Implementing a Public Architecture with Extra Space into Compact Urban Context


The Handicraft Technique Is Lost in Hong Kong

Hong Kong population lives in the environment, which is labelled as a “cultural desert”. Although, this setting has a rich sub-cultural background, which includes the flourishing handicraft industry of the 60s and 70s, today, the industry has been neglected by the majority of Hong Kong’s citizens who have placed pragmatic benefits in a higher importance. Looking on the streets in Hong Kong, it is possible to see the similar buildings without any other architecture idea but space conservation. Therefore, the value of art and creative industry has always been underestimated in the region. The buildings in Hong Kong are similar, without any creativity and art signs.  

Failing Attempts of the Government to Renovated Old Industrial Building and Promote the Art

Back in 2009, the government proposed to promote the following strategies for increasing the cultural appearance of buildings and the city in general, namely, “six industries’ development”, cultural and creative industries, “release factory building development”, etc. However, since the government does not understand the difficulties of the creative industry and ecological characteristics they face, under extensive detailed consideration, the government meets a number of problems. Having a desire to use industrial buildings to facilitate creative industry, the government failed to provide anything at all.

The problem is complicated by the absence of information spread. If people do not live in the area and do not notice the current changes, they probably will not know about this kind of arts event in those renovated industrial buildings. Also, they will remain ignorant about independent artists, who use the industrial buildings as studios. The rent for such buildings is going to increase, which will not attract local population. For example, it is possible to discuss existing Shek Kip Mei Park as Art. A group of artists formed as an independent group have created an interesting interpretation of community culture. Unfortunately, this park in North Point operated for a short period of time only, it was about eight or nine years ago, and everything ended unknown and the place remains vacant until now.

The Reason

Although the rent of the old industry building is very cheap, there is separation between public and the actual artist location, without proper related promotion and infrastructure to support. The artists cannot be engaged with a large amount of public to introduce their work to them, also it will affect their income for living and paying rent. The problem remains as follows, public interaction cannot take place in the renovated old industry buildings. Also, absence of any promotion of the situation prevents even local people from noticing the place and it surely cannot attract tourist to the area.

The Main Concern

The main concern, raised from the issue, is that the need to create a place and to attract tourists deliberately is an outdated concept. A new approach should be created where tourists are naturally attracted. Personally I have been advocating the concept of shared space. However, Hong Kong is very strange in this respect having all people isolated despite the fact that they have to live on a small amount of space in large groups. What I mean is that when planning the public places, a park for people and a part for dogs will be created separately. The modern problem is that such situation should be changed. There should be jogging trails, tracks for bicycles, and similar facilities. If everything is united in one space, how wide place would there be enough for the promenade. When I look at a waterfront in foreign countries, I see an open place for all, people, dogs and cycling. Moreover, such places usually have outdoor restaurants abroad. People in other countries have another mentality, their cultural and traditional preferences differ greatly from those of Chinese one, even in the contemporary Hong Kong. It exists because of mutual tolerance for each other, which coexists in harmony.

Designer and Project Background

The project, which is going to be discussed in this article, was created by Alan Tan. He is a new architect, resided in Hong Kong. He has graduated from Australia University this year. He is has created a joint venture of Busking Architect with his university colleague. The company is founded in 2018. Alan Tan has been living in Australia for more than ten years. This experience has is very valuable since Australia is a very developed country with a particular living style and urban planning in terms of architecture. Having brought a foreign experience into Hong Kong, Alan Tan expects to bring something new into the Chinese architecture style, having invented a building, which will set a new direction of construction in the area, helpful in changing human attitude to architecture in general. Alan Tan is interested in public and small community architecture, having an intention to design architecture, which could give back to the city and provide sustainable development for specific group of people. The aim of the new construction scheme is an attempt to seize the chance of To Kwa Wan redevelopments project, which could establish a revival of unique handicraft technique in Hong Kong. A new construction will help local population to experience culture through different senses, i.e. visual, sound, touch and smell having raised identity reflection among the population. Furthermore, this notion could arouse the curiosity of people who want to practice the handicraft art but do not know where to start.

Design Critique of My Building

Chinese architectural culture is too programmatic and functional. Alan Tan has decided to challenge this vision having explored new ways by means of integrating an organizing idea into the essence of building in general. Having an intention to bring something new in the architectural style of Hong Kong, the new architect has decided to refuse from imposing a style upon different sites and climates. The main idea of a project is to create a unique character of a building, having made it a starting point for an architectural idea. The main idea of the project is to change the vision of Chinese population on city architecture and to help them understand time, space, light and materials in a new perspective. Having united these four aspects (time, space, light and materials) under one concept, Busking Architects plan to obtain a deeper beginning in the experience of these notions. The uniqueness of the idea is based on the desire to construct a space, where sunlight enters the room in a maximum way and fills it out with the day light. The material used is going to reflect the light and the room will create an impression that a wall and floor all have integral relationships.

Urban Chinese environment has specific characteristics. The distinctive urban context of Hong Kong city is reflected in a grid system. The buildings stand as close to each other as possible with some separation by a net of roads. Looking at the map on the city, one may see the blocks of buildings and some lines between them. This is a specific characteristic feature of Chinese city. The street view of the surrounding does not impress with its specifications. The main idea of a Chinese city is to create as much space for limit with limited conditions as possible. Chinese people have got used to be pleased with some constraints and these constraints are expressed in small living conditions they have. Therefore, the impression is created that urban people simply ride and come home without any possibility for shared space and spending some time outside their homes. The idea of a new project should fit the height concept of the city. Creating something new, it still should fit the urban context and be adjusted to the surrounding environment to create an impression of unity and blend.

To understand how to interfere with a new environment, a detailed analysis of the city infrastructure should be provided. One block of the Thirteen Streets can be used for consideration. The Thirteen Streets is located between Tau Kok Road and Mok Cheong Street. It is an eight-storied high residential building without an elevator, since its age dates back for about fifty years. The construction is a typical Tong Lau, which is easy to find in Hong Kong. Being located in the middle of the Thirteen Streets, the building is surrounded by the industrial area. The ground floor of most buildings is occupied with the motor mechanic and metal workshops. The problem of pollution is significant in the area. Having such compressed space in the living area, the city lacks some public space. The newly architecture concept should focus on this point, with the reference to designing more public space and more public friendly buildings.

The project under consideration will be a multi-storied building with an open ground plan for public created at the ground and first floors. The fist level platform is lifted under the surface, having created an impression of freedom and a lot of free public space, which is an illusion in a Chinese city. Having checked the project in detail, an impression can be created that the place lacks natural light entry and the difficulties for traffic. However, what I see is a unique space, which is lighted with sun and the way it is lifted above the surface assists in traffic promotion. The particular way how the building is divided into three parts adds to the building organization making it naturally fitting the environment. As for me, the space should not be left without any purpose and the Chinese community should think about creating some library or gallery to create a complete loop for visitor. Having involved the artists into the project, who can add colour and some specific tone, the project will receive some individuality. As it has already been said, the light will naturally flow into the space. The use of atrium will help to separate the building and to create some sort of separation and isolation. The symmetrical proportion and the disconnection to the above building add some new stream into Chinese city. The elevator should be the only possible way of getting upstairs. The use of glass is façade is another novelty, which will create an impression of more space and light. Speaking about the transparent material, it will be a light weight in the concrete forest of the surrounding. The installation of LED screens is one more novelty, which will help interact with the city in general. Despite the advantages of the transparent material, the problem of privacy will raise. However, being created for public, the purpose of the building may help create new cultural peculiarity.


In conclusion, the Chinese community has already stepped on the path of the unity of ecosystem and a free space, which is aimed at promoting healthy development. The new building is an organic representation of the foreign vision and technique of the architecture. However, will this concept work for specific Chinese culture? Having a desire to promote free space on the compressed area, the project will help to reconsider the issue of space and human behaviour. Having attracted the local and foreign tourists, the place will help to stop wasting the land and implement justice for the art world. Alan Tan’s building can be a perfect starting point for Hong Kong government to reconsider their attitude in relation architecture and urban space. This project is a perfect example of how public architecture can be implemented into compact urban context.

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