Hong Kong must preserve its natural beauty and return open spaces to the people, says a former government architect who built many public spaces in the city. “The city is already overbuilt. I want the city to have more space. Nature is most important and it gives people more enjoyment of the city,” said Raymond Fung. “The beauty of our countryside is spectacular, but development destroys its original beauty.” Fung, who is also an acclaimed ink painter, wanted to get the message across through the new work in his first solo exhibition in five years, Between Heaven and Earth, on show at Rong Bao Zhai in Central. “They are my impression of Hong Kong,” said the 63-year-old. “My message is that Hong Kong doesn’t need so many buildings.” Fung painted various views of the city’s natural beauty, from the outlying islands and Jardine’s Lookout, to Tolo Channel, Sheung Sze Wan and countryside scenes. He said he wanted to show its beauty through large brush strokes and colours that are both solemn and elegant. Fung said he was pleased that the public’s awareness of the countryside had improved dramatically over the past decade. He said good management of the countryside, such as keeping it clean, was important, but the key was to preserve it as it is. “There’s no need to create anything unnecessary,” he said. That was his philosophy when he was involved in building public spaces along the waterfront, such as those in Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui. “For example, the idea of Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront is to keep it open, so that the public can have the greatest enjoyment,” Fung said. But the 440-metre stretch of the prime harbourfront opened in 2004 is due for a revamp. Last year the Town Planning Board gave the green light to an application jointly submitted by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and Sustainable Foundation Company – a non-profit outfit under New World Development – to redevelop the area and expand the Avenue of Stars, a popular tourist attraction. The plan, which includes a food hub, a film gallery and a performance venue to be built on the extended section, caused a great deal of controversy as no bidding was involved. Fung said Hong Kong had a lot of cultural treasures to offer and purpose-built tourist attractions were not necessary. “There aren’t theme parks or particular tourist attractions in New York, but the cultural diversities offered in Soho, Chelsea and Central Park are valuable,” he said. “Even six months in New York isn’t enough to experience it all. That’s the same for Hong Kong.” Hong Kong has mainly been targeting mainland tourists who stay for three days, but Fung said the city needed a greater variety of tourists. “The quality of a city’s brand is not derived from shopping. The countryside might generate less economic benefits but we need to showcase the quality of our city – and that’s our countryside and our culture.” Earlier this month Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying called for the tourism industry to move up the value chain. And commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung said Hong Kong needed a “diversified portfolio” to attract tourists from different destinations.