Highlight of software qualities for waterfront planning (Eng. Only)

The following is a speech given by the Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr John C Tsang, at the Annual Dinner of the Institute of Landscape Architects today (October 20):






Thank you for inviting me to be your guest speaker at your annual dinner. I am responsible for a number of areas from building to lands to urban renewal, but I have chosen planning to be my topic this evening. It is a subject that has aroused much discussion recently. I am referring particularly to the future planning for Victoria Harbour.


Planning for Victoria Harbour



Victoria Harbour is world renowned. There is no place like it. I have been looking at it for half a century and I am still awed by its magnificence. Tourists and locals alike enjoy watching the Harbour. We do that riding on ferries, sitting along the harbour or looking down from the Peak. This is one attraction that never fails to impress, except when the fog makes it impossible for us to see anything.


There are, however, common criticisms about the monotonous design of our promenades, lack of interesting landscaping in the open spaces, poor accessibility to the water and inadequate facilities and activities to attract and keep people near the water so that they can make even better use of our harbour.


With the Vision Statement promulgated in 1999, Government is actively pursuing the objectives of making the Harbour - attractive, vibrant, accessible and symbolic of Hong Kong. In line with community aspiration, we are committed to plan for a waterfront that would make the local residents proud and draw admirations from our visitors.


Many of you may have already come across the Harbour Plan Study as well as the more detailed waterfront projects which are being implemented to beautify our harbourfront. I would like to share with you the location of some of the key projects:


Short to medium term:


* the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade Beautification project;


* proposal to reinstate the night market in Sheung Wan;


* improvements to the promenade outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.


Longer term:


* The design competition for the integrated Arts, Cultural and Entertainment District in West Kowloon. I am pleased to inform you that we have received 161 submissions. A truly impressive collection of works;


* Proposals for the Kai Tak Point in the South East Kowloon Development. The Kai Tak Point would house facilities such as a cruise terminal, aviation museum, IMAX theatre, and even a Coney Island typed amusement park;


* Proposals for the Wanchai/Causeway Bay waterfront which would comprise a re-positioned marina and a publicly accessible breakwater, an entertainment complex and better connections to Victoria Park.


I trust you are quite familiar with these projects. In fact, you may even be playing an active role in planning these projects in your role as professional landscape architects.


Software in Waterfront Planning



These projects are what we would call 'hardware', the physical aspects. Tonight, I wish to talk about planning, the 'Software' aspects. I would like to cover four desirable qualities for waterfront planning in Hong Kong:


* SYMBOLIC - what we need to do to create the unique quality and identity that symbolise Hong Kong;


* ATTRACTIVE - what we need to do to actualize the landscaping design to make an attractive waterfront environment;


* ACCESSIBLE - what we need to do to encourage and bring people to the waterfront;


* VIBRANT - what we need to do to design the types of activities that could draw people of all ages and people from all walks of life to the Harbour to create a vibrant environment.


We believe that attention to these 'software' qualities is as crucial for the success of our waterfront projects as the 'hardware'. I would like to share with you some of our thinking on these four qualities and I will urge you experts to come forth with your ideas and fill in the finer details, so we could all contribute to beautify our waterfront and to make it lively and enjoyable.


Identity Creation



Whilst we are always making reference to successful cases overseas, such as Sydney, San Francisco and Vancouver, we are conscious that we are not in the business of cloning, making overseas replicas along our Harbourfront. Each harbour has its own character and uniqueness, and we should celebrate our differences. We share the views of the community that it is important to create a Harbour that symbolises Hong Kong. This is the public view that we have gathered in the first stage consultation for the Harbour Plan Study. It is also important to develop each stretch of the waterfront that reflects the history and character of the local districts. An example would be the proposed reinstatement of a night market in Sheung Wan which symbolises the 'Tai Dat Dei' in the past.


In their promotion efforts, the Tourism Commission and the Hong Kong Tourism Board are advocating the theme of 'East meets West, Old meets New'. This could also be the sort of design themes contemplated for our waterfront. We could also identify lookout points which give unique views of our Harbour, e.g. setting against landmarks such as the 'Tsing Ma Bridge', the Convention and Exhibition Centre and other landmark buildings along the skyline, the future planned cruise terminal etc.





I will now come into dangerous territory. Landscaping. Whilst the beauty of the long distance views of the harbour is undisputed, we may be disappointed once we get a closer look on the ground.


Common criticisms include excessive concrete paving, the dull and monotonous street furniture, minimalist tree planting etc. Whilst there had been utilitarian concerns such as maintenance, costs etc., we share the rising community aspiration that basic is not enough. We want higher quality public space.


For landscaping, Government is already implementing in phases a greening programme in different areas of the City. Similar greening would be implemented at the waterfront to provide higher quality public space fro the people so that they could spend more time close to the water.


Concrete pavement would be replaced by more specialty paving. An example would be the Avenue of Stars planned at the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade.


Street furniture such as lampposts, bollards, flags, railings would help enrich the waterfront experience. It helps also to create an identity for the specific public space.


Easy Access to the Water



Bringing people to the waterfront is of paramount importance in waterfront planning. We have been talking a lot about a continuous promenade along the waterfront, wherever possible. We have not achieved that yet. Many portions of our waterfront are still blocked intermittently. A typical solutions such as pontoons or hanging bridges etc. may be considered to provide access in these areas. They could become attractions in their own right. There is also a need for visual penetration from the inner areas so people could easily find their way to the waterfront. We will try to designate visual corridors and to improve the signages. Water shuttles which 'hop' around the Harbour would be another effective way to attract people to the water. The Star Ferry is a good example, and there can be others, perhaps a harbour version of our mini-buses. Correspondingly, we would add more nodes for ferries to stop over and for people to 'hop' on and off the harbourfront.


People Activities



We would also wish to engage people in different types of activities at the waterfront so that they could spend more time close to the water. This is an important piece of the jigsaw puzzle that make up the overall waterfront 'image'. Some activities, unique to waterfront locations such as fishing, boating or merely touching the waters as well as annual events like the Dragon Boat racing and fireworks displays could be attractive. There are other activities that are not specific to waterfront locations, but could nevertheless capture the unique harbour setting. These may include bicycling, kite flying, Tai Chi etc. Then there are street entertainers, informal performances such as para para dance, bazaar etc. They can add festivity to the public space all year round.


What is important is the need to provide variety and choice for people of all ages and from all walks of life, from international tourists to local residents, from children to the elderly. The harbour is also a place for Hong Kong's favorite pastime, eat and drink, wine and dine. A range of restaurants and eating out areas that provide a clean and pleasant environment with stunning views of the Harbour would be an essential ingredient in our future Harbourfront. An example would be the dinning area emerging at Lei King Wan waterfront.


Concluding Remarks



I have attempted to highlight four broad 'software' qualities that we think are important for waterfront planning. As you can see, we need the concerted effort of all concerned to make our Harbour attractive, vibrant and symbolic of Hong Kong. You all have a significant role to play, and together, I have no doubt that the harbour will continue to awe me for the next half century. Thank you.


End/Saturday, October 20, 2001