City, Barcelona hope to help each other develop
They may be worlds apart, but Hong Kong and Barcelona are learning from each other to boost sustainable urban development in the two cities and other urban areas.
Officials from Barcelona and the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design yesterday signed an agreement to launch the Think Tank on Sustainable Urbanism, which will research and promote best practices in urban planning.
The Hong Kong government faces the challenge of transforming its harbourfront into vibrant community spaces - something Barcelona undertook more than 20 years ago when it won the bid to host the 1992 Olympics.
'Where we used to have factories and cranes, now we have museums and places where people can stroll, where people have their leisure. And it's generating a new economy,' the deputy mayor of Barcelona, Antoni Vives, said.
Vives is one of the council members heading the think tank, which comprises professional institutes from Barcelona and experts from Hong Kong groups such as the Institute of Planning and the Green Building Council.
Barcelona is looking to expand its role as an international port by learning from Hong Kong, the world's third-largest container port.
Property tycoon Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa alone has invested Euro500 million (HK$477 million) in a project to expand the cargo port in Barcelona.
The Spanish consulate's senior trade commissioner, Javier Sanz Munoz, said Barcelona, which is now the largest port of call for cruises outside the Caribbean, could learn valuable lessons from Hong Kong's Kai Tak cruise terminal and the West Kowloon Cultural District.
'That's not to say that Hong Kong needs to copy Barcelona, but it can be an inspiration,' he said.
Institute of Planners president Peter Cookson-Smith said much of the Hong Kong harbourfront was inaccessible to pedestrians.
'Barcelona has over the past 20 years reconstructed and enervated its waterfront as a series of places for people and recreation,' he said, adding that Hong Kong needed as much time for its own transformation.
The Spanish city, which covers about 100 square kilometres, is smaller than Hong Kong in terms of size and population.
Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias and his delegation also met Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the former development chief who wants to create more green spaces and community centres in the city.