Public Space Trends in Hong Kong. A view from the New Territories
Hong Kong’s vertical urban landscape, bustling street markets, and multi-layered urban spaces have attracted a range of scholars (Cuthbert and McKinnell, 1997; Smith, 2005; Frampton [et al.], 2010; Shelton [et al.], 2011). Therefore, this paper focuses on aspects of Hong Kong’s public spaces, which so far have caught less attention, but affect the majority of its residents today. The paper starts with the following observations: (1) More than half of Hong Kong’s population (52,2%) lives today in the New Territories, an area usually outside of international attention (Census 2011); (2) Here, most people live in public and private housing estates, constructed over the last 40 years; (3) Individual estates can reach a population size of entire European towns and their “public spaces” – if one can name them as such – follow strict rules and have their own spatial conditions; (4) The street patterns, which connect these estates with their surrounding are fundamentally different from those of the older urban areas on Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula. Basically, in these new developments we don’t find the bustling street markets or the complex multi-layered spatial conditions anymore, which have caught most international attention (e.g. Frampton [et al.], 2010); and, (5) through urban renewal and redevelopment these new spatial conditions are introduced also to the older urban areas. As a response, there have been a growing number of initiatives by civil society groups to recapture the original role of streets as public spaces to offer more opportunities for economic and social activities, and re-enable expressions different cultural identities, life styles, and political views.
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