Stargazing facility in Sai Wan, Sai Kung
Sai Kung has always been a hot spot for the public to stargaze. Upon request from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), the Architectural Services Department (ArchSD) has constructed a stargazing facility on an abandoned campsite located between Sai Wan and Ham Tin Wan in Sai Kung for visitors to enjoy stargazing by lying down leisurely and comfortably. This time, I have invited two colleagues from the ArchSD to introduce the architectural design and features of the facility to facilitate our understanding of the design concepts of the project team.
Reconstructed from a campsite
The stargazing facility is situated on a small knoll. Walking along the MacLehose Trail Section 2 from Sai Wan Beach uphill for about 10 minutes, you will see the “Sai Wan Stargazing Site” sign. The newly constructed stargazing facility is a curved ring-form bench composed of glass reinforced resin panels, which are hard, durable and suitable for outdoor use. The bench, which is built with great respect for the surrounding tree line, beautifully blends the streamlined design into nature. Architect of the ArchSD, Mr LO Yee-cheung, Adrian, says the location was originally an abandoned campsite with a piece of spacious flat land. The reconstruction works did not involve tree felling, which minimised ecological and visual impacts.
The bench with ergonomic design
Adrian shares that the AFCD, Hong Kong Space Museum and ArchSD joined hands to explore the design of the stargazing facility and the construction commenced in October 2018. The most prominent feature of the project is the curved ring-form bench which allows 360-degree stargazing. People can view the starry sky no matter where they sit. The bench is ergonomically-designed so that people can enjoy stargazing by sitting in the most comfortable position at 135 degrees, which is more comfortable than lying on the ground. With its light timber colour as well as reflective coating on its top and bottom tips, the bench enables visitors to see it clearly even without artificial illumination so as to ensure safety.
Adopting green and environmentally-friendly design
Moreover, the central part of the stargazing facility is a hard-paved flat area for stargazers to set up their tripods and telescopes. Metal coordinate indicators are embedded in the ground to facilitate visitors to orient themselves and to appreciate the starry sky in different directions. Meanwhile, the project has adopted green and environmentally-friendly design to conserve the natural environment of the countryside. For example, pebbles are placed under the back of the bench to facilitate natural drainage without the need to lay any drains, and grasses fit for wild cows’ consumption are grown without the need to carry out grass cutting work manually or mechanically; as a result, symbiosis of human, nature and architecture can be achieved.Modular construction for easy transportation and repairs
As the stargazing facility is located at the knoll ridge above Sai Wan Beach, it is not possible for works vehicles to get to the construction site directly. So, how did the project team overcome the geographical challenge? According to Project Manager of the ArchSD, Mr TONG Kwok-wai, Anthony, the curved ring-form bench has been built using prefabricated components made in factories. These components were transported to the construction site by helicopters for assembly. Because the components were mainly put together in factories, which could be done even on rainy days, the works could be completed rather quickly. As a result, it took the team only three months to complete the main part of the works. Besides, as the bench has been built using modular construction, individual panels can be removed and replaced with new ones when necessary.
1 December, 2019