Walkways to new Tamar offices not so convenient
It may have been designed to represent a welcoming entrance but the public walkways between the new government headquarters at Tamar and Central and Admiralty differ sharply from those in the original plan.
The design by Hong Kong architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee - which he dubbed 'The Door' to symbolise government openness - included four footbridges across the busy roads that block pedestrians from the towering arch-shaped building.
But the bridges have been reduced to two and the access is less direct.
Under Yim's contest-winning design, three pedestrian connections would have stretched across the six-lane Harcourt Road linked to the Far East Finance Centre, Admiralty Centre and Harcourt Garden.
Another would have crossed Tim Mei Avenue to Citic Tower.
All were to have connected directly to the buildings at each end to provide all-weather access and convenience for the disabled.
The two to Harcourt Garden and the Far East Finance Centre have since been discarded.
While the bridge to Citic Tower is still a direct link, the one to Admiralty Centre has been split in two and ends in Harcourt Road, instead of entering the shop and office building that is linked by a pedestrian network to other offices and shopping malls along Queensway.
'We are concerned about the impact of a sudden increase in pedestrian flow in the areas,' Central and Western District Council vice-chairman Chan Chit-kwai said.
'We did hope the linkage would be direct and barrier-free.' The HK$5.5 billion project was awarded to a joint venture of Gammon and Hip Hing.
A government spokeswoman said the missing connections were not included in the tender as they involved technical problems and their marginal benefits did not justify the cost incurred.
For example, a direct link to the Admiralty Centre, managed by the MTR Corporation, would involve substantial cost and time as the centre had more than 500 individual owners.
It would also cause disturbance to the centre's users and worsen congestion at peak hours, she said, adding that the present arrangement was better as it provided easy access to the MTR station and nearby transport interchange.
Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design president Bernard Lim Wan-fung asked why the government, as the major shareholder in the MTRC, could not negotiate a better link with the Admiralty Centre.
'The developer does not want to sacrifice shop areas for the bridge of course but the current design is unsatisfactory,' he said.
Lim partly blamed the 'design-and-build' model adopted for the project for the reduced accessibility. He said the model, led by the contractor instead of the architect, was budget-oriented and unsuitable for large projects requiring flexible arrangements and updated technology.
'The contractor will only comply with the tender specifications. It has no incentive to think about planning in a holistic way,' he said, adding the model allowed little monitoring by lawmakers as they were required to approve the budget in one go.
Pedestrian access is important for the site, cut off to the south by Harcourt Road and to the north by a bypass, another six-lane road, limiting access to cars and taxis.
While an MTR station will be built to the north of the site as part of the North Island Line, this will not happen until 2016 at the earliest.
Town Planning Board members expressed concern over the heavy reliance on one crossing over Harcourt Road when they approved a design four years ago. They said pedestrian flow for the walkway across the road would be substantial, urging the government to consider spreading the flow at the detailed design stage to avoid overloading the walkway.
But the Planning Department said building a subway connection would require partial closure of Harcourt Road and would delay the headquarters project.