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designing hong kong
Sir David and the city he cares about

David Akers-Jones (鍾逸傑爵士), KBE, CMG, GBM, JP, born April 14, 1927, was the Chief Secretary of Hong Kong from 1985 to 1987. In the following article on the plans for Central he wonders how we can call this a world city when we deliberately destroy our waterfront.

The Government published Urban Design Study for the
Central Harbourfront in April.  It said “the public has expressed a clear aspiration for a vibrant waterfront, and … a lot of green and quality open space.”  The document and the accompanying plans do not measure up to this clear aspiration.  There is plenty of green but where is the vibrancy?  Vibrant means lively, quivering with excitement, thrilling.

For those who want a quiet stroll among the trees it may suit but is this only what people want?

No!  They have said No!  What the people clearly hope for is more than that.  They wish to enjoy oases of green interspersed with havens of light and life – cafes, a few shops, dai pai dong, somewhere to meet their friends and enjoy a meal together while looking at the harbour and watching the ships go by.

While the controversy goes on about re-siting the Queen’s Pier and the Star Ferry Clock tower vital decisions are being taken about the rest of the waterfront hoping perhaps that no-one would notice.

For example how many people realize that on that patch of green open space between
IFC II and the harbour our planners have placed thirty storey building and next to the Star Ferry a fifteen storey office block or hotel.

Is this open space too valuable to give to the people, the ordinary people of
Hong Kong for their enjoyment?  Does it have to be a thirty storey office block, a workplace like the other workplaces in Central?

Why go to the trouble to begin the long delayed improvement to the waterfront and to give encouragement to the construction of the striking IFC building and then set about destroying this icon of its lonely grandeur by crowding it in behind a thirty storey building like all the other buildings in Central.

Can’t we do something different this time?  How can we call this a world city when we go out deliberately to destroy our waterfront?

Office buildings are now spreading to the East into Wanchai and Causeway Bay and West to Sheung Wan and beyond.  Don’t slow down this welcome development by building more at the waterfront in Central, taking away pleasure from the people.

I have lived through the building and then the demolition of hotels and restaurants which brought life and light to the center of the city -- the Hilton, the Furama, the Ritz Carlton to be replaced by office blocks.  The city center has already lost much of its vibrancy.  At night the central core is quiet and dark like so many other business districts.

Let us look rather at what other cities have done with their waterfronts Sydney, Singapore, Melbourne’s Port Philip, Brisbane.

I would rather re-distribute the floor area it is proposed for office use of these two waterfront buildings and increase the height of the other buildings rather than cover more ground with more offices.

We strive to attain world city status do we want our visitors to be shocked by an unimaginative and unnecessary surrender to lifeless office blocks of our last bits of land along the harbour?  Will our visitors and those who come after us say here is “a city they cared about too late?”

Sir David Akers-Jones
President, The Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong

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