kong Island”.

The houses in the villages are quite old-fashioned and I am just wondering how the villagers could live there. But after a more detailed observation, I found some the engineering designs are quite wise. For instance, to keep away from hot, the villagers built 2 roofs on the top, so that the higher roof could radiate hot and the hot reaching the lower roof was reduced significantly. So even without air-conditioning, the villagers can also keep themselves cool inside the houses.

Albeit the village is old and space inside is quite limited, there are still open space for villagers there to relax, just resembling public housing estates. Obviously, the rest space is too narrow. There some other vacant land within the village, but the efficiency is quite low as they are fenced and the ownership was back to the government. Drainage system inside the villages[2] is not systematic and just arranged along the outlines of the houses. But of course, in an old village like Pok Fu Lam, it is impossible to design a regular drainage system with orderliness layout. As a result, it always meets troubles in rainy days. We experienced a heavy rain yesterday and happened to find somewhere of the system was just being fixed because of flood.

Influence of Pok Fu Lam Master Plan: The history of the Pok Fu Lam village can date back to 1973 and some of the original architecture and facilities still existed within the village. However, the government’s master plan on Pok Fu Lam and the internal demand of improving villagers’ living quality is threatening the existence of the old village. Therefore, the authorities should develop the old area in an appropriate approach to conserve the heritage.

Diversified Residential Scenario: A way walking down the Pok Fu Lam road, you will find various brand new luxurious buildings, with the old Fok Fu Lam village inside and blocks of private development – Chi Fu Fa Yuen ahead, what a diversified scene, which is just a showcase of different classes in Hong Kong Island within the same area.  

Chi Fu Fa Yuen (Mid-end)
The Chi Fu Fa Yuen[3] is one the largest private development in Southern District of HK. It was developed by Hong Kong Land Limited in 1978 with 20 blocks of high-rise residential buildings in total. The location of the Chi Fu Fa Yuen was originally the Pasture of Pok Fu Lam.

Chi Fu Fa Yuen
Chi Fu Fa Yuen is quite renowned in the real estate development history of Hong Kong. It is one of the oldest private developments in HK. As we all know that HK was witnessing the fastest population growth in the 1970s and in Hong Kong Island, this problem was even tougher. Most of the people at the time could not afford private housing and the public housing was still not enough to accommodate so much population. Chi Fu Fa Yuan was actually an “affordable” private housing and was developed in a very large scale. In this way, it contributed a lot to the social stability at that time albeit Hong Kong Land bear some development risk itself as the land area was so large.

Chi Fu Fa Yuen also has other features, which are also significant:
  • There are no walls around the entire development to increase public accessibility;
  • There is a bus terminal inside the community which enhances the accessibility further.
There are also commercial ancillaries and landscape and recreational facilities inside, all in all, a rare “cost-efficient private residential project".

The Chi Fu Fa Yuen is very successful in the real estate development history of HK. Facing the shortage of housing history and problems in HK in 1970s, it was a role model to solve the problem in an innovative way by “affordable private development”. Though the developer – the Hong Kong Land were bearing development risk (so large scale) and under the pressure of economical returns, they still make that happen and was on doubt a milestone in HK’s housing history.


Jessville (Luxurious)
Jessville under Development
Since the Pok Fu Lam is so famous for high-end residential, we pay a special visit to a development project there – Jessville[4]. The Jessville has a very long history. It was built in 1929 by the father-in-law of Sir Yang Ti-liang. Facing threat of demolition, Jessville was declared a "Proposed monument" in 2007. The declaration was withdrawn and the building was listed down as a Grade III historic building in 2008. The conservation plan was also approved by authorities. The new development could resume with Jessville protected.

The case was controversial because the government lower grade the historic building, which was not a sustainable attitude the authority should hold. Actually, these development controversies often happen in HK and there are always queues from the public. The Jessville is not the only case. But on a strategic planning point of view, the Jessville is a successful case as it fulfilled development potential on economic logic with the history and heritage preserved.





References:
[1] Pok Fu Lam Village Official Website (http://www.pokfulamvillage.org/)
[2] Pok Fu Lam Village Studio (http://pokfulamvillage.com/)
[3] Chi Fu Fa Yuen (http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%BD%AE%E5%AF%8C%E8%8A%B1%E5%9C%92#.E5.B0.8D.E5.A4.96.E4.BA.A4.E9.80.9A)
[4] Jessville (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessville)





Trail of Culture and Heritage

Fanling Wai

Pang Ancestral Hall in Fanling Pak Wai
A lot of immigrants and refugees from other parts of China crossed borders and settled down in North New Territories to escape from wars, floods or typhoon. Generally, they immigrated in groups of families with the clustered there with the same family name. This is how the Clan Culture emerged.The Fanling Wai [1] is where the Pang Clan settled. Since the population grew and so many people lived there, the Fanling Wai enlarged to 3 parts, which are Pak Wai, Chuang Wai and Nam Wai. As the group has the same Ancestor, they built a Hall to memorize their ancestor. Every year the all the families will gather in the Ancestral Hall for the ceremonial event. They also built schools and study halls for Clan’s long term prosperity.

Walled Villages in Fanling Wai
Among all the Fanling Wais, the most famous one is the Fanling Chung Wai. Actually, the recognizable pictures Pond, Cannons and Watchtower often appear when people introduce about the walled villages in Fanling. I you observe carefully, you’ll find the pond in front of the walls is actually man-made, you may wonder what’s it used for? For collecting drinking water or just for fun? Actually, it one feature of traditional Chinese architecture, they all comply with “Fengshui[2]” rules. In general, according to Fengshui, the best location for housing should be with waters in the front and mountains at the back. There are mountains at back but there is no water at the front of the gate, so they put a pond just there.

At both the entrance gate and the cornered walls, there are 3 circles painted white, and they are all Fengshui reasons. Fengshui, is an issue almost every architect should consider when designing the location and landscape in China. With a good Fengshui, the residents can have a safe and peaceful life while the villagers can obtain harvest in autumn. Therefore, we should bear in mind that for every future design or planning for architecture in China and Hong Kong, we should still take Fengshui into consideration after the thorough design. It’ s not in the scientific logic/manner but it is a tradition deeply rooted in the Chinese Architecture Culture and you should be considerable on that no matter you believe in it or not as long as your works are located in Chinese regions.


Leung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail

San Wai (Kun Lung Wai)
The 1st ones are Tsung Kyan Church and Shek Lo along the trail; they are Grade II and Grade III historic buildings respectively. We also paid a visit inside the Shek Lo, which resembled some of the scenes we often seen in detective movies. It was built in around 1920s and the site in front of it seems being developing into a conservation site at the moment but unfortunately, the Shek Lo seemed poorly protected.Then we arrived at Ma Wat Wai and Lo Wai – walled villages. Their entrance towers and walls are all declared monuments. The walls of Lo Wai still existed well; it used to be a good protection when during wars. There all also wells in inside and gun hole on the wall, villagers could stay inside for many days to protect themselves under the adamant walls.

Later, we arrived at out last destination of the Lung Yuek Tau Heritage Trail – San Wai (Kun Lung Wai).As seen from the above photo; the Gate Tower Wall is well protected and maintained its origins. But when you go inside, you find a mix picture. Some new 3-storey houses have been built inside unregularly, with old ones combined internally. The villagers seem have to build new houses to live in a “modern world”, the old houses will be dilapidated sooner or later.

Conservation: As an intersection of mainland and local HK with a diversified culture and history, the Fanling and Sheung Shui area should be a good exhibition of Historical Heritages. However, to catch up the trend of HK’s internationalization and under the pressure of fast-paced economic growth, HK lost lots of heritages in the past decades. The government seemed indifferent on the historical sites and turned them down to accommodate modern development and skyscrapers. But till now, they realized they are running at an amazing speed but on a confusing direction with all these historical sites unpreserved. They are actually starting their heritage preservation trial in recent years.Fortunately, though in tandem with the aggressive urban development, and in north part of the New Territories, there are still some old heritages undamaged. So we had a chance today to see what they were like and learn more about the culture and history.


New Blocks Accompanied by Heritages 
Combination: We found that the architectures there are actually a combination of ancient and modern. This seems a compromised way that how these heritages could survive in the fast-pace urbanization and internationalization. However, it is just a temporary shelter for these heritages, there must be some better solutions to protect them and simultaneously, accommodate modernization and urbanization.



References:
[1] Fanling Wai (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanling_Wai)
[2] Feng Shui (http://fengshui.about.com/od/thebasics/qt/fengshui.htm)
[3] Leung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/see-do/culture-heritage/historical-sites/chinese/lung-yeuk-tau-heritage-trail.jsp)

[4] Heritage Trails (http://www.amo.gov.hk/en/trails_lung.php)

2014年7月20日星期日

A Tale of Two Towns: Fanling & Sheung Shui

Fanling

Fanling in HK
Fanling and Sheung Shui were extremely far from Hong Kong Island and the Sheung Shui was actually just located inside the boundary between Hong Kong and China (Shenzhen). Fanling is located in Northeast of New Territories, with Tai Po on the southeast and Sheung Shui on the Northwest. It is a component of the North District[1], 3 other sub-areas. The North District is bound by Shenzhen as mentioned above and is one of the most densely populated district in HK, with 2, 228 persons / sq.km and account for 4.3% of HK’ s entire population.

As it is bound district with China, a lot of refugees from China cross border and settled down there since the Anti-Japanese and Civil Wars in China, which make the population within the district increased dramatically and formed its own Clan Culture. Walking through Fanling, you will found some unique features comparing with areas in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. The topography is plain so it is an ideal place for bicycling; the taxies there are also the uniformed Toyota but in Green Color.

Even though, the area is still a major green and agricultural area of Hong Kong with much land undeveloped. In recent years, the Government has initiated a plan on “Developing Northeast[2]” including Fanling North, Ta Kwu Ling and Kwu Tung North. It is originally proposed to solve 3 long-existing problems in HK:1)    Increase land supply;2)   Reduce population density in urban area;3)  Improve industrial and commercial function of the North District.The government’s plan is forward-looking, but due to various reasons, they met with many obstacles like:1)   Relocation difficulty of the original residents;2) Influence on local agriculture;3) Land exchange and compensation controversies. etc.

For my understanding, Fanling and the North District is linking point of Hong Kong and China, therefore its culture and history are emerged and combined by original local villagers there and new immigrants from other parts of China. During our visits there, we could find the much part of the area is still accompanied by traditional Chinese style, which have not been changed for several hundred years.

On development potential or just from urbanization perspective, the area of HK Northeast should be developed further. But it cannot be materialized that smoothly as the government planned, as mentioned above, the “change” is “painful” to many stakeholders, “local evolution” of economy and international process is actually always accompanied by” cultural resistance”. There are still years to go before the government development plan can be realized completely.


Sheung Shui

Farmland in Sheung Shui
After a heavy rain, we continued our steps towards Sheung Shui, seems that we were going to walk away from Hong Kong as we were getting nearer and nearer to the frontier. The land in Sheung Shui seemed greener as most of the area there were still farmland. It was still quite traditional as we did not see any modern agricultural facilities in their farmland. There are also divided farm plots along the way. Actually, these are the plots for workforce who used to live a farming life in the country before but may now work in HK Island or Kowloon, they might came back at weekend to recall their enjoyment of farming on green and natural farmland to relax themselves.

The houses in the village were still in its old image and separated randomly within Sheung Shui village[3]. It sometimes caused troubles for the postman as it could be very challenging for them to find the specific location addressed on the envelope. The Sheung Shui village seemed the only place with its original layout and nature maintained.There was a river outside Sheung Shui village called Ng Tung River. Walking along the waterfront of the river on a rainy day was extremely a pleasure. The paths along the river are holed with 2 major applications: 1) to accommodate more green 2) to protect flooding. What a smart design.


Sheung Shui Marketplace
The Sheung Shui marketplace[4] is a famous place in the old days and was busy and prosperous in 1950s to serve locals of the entire Sheung Shui area. However, after a fire in 1957, some of the heritage was damaged with limited ones left.However, after new planning, there are some new developments within the area, which facilitate modern urban functions.

The prosperity of marketplace in Sheung Shui emerged from its culture and history background but not a strategic planning perspective. As mentioned above, the area has long been a market area with hundreds of years’ history. Its “downtown” status cannot be changed easily as the local people there already get accustomed to its style and location.As an intersection of HK and China; and a center between urban area and villages, the Sheung Shui marketplace also has its own features:
  • Commodities are rather cheap than Kowloon and HK Island;
  • More smuggling goods from and to China on sale: HK milk powder etc.
  • The new walking streets are more convenient, with no steps and vehicles prohibition etc.

“The tale of two towns” has demonstrated and witnessed thousands anecdotes on the combined culture and history of Hong Kong and Mainland China. They evolved with history and thrived on culture. Hundreds of years have passed and they seemed different from what they originally looks like. But one thing is everlasting: the old villages should and must develop under the economic push and urbanization trend to survive. They can maintain their tradition, lifestyle and culture, but to live themselves in a forever changing world, they need to spare no effort and suffer pains. And that’s how Fanling and Sheung Shui sharped themselves as what they look like today.

References:
[1] North District (http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8C%97%E5%8D%80_(%E9%A6%99%E6%B8%AF))
[2] Northeast Development Plan (http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%96%B0%E7%95%8C%E6%9D%B1%E5%8C%97%E7%99%BC%E5%B1%95%E8%A8%88%E5%8A%83)
[3] Sheung Shui Village (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheung_Shui)


[4] Sheung Shui and Fanling Market (http://www.stay.com/hong-kong/shopping/15058/sheung-shui-and-fanling-markets/)