Doubts over promises of transparency justifiable

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2008, 12:00am

Your readers who have reservations regarding the proposed glass tower at the Central Police Station compound should take a hard look at any clear glass-walled MTR exits in their area.

When renovating some exits the MTR was allowed to build rectangular exits instead of the traditional stepped model that was designed to minimise the impact at street level. The larger rectangular exits were approved as they are transparent and so, in theory, should not block the view of surrounding buildings, nor light to the adjacent pavement, and would provide natural light to the exit itself.

However I note that the entire street-side section of the glass-walled exit at Humphreys Avenue in Tsim Sha Tsui, and no doubt others elsewhere, is now covered in advertisements. This means that the promised transparency has been lost and natural light to the pavement and exit blocked as the roof is not transparent.

If the glass sides were covered, then the smaller and lower stepped exits would certainly be a better choice for crowded pavements.

As is the case with the open public space promised in Urban Renewal Authority projects, the public is constantly advised the developments will lead to better urban planning and improve conditions at street level. However, the reality is that once the plans are approved ways are soon found to maximise commercial gains at the expense of the public space.

Regarding the 160-metre-tall glass tower at Central Police Station, are Hong Kong people really so naive as to fall for the statement by Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor that the building will not create a wall effect, as it's penetrable. It may well be when it is empty but once partitions, equipment, fixtures and fittings are added it will be anything but. Blinds to reduce glare, air conditioning equipment and pipes are hardly transparent.

Within months the level of transparency will be greatly diminished, particularly in Hong Kong where the concept of minimalism is anathema to local culture.

Mary Melville, Tsim Sha Tsui