Hong Kong air pollution

Biggest eyesore in Hong Kong is pollution, poll finds as planners urged to consider environment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 8:33am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 April, 2015, 3:29pm

Hong Kong’s urban planners and politicians have been urged to sit up and take notice following spirited debate on the eyesores that blight areas of Hong Kong.

Last week scmp.com invited readers to comment and vote on the biggest blots on the city’s landscape – and hundreds of you didn’t need asking twice.

Almost 1,000 readers voted in our poll to choose the biggest eyesore – with pollution deemed to be a bigger blight than any concrete monstrosity.

The city’s architectural gems, however, did not escape the wrath of many who posted their thoughts on Facebook – nor did the Brits, deemed by one reader to be the ugliest part of Hong Kong life.

After pollution, the curved, windowless facade of the Cultural Centre which overlooks Victoria Harbour came in for the harshest criticism.

INFOGRAPHIC: On the blight side

“The problem with it is that it has probably the best city view anywhere in the world, and yet there’s hardly a window on it,” Michael Tomkins wrote on Facebook.

“The view is essentially squandered—that building could have been placed anywhere with good access to transportation, and the people using it would hardly have noticed a difference. That location should have featured a building that took advantage of its surroundings, not one that ignored them completely.”

An angry Steve Goldsworthy agreed: “Demolished beautiful old railway station and blocked the views from 1881 and peninsula with this piece of…”

An even angrier Kelvin Ng railed against not only the buildings, but the money behind them.

“The biggest and ugliest eyesores are IFC 1 & 2, ICC, KS Li’s building in Hunghom, the two joss sticks on Stubbs Road… epitomise the cronyism that is so rampant and prevalent in HK.”

Even structures that don’t yet exist came under fire. One commenter, using the name oxymoron23, blasted the ferris wheel currently under development behind Hong Kong’s Central ferry piers.

“Nothing looks worse than something out of a carnival being placed in the city centre. What a joke.”

Are you for wheel? An artist's rendering of the Hong Kong observation wheel, which was criticised by some readers. Photo: SCMP Pictures

According to our poll, which asked readers to choose the worst of 10 perceived eyesores, pollution was far and away the winner – or loser. Of 965 people who voted, 55 per cent picked poor air quality, while the cultural centre was in second place with 11 per cent of the vote, and central library bagging seven per cent.

Tony Smyth, design publisher and editor, said the bad pollution in Hong Kong was actually a product of the city’s architecture and planning.

“The city’s design and overall planning has exacerbated the pollution, the way particulates are trapped. It’s the canyon effect,” he said.

"The view is essentially squandered," one critic says of the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui, which has no windows and plastered with pink tiles.

“[The government] should take notice of the built environment and the way things are designed. They just don’t listen. We have all these public consultations but nothing ever comes from dissent. They just do what they want.”

Arts and culture critic John Batten said: “I would challenge, for example, the Architectural Services Department. When they design a park they could keep it simple, not use features like fake concrete logs.”

A spokesman for the government’s Architectural Services Department said: “Through time, we have been enhancing our internal mechanism of vetting project design, taking into account the public’s views collected from time to time.

“We will strive to further improve our work to better serve and care for our community. With continuous effort, we are glad that a number of our projects completed in recent years had received recognition in good design quality through design awards, from both the public and professional institutions.”

At third place for Hong Kong's biggest eyesore is the Central Public Library, whose pastiche design has been dubbed "hopeless".