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Kennedy Town

Hong Kong

Across the invisible walls:

 

Re-establishing the axial relationship of the Hill, City & Water beyond built infrastructure arise from city expansion in Western District

Since the British governance, the development of Hong Kong has been hugely dependent on land reclamation and the flattening of the hills. During later stages of expansion, the couple has created heavy transportation structures at the northern waterfront; and a series of retaining walls and man-made slopes at the southern hills. Like Invisible Walls, they concentrate activities as transversal slices and constraint pedestrian movement to perforate axially across.

While the city was founded initially on a continuous ground with a rectangular grid system that arrays along the coastline and periphery of the hills, the hills and the water were originally the genius loci of the land. Together with the street, they create a unique walking experience in Hong Kong, and formulates dwellers’ instinct. As the city expands and is segmentised, the original intimate relationship with the natural landscape diminishes as the hills and water are cut off from the core city.

As a solution, the city has established a series of methods to mediate across at the Invisible Walls: footbridges from coastal landmarks to connect between the water and the city; escalators and stairs to ease between the hills and the city. At at specific areas, they are connected to form extensive elevated networks that bridge across the section and between buildings or transit.

The thesis criticize the elevated system as a knee-jerk sequelae to transit-centric planning strategy after industrialization, of which the experience of walking was depreciated under the popularization of cars. In such system, pedestrian connectivity is merely an afterthought. They are ‘frictionless passages’- realms of ‘non-place’- where pedestrians moves through like passengers in distorted timescape without experiencing an actual relationship with the street and the historical landscape.

The project proposes Sai Cheung Street as a testing ground to introduce an alternate way of addressing axial connectivity the hills and water, with a balanced prioritization between pedestrians and traffic; new infrastructure and the existing fabric; and between nature and man-made. Following research logic, the crucial point of manipulation is at the nodes where the Frontal or Rear walls intersects with axial streets. By identifying latest planned development and tangible enterprises in the community, minimal site-specific strategies are imposed to create event space, revitalised abandoned structure and accentuate the inherited qualities of the neighborhood. The journey is marked by thresholds or vistas in-between places. The sights are located at every turning point of the walkway as a response to revive the view of streetscape.

The project eventually evolved into suggesting an alternative bottom-up approach of urban planning. Differ from the modernist top-down approach, it requires a sensitive study into the existing fabric, cocurrent events and historical essence such to conclude any missed opportunities and deduce potential interventions.

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