Piqued by a peek at new Peak Tower

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 September, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 September, 1993, 12:00am

DESCRIBED as a ''public toilet'', a ''monstrosity'', a ''space rocket'' and generally ''God awful'', this is the landmark which will grace The Peak come 1995.

The design has been a closely-guarded secret for years but the Sunday Morning Post has obtained a copy of the artist's impression of the controversial Peak Tower development.

Yesterday angry architects, academics and Peak residents urged the Government to push for tighter planning regulations, adding the project should represent ''the people'' instead of the developers behind the scheme, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels.

Elizabeth Sinn, an historian at the University of Hong Kong, admitted: ''I am glad they are demolishing the existing building, but why are they replacing it with this monstrosity.

''It looks like a public toilet. This building detracts from the beauty of The Peak.'' Martin Allies, general manager of the Peak Cafe which is behind the Peak Tower, said: ''We have been kept in the dark throughout, nobody has known what is going on.

''I do not know who the architect is or why it has been approved but it looks like a space rocket. The Peak is graceful - this building is not.'' George Johnson, who lives on Plantation Road on The Peak, said: ''I think it's absolutely disgusting.

''It looks like the bottom of a flying saucer on top of a mosque.'' David Lung, a member of the Town Planning Board and an architect, said of the design: ''Personally I do not like it and would prefer what we had 30 years ago, a small humble building which allowed The Peak to stand out for itself.

''This design represents the architect, Terry Farrell, and Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels instead of the people of Hong Kong.'' Although the complex scheme is outlined for one of the territory's prime locations and does not need planning permission, the developers have always kept details of the proposals under lock and key.

Riddled with controversy, the project to revamp the 1972 building has led to new doubts over Government planning policies.

Despite the site attracting up to seven million tourists every year and being an important part of the territory's heritage, the Hong Kong Tourist Association was not consulted - nor was the public.

Under Government policy, planning permission is not required because the land has already been zoned for commercial use. Therefore, the developers can build what they like.

''There have been no complaints or inquiries about these proposals - nobody seems to know much about it,'' said a spokesman for the Planning Department.

''Even if there was large public opposition to this development it would have no effect. At the end of the day this is a private agreement made between the Government and the developers.'' But Mr Lung, who is also chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, said the contract should have been put out for open competition to enable Hong Kong citizens to choose the most appropriate design.

Long-time owners Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels closed the shabby Peak Tower building in June and the company had said it intended to build a seven-storey retail, restaurant and entertainment complex by 1995.

Penny Byrne, assistant manager for the Hong Kong Tourist Association (HKTA), said it would be inappropriate to comment on the design.

President of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects Dennis Lau said: ''The architect has put a great deal of effort into making this outstanding. He has tried to blend the design in with the character of The Peak, you can tell this by looking at the upperstructure.'' Another in favour of the plan was John Swaine, who lives in Old Peak Road. ''Personally, I quite like it because it is different, but I am probably in the minority,'' he said.

Lynn Grebstad, public communications manager for Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, said: ''One of the finest architects in the world was appointed to come up with a design. We are still making amendments to that design but in principal it will be pretty much the same.''