Hong Kong needs master plan for urban development, architect says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 3:19pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 1:52am

While the government seeks more land across the city to meet its ultimate target of 470,000 more homes within a decade, architect Bryant Lu says Hong Kong urgently needs an urban master plan.

Lu, vice-chairman of Ronald Lu & Partners, a major local architectural firm, said a large-scale master design should inform the city's development.

"Architects are trained to think about design from a human perspective, not from the view of infrastructure. For example, how to improve the natural ventilation in a high-density area," Lu said.

The Planning Department conducted a study of ventilation in Hong Kong, he said, and the results should have been taken into consideration in town planning.

"The planning of a new railway and highway should [also] involve architects," Lu said. "A new railway or highway may cut human traffic flow. Architects could find ways to avoid such isolation."

The Central and Wan Chai Reclamation area has shown how this can work, he said. Since the reclaimed land in the area is above the underground transport infrastructure, a waterfront promenade could be developed.

"It is a good design. It won't cut human traffic flow, and people can enjoy the waterfront," Lu said. In developing new districts to tackle the housing shortage, he suggested the government adopt an integrated approach.

Residents in new districts have to shoulder high transport costs to work in the urban area. He said it would be better for them if the new districts could offer more job opportunities.

"We shouldn't use all of the land in the district for residential development only. We should be concerned about the future business activities in the area," Lu said. "The government should [set aside land to] try to create local employment in the area. It would be better for the future development of the new living area."

However, overcrowding in old districts is the most difficult problem to solve, he said.

"It takes time to change," Lu said. "For example, it took New York more than 10 years to develop High Line [a 1.5-kilometre linear park built on the elevated former New York Central Railroad] and the Meatpacking district [a newly popular district on the west side of Manhattan]."

In this week's C-Suite interview, Lu talks about the challenges for Hong Kong architects and how to capture the opportunities on the mainland