A bright pink oasis in Hong Kong’s busiest neighbourhood

  • The newly-opened Portland Street Rest Garden in Yau Ma Tei represents the future of micro-parks and the role of play in the community
  • More renovations are planned for parks in Shek Tong Tsui and Yau Tsim Mong
Yanni Chow |

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The bright pink park in Yau Ma Tei is a calming oasis in the middle of Hong Kong’s busiest neighbourhood. Photo: SCMP/ Nora Tam

A bright pink oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Yau Ma Tei has become a magnet for those craving tranquillity on the busy streets of Hong Kong.

It is the newly renovated Portland Street Rest Garden, which opened to the public last month and has since drawn scores of visitors, including Hilary Tsui Ho-ying, wife of well-known singer Eason Chan Yik-shun.

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Before the revamp, the area only had 16 seats. Now, the rest garden is a multifunctional open space. With an innovative movable furniture system and new terrazzo benches, the park can now accommodate up to 81 people, providing more space to rest for the elderly – the micropark’s main visitors.

The mastermind behind the project is Design Trust Futures Studio, which operates under the theme of “Play is for the People.” In 2018, they began studying rest areas in Hong Kong, re-envisioning the future of microparks with a focus on the role of play for the community.

The Portland Street Rest Garden can now hold up to 81 people, far more than before. Photo: SCMP/ Edmond So

Marisa Yiu Kar-san, the co-founder and executive director of Design Trust, as well as the lead curator in the Portland Street project, said pink was chosen for its representation of calm, compassion and happiness. It also contrasts well with the green in plants, instilling more energy in the space. While the team also experimented with blue, yellow and green, pink was ultimately chosen.

In the micropark, there are bright pink recycling bins, a flamingo-pink water fountain, a rosy pergola – used as framework for climbing plants – and even a cerise Chinese chess table, where seniors enjoy spending most of their time in the rest area.

“We also added pink plants, such as fountain grass, to give an organic, swaying feeling,” said Yiu.

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But the bright, modern architecture and focus on minimalist sustainability is only the half of it.

The designers wanted to curate a familiar yet innovative public space for residents, so they incorporated a “half park” concept, in which one half of the area was restored and renewed with benches and facilities that matched the original layout, while the other side was given a playful and contemporary ambience with a vibrant pink tone, creating a positive energy and sharp visual identity.

“It’s extraordinary to see people from all walks of life enjoying the park, from fashionistas to people in the neighbourhood,” said Yiu.

Portland Street Rest Garden, as seen from above. Photo: Design Trust Futures Studio

The Portland Street Rest Garden was designed in partnership with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Architectural Services Department, local non-governmental organisations, District Council members, and residents of the district.

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The new micropark is one of four sites the Design Trust team explored and is the second renovated park unveiled in the city, following the redesign of Yi Pei Square playground, which opened in Tsuen Wan in April. The theme for the Tsuen Wan park is “communal living room”, and it features colourful equipment with a play area for children and an elderly fitness corner.

The next micropark, planned for the sitting-out area under the Hill Road Flyover in Shek Tong Tsui, is expected to open by the end of the year. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department also plans to renovate the Hamilton Street Rest Garden in Yau Tsim Mong.

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