Good design means good living

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 5:12am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 8:50am


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Buildings are what make a city. Hong Kong has tens of thousands of them of all shapes and sizes intertwined with snaking flyovers, underpasses, pedestrian walkways and billboard hoardings. The congestion of so much packed so tightly into such a small area has made our city internationally famous. Without careful planning and thoughtful design, though, it can also lead to eyesores and worse.

A South China Morning Post opinion poll of what makes Hong Kong unattractive has come up with a list of the expensive and utilitarian, iconic and mundane. On it are power station smokestacks, highways, government buildings, bridges and artworks. The windowless, pink tiled walls of the Cultural Centre on the Tsim Sha Tsui harbourfront featured, as does the Central Government Complex at Tamar, the circular footbridge in Causeway Bay and the Golden Bauhinia sculpture in Wan Chai. They are subjective choices open to debate; what one person finds appealing, another will just as readily scoff at.

What locals are comfortable with, newcomers and outsiders may not find so attractive. Passing time also redefines opinions. That was so with some of the world's more innovative structures, among them the Eiffel Tower and Pompidou centre in Paris, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore. When they were completed, they were lambasted as ugly, but are now cherished.

Hong Kong has some truly iconic and beloved structures: the HSBC headquarters, the Bank of China Tower, Tsing Ma bridge, the old Legislative Council building, the Lippo Centre and Jardine House are prime examples. But some of our city's urban areas are also not the prettiest places. A lack of open space, insufficient trees and greenery, and rows of tall buildings can lead to stress, blocked air flow and high levels of street-side pollution. Innovative and good design contribute to a city's character. When people are put ahead of utility and cost, it also significantly raises the living and working environment.