Noise Reduction

Homegrown dragon motif wins global competition to design road noise barriers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 May, 2009, 12:00am

Find the noise barriers facing your home unbearable or bad fung shui? The winners of a recent competition for noise screen designs show they could look quite different.

The winning team in the professional category, four fresh architecture graduates from Hong Kong, put forward a concept for a noise barrier at the Gascoigne Road bridge in Yau Ma Tei that looks like a green dragon twisting its way through the city.

Slovenian architects Bostjan Vuga, Jurij Sadar, Sven Kalim and Jose Ramon Velazquez took the second prize for their noise barrier design in the professional category, while local architects Marisa Yiu and Eric Schuldenfrei won third prize.

The flyover traverses the heart of the bustling old district from west to east, passing popular landmarks such as Temple Street and the Tin Hau Temple. The bridge will be demolished and rebuilt in the same place as part of the Central Kowloon Route, to be completed by 2016.

'Our idea originates from the banyan trees on the walls, and we hope our design can inject life into the community and interact with the environment and the people living in it,' team member Archoi Choi Kit-wang said.

The other team members, all in their early 20s, were Lancelot Ng Sing-lam, Stephen Ip Hay-fung and Li Kwan Ho.

Mr Ip said the team had abandoned commonly used designs that simply imposed an additional box-like cover on roads because of their negative visual impact.

Instead they opted for an innovative scheme, enclosing the flyover in a double-layered shell of glass modules designed to maximise noise reduction. Some of the modules could become planters to support vegetation that could grow and climb along the surface of the barriers. Photovoltaic panels could also be installed to supply electricity for lighting.

Mr Ip said they believed their concept was technically feasible, though it was difficult to estimate its cost. 'This might cost a bit more but we believe it is worth paying,' he said.

The team, which also came up with a design for a noise barrier for Tai Po's Tai Wo Road, beat overseas teams in the competition's professional category.

Other winners of the competition, which also dealt with noise barrier designs for Tuen Mun Road, came from Japan, Slovenia, Italy and the United States. It was co-organised by the Highways Department, the Environmental Protection Department and four professional bodies.

Highways Department chief engineer Chow Chun-wah said it would try, as much as possible, to integrate the concepts of the winning entries into the design of noise barriers.

He said some of the winning ideas were technically feasible, though it might take more time to refine them for actual construction.

But he cautioned that the new concepts would not change the fact that many sections of existing roads would still be unsuitable sites for noise barriers because of weight and structural limitations.

Mr Chow said shifting public expectations of noise barriers, from acceptance of functional but dull designs to a desire to see ones with visual value, had pushed engineers to think outside the box.

'We will try to produce tailor-made designs to suit the community which do not just serve to block noise but are also welcomed by the public and perhaps have the potential to become a landmark in the district,' Mr Chow said.

In 2003, the government decided to remove noise barriers along the Tolo Highway after complaints from drivers and nearby residents who criticised them for blocking views.