Wei Shi
Beisi Jia
H. Koon Wee


The narrow concept of open space (OS) present in land-use statutes cannot cover all new kinds of open urban space (OUS), however they must take responsibility for various open spaces in real-life cities, especially in contemporary high-density built environments. Open urban spaces are inserted into buildings or their accessibility is controlled by gated systems. A systematic and comprehensive approach to studying and evaluating the way in which OUS is changing is still lacking — especially from an architectural perspective. We put forward the Level-Type (L-T) framework to analyse the OUS system in central area of the Wan Chai and Yau Tsim Mong Districts, according to an expanded concept of OUS. In this paper, we illustrate the empirical studies from the first level of our research, to demonstrate how to use the new approach to evaluate the impacts of increasing density in the pattern of OUS. This study is fundamentally a qualitative study, however some data analyses act as auxiliary references to interpret changes observed in spatial planes and models. Following a three-step comparison of the changes in spatial forms and relevant data available since 1975, we found that all types of OUS are influenced — to different extents — by increasing trends and the speed at which they occur. Four kinds of relationships between increasing density and the transformation observed in the pattern of OUS are revealed. Moreover, with exception to the fourth kind of relationship — in which the changes observed in OUS are hardly a result of increasing density or the rate at which it occurred — we extract three main characteristics of OUS transformation from the remaining three kinds of relationships, which increase in density respectively. Furthermore, these characteristics of transformation can also explain the current recognition conflicts surrounding OUS from different perspectives and scales. This study method and resultant findings could prove very useful for managing and analysing the OUS system in high-density cities.


How to Cite
Shi, W., Jia, B. and Wee, H. K. (2019) “The Transformation of Open Urban Space and Increasing Building Density in Hong Kong since the 1970s”, The Journal of Public Space, 4(2), pp. 9–28. doi: 10.32891/jps.v4i2.1202.
Author Biographies

Wei Shi, University of Hong Kong

Wei Shi is an architectural Ph.D. candidate at the University of Hong Kong. In the past decade, she developed research about urban spaces in the process of urbanization, in Osaka, Tokyo, Motreal, and Hong Kong. Over the past six years, her work explored the relations between the pattern of open urban space and increasing density, investigating the socio-cultural relationships. She developed a new framework of analysis, role and possible patterns of urban spaces, accurately calculated and mapped also in a GIS environment, applying a framework inspired by the concept of levels from Open Building. She is teaching assistant of M.Arch’s design studio and B.Arch’s core course about urban design at the University of Hong Kong.

Beisi Jia, University of Hong Kong

Since January 1996, Beisi has been a tutor, lecturer and coordinator of programmes of Bachelor of Art in Architectural Study of the school. Besides design studio, he is teaching in courses History of Chinese Architecture and Housing in Urban development in his school. He is supervisor of MPhil and Ph.D students. His students have won more than 30 national and international student design competition, including 1998/99 Dupont Benedictus Awards, and in exhibitions, such as UIA XXII World Congress of Architecture 2005. He was invited as guest and visiting professor in Ball State University in US, University of Montreal in Canada, Southeast University in China, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, and etc.
He is the joint coordinator of W104-Open Building Implementation in International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB). He participated in organization an international conference on Open Building and student competition almost annualy since 2003, in Zurich, Beijing, Derban , Boston, Paris, Bilbao – named a few in last few years. Since 2008 an international student competition has been held along with the conference. Since 1996 he completed several research projects in housing adaptability and housing sustainable development based in China and Hong Kong. Jia Beisi has published 4 books and about 53 papers in international and/or national journals including Open House International, Landscape Research, Habitat International. He has been guest editor for issues of journal Open House International, reviewer and organizer of journals and conferences.

H. Koon Wee, University of Hong Kong

H. Koon Wee is Assistant Professor at the HKU Department of Architecture, and founding director of the Cities in Asia Summer Program. He served as the Academic Director of the HKU Shanghai Study Center between 2008-2011. He teaches core classes in urban history, globalization, politics of memory and identity, and architectural design. His research work focuses on the sociopolitical and urban effects of industrialization and modernization in Asian cities in the 20th century, and the transnational formation of Asian modernism in architecture and urbanism. His research will be published in a forthcoming monograph entitled “The Other Factory: Architecture of the Urban-Industrial Complex” to be published in 2019 by Actar and Tongji University Press. This research was supported by the competitive C-Foundation grant. Other authored and edited books include “Singapore Dreaming: Managing Utopia,” and “The Social Imperative in China: Architecture & the City.” Recently completed journal papers and book chapters include “The Emergence of the global and social city: Golden Mile and the politics of urban renewal” by Planning Perspectives, “Bigness and the Search for Identity” by A+U, and “An Emergent Asian Modernism: Think Tanks and the Design of the Environment” by World Scientific Press. He is involved in a number of editorial boards, and was most recently invited to work on the reinvigorated Ekistics and the New Habitat journal.
Koon’s research connects with his experimental architectural practice SKEW Collaborative. He received a number of international accolades for the design of industrial buildings and campuses, such as Blueprint, Green Dot, LEAF, and the Chicago Athenaeum Awards. SKEW was once recognized as an emerging architectural practice by Architectural Record and Architectural Review (Australia), and was included in a recent publication entitled “Fifty Under Fifty: Innovators of the 21st Century.” In support of design excellence and education, Koon was selected to be the co-director for the 2017 Architecture Festival “Archifest” by the Singapore Institute of Architects. The festival theme “Building Agency” was further developed into a series of professional and educational workshops in Manila, Tokyo and Shanghai. Koon is a registered architect with the Singapore Board of Architects and the Dutch Architects Register. He is a founding member of the Docomomo Hong Kong Chapter, and advisory board member of Asian Urban Lab. He supports governments and NGOs in a number of advisory roles, including the Singapore Center for Liveable Cities’ Leaders in Urban Governance Program, Design Singapore Council, Hong Kong Buildings Department, Haiti International University Center, Orphans International, AA Asia, and Modern Asian Architecture Network.


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