Save Queen's Pier, says architect of City Hall complex

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 May, 2007, 12:00am

The architect of Queen's Pier has thrown his weight behind the campaign for its survival.

Ron Phillips, who came to Hong Kong in 1956 to design the City Hall development, said the pier and the public open space around it were sacrosanct and their loss would be 'a disaster'.

The pier and the adjoining waterfront promenade will be replaced by a four-lane highway under the Central reclamation project. The pier is set to be rebuilt in one of four locations after it was listed as a Grade I historic building, for which preservation is not obligatory.

Speaking from his home in Britain, Mr Phillips, 80, said the whole development had one unified design that aimed to provide an appropriate setting for the arrival of visiting dignitaries as well as open space and public access to City Hall for pedestrians.

'With my good friend and partner Alan Fitch, I was charged with designing the City Hall, the City Hall car park and Star Ferry concourse as a total development primarily related to pedestrians,' he said.

'As an integral part of this, the City Hall entrance was sited to be on the centre line of Queen's Pier which would, together with the waterfront piazza, provide the necessary background and sense of occasion for visiting dignitaries.

'I would have thought that the many historical events which originated at Queen's Pier and its Grade 1 listing is more than good enough reason to fight for its survival. The outside public areas: the Memorial Garden and the piazza in the front of City Hall, were to be a natural extension at ground level to promote freedom of movement and a sense of unlimited space; a public facility which was in very short supply in the city centre, even in the 1950s.

'At the same time it was essential to keep the hustle and bustle of the city at bay whilst maximising the amount of public access. This building and the surrounding areas were to be for everyone. Any loss of such an amenity will be a disaster. It is, in my opinion, sacrosanct.'

However, Mr Phillips said he had mixed feelings about saving the old Star Ferry pier, which was demolished in December. 'Whilst it has seen the comings and goings of many millions of ordinary people of Hong Kong, and socially has made a great contribution, I personally did not rate it very high architecturally.

'As an architect I am fully in favour of progress and continual development responding to social and other needs, but at the same time I am aware of the need to preserve buildings and structures which have meaningful historical relevance.

'The massive development of Hong Kong, in which I played a small part in the 1950s and 1960s, has swept away a good deal of its history and heritage, which I believe future generations will come to regret.'