Hong Kong's Challenges

Dwell talks with a prolific Hong Kong architect about his city and its development.

"Overwhelming? Absolutely. But the public-works projects that pepper the city's history have delivered a surprisingly manageable metropolis. Whether you're ascending to Victoria Peak, the island's high point, on a 19th-century trolley line or riding the comprehensive MTR subway to sightsee in Sheung Wan or attend the Sha Tin racecourse, Hong Kong's pleasures are easily grasped."

"To put things in perspective, we spoke with Hong Kong native Rocco Yim, whose Rocco Design Architects Ltd. is one of the city's most prolific architecture firms, responsible for the graceful Citibank Plaza, Number One Peking Road skyscrapers, and dozens of other local and international projects. We talked about Hong Kong's development, urban terrors and pleasures, and future challenges."

Dwell: "Where haven't public and private interests merged well?"

Rocco Yim: "On large residential projects. The efficiency the developer is trying to achieve is so great that the resulting architecture ignores the basic requirements of good living units. Like that they should be facing south, or that there should be adequate cross ventilation, or that they should not be overlooking other units. Usually such environmental considerations are given up in order to have as much usable area as possible squeezed out of limited available land. At the same time, it gives the city a good compactness."

Dwell: "What are the positives and negatives of Hong Kong's density?"

Rocco Yim: "It is a user-friendly, pedestrian-friendly city, something that cities like Beijing or Los Angeles really should learn. This compactness produces a very vibrant mix. You have living zones very close to commercial zones. You have a market, sometimes literally, downstairs. You are within walking distance of shops, bars, and restaurants.

On the other hand, in order to achieve this, some very basic concerns are neglected. You have to be able to stand the noise. Privacy is a problem-–you can't be the sort of person who likes living in Vancouver. And sometimes this density creates a 'wall' effect, blocking the winds from the sea and worsening pollution."

Full Story: Hong Kong, China
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