Let's create a waterfront park in Central

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2003, 12:00am

Unlike many major cities, Hong Kong lacks a memorable focus that defines it and symbolises the spirit of the place. Piazza San Marco in Venice, Central Park in New York and Tiananmen Square in Beijing all have iconic status. Less formal, but no less valuable, spaces are seen in Circular Quay in Sydney, Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and the cafe-flanked harbours and squares in European towns. At all levels they are memorable and they attract tourists with time, cameras and money.

The Sars crisis and the apparent abandonment of the proposal to build new government offices has prompted the call for the Tamar site to become an urban park. There is no question that Hong Kong needs such spaces along the harbour front, but the Tamar site has limitations in access.

Nowhere within the city centre is the pedestrian, and this includes all tourists, aware of the relationship with the harbour - the city's raison d'etre and most valuable asset. There are no glimpses down streets and alleys to the water's edge, no foreshore promenade like the Embankment in London.

Statue Square can provide this and more, creating a major urban space befitting the status that Hong Kong seeks to maintain. At present it is an ill-defined and cluttered area that does not fully exploit its potential.

The car park building to the north provides little benefit and should be removed, and the urban space extended from the HSBC building to the harbour front. Chater Garden, cleared of its walls and barriers, together with the City Hall court can then be incorporated into one great civic space, unified by simple, cohesive and accessible landscaping.

HSBC, the Mandarin Hotel, the Ritz Carlton, Prince's Building and, most importantly, the Legco building, would all be enhanced by their connection to this great space. On the east side of Prince's Building, coffee shops and al-fresco cafes could thrive.

I understand that the Star Ferry terminal is to be rebuilt. If this was shifted a little eastwards, an uninterrupted view of the harbour would be gained from as far back as Queen's Road through HSBC.

With discreet and appropriate landscaping and seating, this park would become a world-class oasis of calm in the city and an icon that complements both the city and its waterfront setting.