SEVERE ACUTE RESPIRATORY CITY Tom Lindsay Robinson College 23rd April 2013 Essay 4, Pilot Essay
An essay submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the MPhil examination in Environmental Design in Architecture (Option B) 2012-2014
SEVERE ACUTE RESPIRATORY CITY Tom Lindsay Robinson College 23rd April 2013 Essay 4, Pilot Essay
An essay submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the MPhil examination in Environmental Design in Architecture (Option B) 2012-2014
A new urban model for Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok; the culmination of new urban planning and policies.
fresh air The study explores the health concerns of pollution and
impure air on the Hong Kong populace, how the spaces they
The revised urban model focuses on those areas most prone to
share are potential health risks and how its urban condition
cause ill health and consternation to a significant population of
promulgates the fear of risk and impurity. The issue of fresh
Hong Kong society and encompasses both urban development
air taps into a more inherent problem about how much Hong
and policies. Through an analysing both policy and design, it
Kong residents trust their city. Communities are segmented
is possible to assess where specifically an intervention will be
and a sense of shared community is diminishing because the
shared space is being rested from their control. RETHINKING POLLUTION The study looks at Hong Kong’s contemporary history and
In the book ‘Imperfect Health: the Medicalization of
unique characteristics that give this city its propensity for ill
Architecture’ the historian and architectural theorist David
health. From identifying urban typologies that are health risks
Gissen (2012) calls for architects to think of pollution in terms
and areas of concern for Hong Kong residents emerges a new
of ‘an aesthetically orientated theory of pollution’. The now
urban design model.
common materialist view, where answers must be scientific, does not address pollution on its historical, cultural or social implications. While I maintain the need for a scientific approach to environmental analysis, there is a need to critically assess air against its broader implications on city life.
Air appears ungovernable. In 2012 it sparked a diplomatic row between the CCP and the Beijing US embassy after the embassy released data publicly from its air pollution monitoring station (Yang 2012). The CCP claimed the air above the embassy was theirs. The embassy claimed it counted as US territory and was theirs to assess. It was never fully settled. 5
contents fresh air
trust your city
adjusting to a micro-environment
pollutants & contaminants 23 Hong Kong under SARS
the miasma theory
real vs. perceived risk the effect of SARS on shared public space
fear of the unknown
familiarity and distance
a split city
unauthorised building works
a personal chaos
from rural to urban
the industrialisation of tradition
Hong Kong redesigned
PHASE 1 : Expansion of Breezeways
the risk of living at high density
PHASE 1.2 : New Breezeway Policy
from public to private
PHASE 1.3 : Pedestrianisation of Breezeways
PHASE 2 : Height Difference
PHASE 3 : Perforation of Urban Form
PHASE 4 : Set-back of Major Roads
urban form Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok
Hong Kong disaggregated Transitional city
a new urban design model
Buildings Department Housing Department
Transport and Housing Bureau
Transport Department Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department SARS Expert Committee
Department of Health
The Government of Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department Environmental Protection Department
Civic Exchange Society for Community Organisation
Public Policy Think Tanks
A brief overview of some of the governmental bodies mentioned in this study.
hong kong; ‘THE FRAGRANT HARBOUR’ 香港 Hēunggóng is the Cantonese name for Hong Kong, literally meaning ‘Fragrant Harbour’. It must come as a bitter irony to continuously call one’s hometown ‘the Fragrant Harbour’ even now.
Living in Hong Kong is about making sacrifices and adapting to a new environment. It is a balance.
trust your city China is a victim of its own industrial success. At the time of
Between November 2002 and July 2003, society itself
writing, Beijing has experienced its worst days of air pollution
retracted to expose rifts within. Traditional daily life, already
in recent history (Wong 2013) and a new outbreak of Bird
infringed upon by the demands of high-density living, was
Flu (H7N9) has killed 11 and closed all poultry markets in
stymied and never fully recovered.
Shanghai (BBC 2013). The implications of these events reverberate all the way South to Hong Kong.
Moreover, the SARS crisis simply underlines a chronic problem in Hong Kong: the pollution, contamination and
Ever since the SARS epidemic in 2003, Hong Kong has
hence distrust of breathable air. What makes the issue so
anticipated another of these ‘rare’ events. Due to its proximity
unmanageable is its near intangibility. The government, used
to a pandemic-prone China and its own urban characteristics,
to complete control of all municipal matters, found it a source
the city knows it is just a matter of time until a new outbreak.
of embarrassment while the people rallied to voice their
Its society is still reeling from the last epidemic’s long-term
frustration at the government’s lack of a solution. Even now
effects. In fact, it was arguably not the disease that made
there is a growing chasm of distrust between society and its
the longest lasting impact but its social consequences (Leung
2004, Person 2004, Tsang 2004).
“We live in a state of pervasive anxiety. Every day, we are confronted with problems stemming from the energy crisis, the use of natural resources, pollution, decreasing bio-diversity, climate change, new epidemics, the harmful effects of industrial production processes and our consumerist lifestyles. We perceive our bodies as constantly at risk (from sources difficult to pinpoint) of contamination and disease.” - Giovanni Borasi & Mirko Zardini (2012) in ‘Imperfect Health’
adjusting to a micro-environment The effect of Hong Kong’s built environment on its populace
of escape, whether it was teenagers who used headphones
is palpable. For the 58,000 new migrants who arrive yearly
to block out their surroundings, the middle-aged who would
from Mainland China, they must adjust their living habits to
use even loud chaotic 24-hour eateries or the example of the
suit Hong Kong’s smaller living spaces and overcrowded
elderly group who used a cargo working area for exercise.
streets (Yip 2011, Taylor 2011). The fact that residents seem to use public space not purely for Hong Kong residents have very little personal and private
public activities but as a refuge from the public may explain
space due to cramped living conditions. Many have adapted
the general perception of Hong Kong residents as aloof. It is,
to their environment to create privacy in public space. ‘Living
however, a change in their social habits that allows them to
at Density: Voices of Hong Kong Residents’ a focus group
survive in Hong Kong. They had to change them further still
discussion by LSE Cities (2011) discovered people found a
to survive SARS.
way to gain privacy in public. All age groups had a means New living habits arose in the space of a few months. Offices encouraged bowing rather than shaking hands. Friends no longer found it safe to meet in restaurants (Tsang 2004) when it became impossible to ignore others i.e. potential health hazards. When SARS struck, it was not simply the public space that was robbed from residents but their private space too.
A Hong Kong local sings ‘Locust World’ to a group of Mainland tourists (Fauna 2012). Tensions have always been taut between the Mainland and Hong Kong since even before the 1997 Handover when Hong Kong feared the new communist rule of the CCP. Nowadays it is a cultural difference that is the result of Hong Kong’s role as a Special Autonomous Region (SAR). In 2012, a group of Hong Kong activists sponsored a full-page advertisement in a local paper decrying the crossing of Mainland mothers into Hong Kong to give birth and telling Mainland tourists ‘to respect local cultures’. Mainland tourists Trust your city. A typical elevator sign.
have been known to litter, spit, urinate and even defecate in the streets.
The fragrant harbour is split into two sections. To the North, on the Mainland, is Kowloon where the majority Hong Kongâ€™s local residents reside.
To the South is Hong Kong Island, the financial and therefore richer centre of Hong Kong with the largest expat community.
There is huge disparity between residentsâ€™ living conditions and quality of life.
Residential areas have an over abundance of barriers, noisy traffic crossings that demand your attention, signs and
Hong Kongâ€™s population is dependent on an excellent public transport system.
In Kowloon is where you will find old Hong Kong and its old population remains there. The
earners and the most likely to suffer from ill health due to their living conditions.
Overcrowded, noisy, congested, hectic, stressful A typical day in Kowloon; home to the majority of Hong Kongâ€™s residents.
200 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 1999
AIR Pollution Indexes exceeding 100 (i.e. ‘very high’ or ‘severe’ pollution warnings) in hong kong
POLLUTANTS & CONTAMINANTS Hong Kong operates a Healthy Air Index (API) to measure and forecast daily levels of pollution. It’s Environmental Protection Department’s (EPD) Air Policy Division set Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) in 2012 that seek to decrease and control the rise of certain pollutants (GovHK 2011). ‘Very High’ to ‘Severe’ daily cases per year have steadily increased in the last decade (see graph), a result that seems unstoppable due to China’s development. The best the Hong Kong government can aim for is to reduce the year on year increase. However, as David Gissen remarks (2012), there will never be a solution that can totally eliminate pollution. Already its’ own API is well below the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) (ACE 2006) guidelines although new AQOs set to start in 2014 will move closer to WHO’s own. There are complaints from the government that WHO’s guidelines are too stringent (Civic Exchange 2010). Cynics may point out that having the EPD set and regulate its own API is suspect.
Pollution; a sign of a society’s progress.
Hong Kong Pollutants GASEOUS POLLUTANTS
The API on the adjacent page gives an indication of how invasive bad air is to daily Hong Kong life. In 2012 for example, it would be advisable for children, the elderly and people with existing heart or respiratory illnesses to not go outside their doors or exercise for 140 days of the year. Air quality improvement measures relevant to city street planning include low emission zones where vehicles are required to park in designated areas, rerouting of existing bus routes and the retirement of heavily polluting vehicles (CUHK 2005).
Pollution monitoring stations in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok.
Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
Carbon Monoxide (CO) SUSPENDED PARTICULATES
Total Suspended Particulates (TSP)
Respirable Suspended Particulates (RSP)
Fine Suspended Particulates (FSP)
TOXIC AIR POLLUTANTS (TAPs)
201 - 500
The public is advised to reduce outdoor activities, physical exertion and prolonged stays near roadsides in dense urban areas. Children and the elderly are especially at risk.
101 - 200
People with existing heart or respiratory illnesses are advised to reduce outdoor activities, physical exertion and prolonged stays near roadsides in dense urban areas. Children and the elderly are especially at risk.
51 - 100
No action should be taken although long term exposure of several months or years is detrimental to health.
26 - 50 0 - 25
hong kongâ€™s air pollution index 25
“the shift from infectious to chronic disease reflects a shift in the notion of health from what it meant to live in a ninteenth-century industrial city to today’s more complicated framing, in which health has to do with one’s own self in relation to things and other people.” - Linda Pollack (2012), architect participating in Fit-City and Active Design.
This viewpoint helps to explain why SARS was such a groundbreaking phenomenon. People suddenly became aware of their relationship to the wider population. In a bizarre way, SARS may be the catalyst for social change from an individual to a shared social view of the modern city.
30-40% potential AFFECTED POPULATION
HONG KONG UNDER SARS It was as a reaction to the SARS epidemic that swept through Hong Kong that health professionals began again to think seriously about the cityâ€™s health implications (S.S.Y. Lau 2006, Xin 2003). Although it was a worldwide outbreak, Hong Kong seemed a particularly perfect staging ground. Ultra dense high-rise and mixed land use means a virus does not have far to go until its next host. Additionally, cities in developed countries are largely focused on mental not physical health (Kolappa 2013). The outbreak of SARS was a shock to this system.
Protests and demonstrations about Hong Kongâ€™s meagre pollution controls have helped raise public awareness of the risk their city poses to their health.
THE MIASMA THEORY The public knowledge of air contaminants has historically
We are most worried about what we can perceive because
been marred by misinformation. Before Dr. John Snow’s work
it is what we can assess ourselves. In terms of CO2 emissions
on cholera that pioneered the advancement of Germ Theory,
for example, cars are seen as a major polluter. However, the
it was a widely held belief that many infectious diseases
building industry is a far worse culprit but it took a lot longer
resulted from breathing poisonous air and gases known as
for the public to angle their anger towards it because the
‘miasma’ (De Paulo 2006). Knowledge was based on what
industry was not as visible to them as the cars that pass by
could be seen and smelt. Germs were not perceptible at that
on their streets.
time. However, a form of miasma-thinking still lives on today. Health professionals may be more informed but the public still lack basic knowledge on the subject (Fielding 2009).
Lack of information is what has led cities to be unprepared for contaminated air disasters and misinformation is what helps spread them.
real vs. perceived risk The 2003 SARS epidemic was an event that threatened the livelihoods of all Hong Kong citizens yet by the final count only 1755 (299 of whom died) out of a population of 6.803 million were infected (WHO 2004). That is a probability of infection of 0.03%. Although the probability of a member of the public becoming infected was very low, it was the possibility of infection that weighed most heavily in their mind. The overall burden extended far beyond the realms of health. The economy and society fell ill too. It is often forgotten that fear is a pandemic in itself; â€œan infectious disorderâ€? (De Paulo 2006).
intensity of online mentions
Below are two graphs from the website â€˜Information is Beautifulâ€™. The graphs juxtapose the perceived and real risks of threats (left and right respectively).
swine flu (18,000)
wasp stings (11,000)
bird Flu (260)
estimated total worldwide deaths
System 1 is the involuntary response and is often too quick to be easily perceived. System 2 is required for more ‘effortful activities’. The actions of system 2 are often associated with subjective choice and concentration. I am using the psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s (2011) behavioural and cognitive response System model as it serves the purpose of being able to describe the public’s psychosocial response succinctly without drawing me into unnecessary psychological arguments.
the effect of SARS on shared public space The onset of SARS has left an indelible mark on Hong Kong’s
outbreak by the epidemiologist J. T. F. Lau (2003) from Hong
public realm (J. T. F. Lau 2003). What was once thought of
Kong’s Prince of Wales Hospital. 1397 Hong Kong residents
as a rare event now seems likely to reoccur. The perceived
between 18-60 years old were questioned. I am also primarily
frequency of these ‘rare’ occurrences sets a city on edge,
using a literature review on the psychosocial impacts of SARS
expectant of new unknowable epidemics and exacerbates
by the Professor in Psychiatry H. W. H. Tsang (2004) from the
inherent health issues. The continuing 2013 H7N9 Bird Flu
Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
scare has already driven the Hong Kong Health Department’s Centre for Public Health Protection (created in reaction
DECISIONS AND INDECISIONS
to SARS) to issue potentially erroneous additional health
It was municipal Department of Health officials headed by the
precautions (BBC 2013). This response mechanism is not due
Director of Health Margaret Chan and under the auspices
to any cases emerging within its territory, it is simply due to its’
of WHO health professionals as part of WHO’s Global
now chronic fears of a second attack.
Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) who were given the power over the public domain during the epidemic.
The municipal officials were, however, under the control of
widespread fear of shared space, medical facilities and
Zhang Wenkang, the Minister of Health of China (based in
even whole Chinese provinces. The perceived threats in each
Beijing at the time) who was afterwards fired for mishandling
instance had repercussions on society. Crowded spaces were
the situation. The short amount of time they had due to the
not necessarily perceived correctly and there was a tendency
sudden nature of the outbreak and the inclination of the PRC
to place more risk on enclosed, unfamiliar and uncontrollable
not to share what it saw as state secrets on the epidemic
spaces. Distance and lack of knowledge about other provinces
meant their options were severely constrained.
placed an inordinate amount of risk on travel there and on people from these provinces (J. T. F. Lau 2003). Lastly, by
What the officials did manage to organise was a number
avoiding hospitals and the closure of 30% of medical facilities
of staged measures, several of which (intentionally and
during the outbreak (Kamps n.d.) those infected with SARS
unintentionally) changed the meaning of public space. They
risked infecting others in the community. The retraction
ranged in severity from public service announcements to
of Hong Kong society during the epidemic was not simply
complete closure of public spaces through to quarantine of
indicative of the fear of shared space at the time but also
possibly infected residents to total isolation of communities
promulgated long term concern and paranoia about their city.
from the city. Unwanted ramifications of such decisions was the stigmatization, ostracisation and division within communities.
To be able to discuss the psychosocial implications of SARS, I will be using a telephone survey over the course of the
32% stockholm 34% london
58% new york 48% hong kong
FIGURE 1. Proportion of public transport in various cities.
fear of the unknown One of the most powerful agents of fear is a lack of information.
Although the total amount of participants who thought their
Even worse still is misinformation. Possibly the most important
workplace was a risk was low, the real problem is still the
task for the government was to first raise awareness of the
difference between perceived risk and prevention practice. It
nature of transmission through news media outlets (Rothstein
means roughly 25% of participants were at work against their
2003) and secondly to keep the public up-to-date on current
events. The government effectively sought to consolidate the two perceptions of public spaces, real and perceived risk,
The percentage of people who avoided going outside and
through its public information campaign. If, for example, the
crowded places is very worrying. Considering the relatively
public simply perceived a space as a high-risk area then it
tiny floor area that Hong Kong residents call home, this is
would cease to function productively. This would be a social
an incredibly small area to confine oneself in. From a
hazard. People being unaware of the real risk areas would
qualitative study by LSE Cities (2011) we know that Hong
of course be a public health hazard. Both were destructive
Kong residents are also used to closing themselves off from
outcomes. J. T. F. Lau (2003) concluded the dissemination of
the city if environmental problems arise. “Residents are often
information about the disease was a highly effective measure
compelled to close their windows or buy extra thick curtains
that helped the public understand the risk inherent to their city
to escape from the pollution, despite stifling temperatures”. It
during an epidemic.
suggests that they are willing to make sacrifices to personal comfort in the face of health risks. An additional point on the
Important dilemmas appear, however, where the perceived
avoidance of crowded spaces is this affects certain districts
more than others due to differing density levels. Sham Shui
preventative practice percentage (figure 2). These shared
Po for example is one of the most crowded districts in Hong
spaces are intrinsic to Hong Kong residents’ lifestyles and
Kong with 92,000 people per Km2 (Taylor 2011). The results
hence cannot be avoided. This, however, means the public
imply that local residents and neighbouring district’s residents
are grudgingly using these spaces in the knowledge of the risk
are less likely to use the streets than in other areas. This could
they represent. For example, 50.5% of participants showed a
potentially kill local business.
concern about using public transport and yet 24.4% still used it. This is unsurprising as Hong Kong has one of the highest
Another alarming situation is highlighted by popular response
dependencies on public transport of all global cities (figure
to their healthcare system. During the crisis, 87.9% of
1). During an epidemic an excellent public transport service
participants agreed avoiding health clinics was a preventative
seems to increase the risk to public health.
measure and almost as many (71.8%) actively avoided them. The conundrum here is that the sick dare not go to their
29.9% of participants thought of workplace avoidance as a
clinic due to the perceived risk of becoming infected. This
preventative measure and yet only 4.9% acted on this insight.
potentially means that those with other medical conditions did 35
not go for their treatment. There is, however, a rationale to
Many of Hong Kong’s older residential districts are widely
this perception as hospitals did tend to act as transmission
regarded as areas of disease (LSE Cities 2011). However,
specific environments within the districts are not so accurately identified. As an example, take the perceived risk of SARS
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that preventative
transmission in figure 3. The lowest number of population
practice may conversely affect perception. J. T. F. Lau found
contacts possible is inside a lift (typically 10 people max.)
“respondents who needed to travel to China on business
and yet it has the third highest perceived risk! This is a perfect
or who worked at a hospital/clinic were less likely to avoid
example of risk possibility placed over risk probability.
crowded places.” While “those who perceived avoiding
Hong Kong residents were largely aware of droplets and
crowded places as a ‘‘very effective/effective’’ measure
contaminated environments being a risk factor (thanks to
were likely to avoid crowded places.” This seems a strange
the awareness programmes) and so are right to think of a
dynamic. The latter statement seems self-evident as a measure
more enclosed space with potentially higher propinquity
of precaution. Even the respondents who needed to travel to
as riskier than an open-air street. But their risk attribution
China had a livelihood to consider. It does, however, seem
is disproportionate due to their (inaccurate) intuition. Their
odd that hospital/clinic staff would be less cautious. This may
mental risk assessment is applying what they do know about
be a good opportunity to use framing theory to understand
the spatial characteristics. There are issues to do with control,
this phenomenon. Framing is the theory that questions (or
familiarity and space that disproportionately prioritize certain
in this case ‘spaces’) can be constructed in different ways
risk areas. The feelings created by standing in a lift compared
to influence peoples’ perceptions and thereby influence
to working at the office or in the street skew our perceptions.
response. The reason why hospital and clinic staffs are less cautious in crowded areas could come down to framing by
FURTHER SPATIAL CHARACTERISTICS
familiarity. Their fear of infection dulls the more time they
spend in what is perceived as a high-risk space. They are
There seems to be a difference in perception within the
aware that their work environment is a high-risk space but
category of crowded spaces. There appears to also be
due to their gradual familiarity with its risks, other high-risk
a sub-categorization by spatial qualities. As mentioned
spaces are comparatively not much less or more dangerous.
previously, the public recognized the dangers of enclosed
Avoid going outside
Avoid crowded places
Avoid visiting hospital clinics
Avoid using public transportation
Avoid going to work
Not allow kids to go to school
Avoid going to Mainland China
Leave Hong Kong temporarily
Perceived efficacy of means of SARS prevention Actual preventative practice FIGURE 2. Perceived efficacy versus actual preventative practice.
spaces compared to open spaces. A claustrophobic setting such as a cinema or lift appeared as a higher risk than the open settings of a restaurant or office. It may be that the difference in perception comes down to the level of control allowed. Open plan offices and restaurants are more flexible settings; ventilation, heating and seating can all be personally adjusted. There is also the element of time spent inhabiting the space. There is a relative level of freewill that allows for people to vacate or enter when necessary. Lifts and cinemas, however, are functionally rigid spaces that are required to be inhabited at times uncontrollable by the user. The lack of control over the inhabited environment may make the average user nervous. The fact certain senses and actions are cut off only serves to confound the situation. A lift user is more aware of the person coughing next to him in a lift than a person who splutters as he passes him on the street.
Walking in the street
Going to cinema
Eating in restaurants
Working in office
Figure 3. Perceived risk % of shared spaces ranked by number of population contacts
Figure 4. Perceived risk of trips to provinces outside of Hong Kong
Avoid going outside
Avoid crowded places
Avoid visiting hospital clinics
Avoid using public transportation
Clinic Shek Kip Mei MTR Sham Shui Po MTR
Sham Shui Po market
lack of community due to the constant flux of population
familiarity and distance We have a desire to cut reality into crisp shapes to be able
each other. Ignorance also plays a part; Hong Kong citizens
to understand it. It is our natural inclination to categorize our
have historically (and increasingly) become mistrustful of
world into the familiar and unfamiliar. However, while we are
their Mainland cousins. The alien is instantly labelled as a
able to categorize and assess what is familiar to us, the same
potential risk factor. The 58,000 yearly Mainland migrants
means of assessment are not relatable to the unknown or the
that move to Hong Kong find difficulty integrating into their
unfamiliar. The inherent risk lies in the fact we are unable to
new communities and there has been plenty of social tension
actively assess our familiar environment using the same means
caused (Fauna 2012, Yip 2011).
as for our unfamiliar environment. How then can we compare the two? Our consciousness (system 2) relies almost solely on
THE CASE OF AMOY GARDENS
the familiar, experienced spaces, having little influence from
When on the 30th March 2003 the Hong Kong Health
events or spaces it has not experienced. In terms of a rare
Department quarantined block E of the Amoy Gardens housing
event such as SARS, the unknown or unfamiliar cannot remain
estate, the real risk of infection was reduced. However, the
equivocal â€“ it must be categorised and assessed for risk.
stigmatization began of the housing estate by the public. An element of this social stigma may be attributed to the issue of
Large distances, outside the sphere of an individualâ€™s familiar
habitat, appear to be a determinant of perceived risk. There appears to be a comparatively high risk attributed to visiting
Amoy Gardens is an estate comprising of 19 tower blocks
Guangdong province (the known epicentre of the outbreak)
of roughly 1,000 residents per block. The majority were not
and other Mainland China provinces (figure 4). This seems
infected but still came under the homogenizing label of Amoy
a farcical line to draw around whole provinces. As I will
Gardens. Much like the distrust of Guangdong, the name of
examine later, this protectionist mentality is exhibited at a
Amoy Gardens became synonymous with SARS. The public
citywide scale too. In the case of areas outside their daily
were unfamiliar with the estate and so drew a mental line
world, citizens have no cognitive knowledge (out of sight, out
around everything to do with the name Amoy Gardens. Could
of mind) and hence can draw sketchy conclusions. Compare
half or more of the residents been saved from social exclusion
the more well-known spaces in figure 3 versus figure 4 and
if their residence had been named differently?
see how far more reasoned the percentages seem as people are clearly able to prioritize by comparing familiar areas to
Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission that suggested
environmental factor that was spreading SARS throughout
the closure of all schools in contrast to the original plan of
the block, residents of block E were moved to two holiday
school closure only in high-risk areas. Now that the high-
camps on city’s periphery. Geographically displacing the
risk schools were categorised among the low risk schools,
residents outside the city’s centre, whether intentional or not,
the public had no chance to isolate and stigmatize those
was a sensible move. Concerned public did not feel their
vulnerable schools. The familiar has been categorised with
neighbourhoods were in any more danger since the main
the unfamiliar. In their eyes, all schools were a risk.
threat (or the most reported threat) moved further from them. FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTENTMENT Yet the stigma that hung over Amoy Garden residents
An important distinction needs to be made here between the
remained when they returned to their homes. Many found
familiar and known spaces. Known spaces are within the local
it difficult to get taxis and had to lie about where they came
area of an individual while familiar places are generally areas
from in public. A study of family members of SARS patients
where one has spent comparatively more time and hence is
found 50% to be suffering from numerous psychological
comfortable with their surroundings. However, one may feel
problems, from depression to stigmatisation (Tsang 2004).
safer in a familiar environment because over time nothing
In terms of the estate itself, residents either left during the
unsafe has happened. This is not an accurate risk assessment
scare (a very real health risk if potential SARS carriers went to
of a space and the risk here is complacency sets in.
stay in other districts) or left months afterwards because they could not face the stigma (Tsang 2004). There does, however,
The difference in public perception between offices and
seem to be no difference in stigmatization between infected
other spaces may serve as a microcosm for Hong Kong.
and uninfected blocks. Even unaffected stores in the Amoy
‘Working in office’ gained a score of only 24.3% in terms
Plaza below the estate tried to cancel their leases early. Both
of perceived risk. This was the second lowest score on the
the apartment complex and the shopping plaza underwent a
whole table. It is also arguably the space with the second
HK$60 million (£5.1m) facelift, a makeover that tries hard to
lowest possibility of population contact. Whereas other
dispel the notoriety of the place.
shared spaces risk perception scores varied over the epidemic phase, the ‘working in office’ percentage remained relatively
It does seem that the Hong Kong government did take into
stable. I believe this is because respondents accounted for
account the risk of stigmatization of particular areas in the
their familiarity with the space and those they were in close
city. The quarantining of block E incited the citywide closure
proximity with. What is known about the co-workers is not
of schools, a decision taken by Arthur K. C. Li, the head of the
necessarily important, simply that they are familiar.
Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau. It was actually
In terms of a rare event such as SARS, the unknown or unfamiliar cannot remain equivocal – it must be categorised and assessed for risk.
Compare the 24.3% risk perception for offices to the 37.5% of restaurants. The difference here may not the proximity or numbers of people but the respondent’s unfamiliarity with the people he or she shares his dining experience with. In terms of districts, it could be assumed that residents feel safer in their own districts. The mentality exposed in this last analysis is endemic to Hong Kong and potentially dangerous. Historically, Hong Kong has been a city of divided societies. Paul Yip (2011), Director of Hong Kong’s Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, makes reference to this in his article “Disconnection in a highly connected city”. In it Yip details the disparate lifestyles of Hong Kong. “Hong Kong’s Gini coefficient (a statistical measure of income disparity) is ranked as one of the highest in world – at 0.535 in 2010”. What may be the case is Hong Kong society is particularly susceptible to the insular attitude that can occur during disease outbreaks. The society is already relatively fragmented compared to other cities and due to its many levels of disparity may be more liable to distrust itself. Any new approaches to pandemic prevention must address the disparity margin within the city.
The disconnected city.
‘We Demand Fresh Air’
我 们 要 新 鮮 的 空 氣
a split city We have seen a fear of public space in cirucmstances of epidemics and an individualâ€™s retraction from city life when interaction with others can be potentially fatal. The following chapter is a design study exploring how residents may react in the result of a pandemic. If trust of oneâ€™s city truly collapsed, how far could an individual resident retract and what could they claim as safe and sanitory if even the streets outside his or her house are deemed unsafe? A total failing by the government and society to maintain trust is unlikely and there is evidence that they are becoming increasingly aware of the real risks. However, the merits of taking a reductio ad absurdum approach is it allows an exploration of how individuals may react to their environment without state intervention.
In the event of a pandemic, compartmentalising
security polluted air
Hong Kong may break the path of infection and mitigate outbreaks. Can one compartmentalise even further - can we segment the urban fabric at street and neighbourhood level?
The three major concerns for society
Military barriers regulate the flow of people and disease
Infected districts are isolated so as to prevent further spread
Adjacent buildings close down their facades in an effort to reduce risk of cross-contamination Quarantined floor Circulation circumventing Wind baffles reduce the build up of
stagnant air and airborne viruses A makeshift entrance to the building allows health workers to circumvent the public view so as to clear out dead bodies and cause the least amount of distress possible The rolling news updates on the pandemic is Local residents protest about the segregation
the publicsâ€™ only way to gauge the extent of
of their community and demand to be
allowed to move freely
‘The Mask That Cannot Be Taken Down’
脫 不 下 的 口 罩
Inspired by a slogan from a clean air campaign by the Environmental Protection Group, a design emerged around the idea that a resident may adapt their apartment to protect themselves from the exterior environment.
A facade for a museum in Bangkok that
Kayt Brumderâ€™s thesis project Breathing Room
uses electrostatism to collects CO emissions.
explores a facade that can act partly as a
The design, 2002. The work is by Architects
filtrative fixture as well as acting as a sign of the
daily air quality.
The building geometry is already acknowledged to be a factor
Buildings themselves are typically only horizontal and vertical
in shaping wind paths (feasibility ref) so could the design of a
lines. More streamlined geometries, in the same line of
facade been developed further to increase airflow in further?
thinking that curves on an aeroplane increase speed, could potentially be a research area worth exploring.
existing structure 23 Wong Chuk Street is the standard housing type for the
droplets that fall into the street below are both potential risk
majority of Kowloonâ€™s districts. They remain largely unaltered
factors for not only the residents but also pedestrians passing
since completion with only private additions to improve living
by. The facade is an expression of peopleâ€™s own reaction to
shared and private space. The interiors are often very well cared for, being the small part of the city owned by the
Two cuts into the facade allow for greater ventilation and
resident. Anything outside of this realm, which literally starts
cuts into the deep core to also allow sunlight in. There is a
at the window, is seen as public and therefore of little concern
central void where bathrooms and other services open up
onto to emit used air. The whole facade of this residential unit is peppered with air conditioning units. The condensed water
The evolution of personal space. The eventual adaptation of balconies into private from semi-private areas has separated the private and public realms entirely. Existing building
From the gigantic landfill projects to expand the harbours to the reclaiming of balconies as private space, the lack of useable space is
something Hong Kong battles with on many scales.
Depending on the perceived threat
Each room has been given its own air supply. The deeper
into the core of the building, the more mechanical
sections of each apartment can be
ventilation will be needed to force air through. It is a real
closed to reduce the risk of external
problem on how to properly ventilate these deep plan
contaminants from the street. This is
existing buildings without knocking the whole building
at the ownerâ€™s discretion.
down and starting again.
pollution visualised THE
CROWDS BELOW, THE LESS ANXIETY THERE IS ABOUT CONTAMINATION. PREVENTATIVE MEASURES ARE THEREFORE MORE LAX.
THE BLOCK’S LANDLORD SUPPLIES A BAMBOO FRAME FOR RESIDENTS TO ADD THEIR OWN PROTECTIONIST INTERVENTIONS IN ANY MANNER THEY SEE FIT.
PROTEST SIGNS DEMAND BETTER AIR QUALITY. THESE TYPE OF FABRIC SIGNS ARE A COMMON FEATURE ALREADY.
LOUVERS ARE TURNED TOWARDS THE CLEANEST SOURCES OF AIR OR, IF THE RESIDENT IS PARTICULARLY SUPERSTITIOUS, DIRECTION IS DICTATED BY FENG SHUI PRINCIPLES.
A LAYER OF MATERIAL THAT ATTRACTS POLLUTANTS HIGHLIGHTS THE CONTINUING BUILD UP IN THEIR NEIGHBOURHOOD.
THE LOWER TIERS OF PROTECTION SHUN THE STREET LEVEL ACTIVITY SEEING IT AS DIRTY AND POTENTIALLY HARMFUL.
Structures and materials are those already
Initially, the idea was to use bamboo scaffolding but equally useful are the steel structures used to hang advertising signs on the front of facades.
unauthorized building works (UBWs) Hong Kong residents have a penchant for unauthorized
The Buildings Department (2011) released a comprehensive
building works. They are a perfect exhibition of the typical
summary report intended to be distributed to the community
dissent from authority. Try as the Hong Kong government
on UBWs. Below is a visual key from the report that illustrates
might to properly regulate space, individual residents see the
perfectly the types of UBW typologies that are commonly
restrictive space as lacking for their needs.
found in residential areas of Hong Kong and in particular the Kowloon side.
Offenders are liable to up to $400,000 and two years imprisonment although this does not seem to deter anyone. In the case of rooftop communities, officials actively turn a blind eye knowing that rehousing these communities is a much bigger problem.
UBW on podium flat roof
Large glass panels
Sub-division of flat units
Opening formed in the staircase enclosure wall
Window enclosure on approved planter
Metal gate obstructing the means of escape
Metal cage attached to external wall
UBW on rooftop
Supporting frame for air-conditioner/water cooling
UBW in yard
tower on external wall 2
The design was reconsidered to take into account the street environment. Theoretically, the landlord or municipal powers provide a structural frame on which residents can build into. Private interventions can range from extra blinds to external balconies all of which divide the individual from the street.
street pollution level intensity
pr ev ail
Stack chimney to extract used air from the interior.
Wind tower to extract fresh air into the interior.
Could the new facade promote the flow of fresh air through the street?
Views cut to provide sightlines to the sky. This increases privacy between neighbours and gives a brief respite from the urban environment.
Protective barrier that blocks both sightlines and pollutants from the street.
Barriers differentiate the pavement that shoppers and commuters (minibus/ bus/taxi ranks) use to reduce likelihood of transmission.
The supporting structure for the facade changed from bamboo scaffold to steel barring that could be added to the existing concrete structure of the building. Wind towers and stack chimneys have been used to be able to cycle and control air through the building; an issue that was mentioned earlier as a critical problem. The idea was eventually dropped as a new facade like this would be impossible to administer at a grassroots level.
Final design : shared responsibility 2.
some collaboration between buildings on either side of the street to make sure that air circulates
By utilising both sides of the street, fresh air can be siphoned down into the street and polluted air pulled up out of the urban canyon.
More importantly perhaps, in terms of clean air, is the ability for residents to tap into clean air through the wind towers (1), structures that rise above the polluted lower air levels to collect air from the prevailing wind path. Futhermore, the stack chimneys (2) extract air from the street level. By making the air in the vicinity cleaner, one can begin to build a healthier street environment.
transmission nodes what are the building typologies that engender disease and distrust?
TRANSMISSION NODES During SARS certain building types were affected more than others (Lam 2011). The spread and intensity of the disease differed due to the urban, or rural, environments. This chapter follows the path of the disease from farmhouse to high-rise, studying the control measures emplaced on each and the effect this had on Hong Kong society when their city changed dramatically over a short period of time.
PHASE 2: market places
PHASE 1: swine and poultry farms
PHASE 4: mass transport hubs PHASE 3: highrise housing hotels hospitals/clinics
poultry farms and wet markets
a personal chaos: the loss of cultural life 78%
Cantonese-speaking houseCantonese-speaking households holds who buy live chickens. who buy live chickens to cook
from rural ...
... to urban
stats from 2011
poultry consumed by Hong Kong locals that came from local farms
Cantonese-speaking households who buy live chickens.
total land use
current number of poultry farms compared to the number before the Voluntary Surrender Scheme 2005 76
current number of pig farms compared to the number before the Voluntary Surrender Scheme 2006
one of the reason people move to these areas is for â€œcheap and fresh food, groceries [and] affordable rentsâ€? - Mr Fung, 63 year old Kowloon resident
poultry farms & Wet Markets POULTRY FARMS
Poultry farms our on the furthest reaches of the municipal
Wet markets originated due to the inability to store food for
powers. The level of control is minimal compared to the
long periods in the hot humid climates of Southern China. It
inner city environment and makes micromanagement almost
is ironic that these markets came about because they were
impossible. To ensure hygiene and safety is preserved,
the most hygienic solution as they are now seen as the least
policies often have to be wide sweeping and somewhat
hygienic market type. The reason they cling on is because
they are a traditional part of life for many residents. The SARS scare reduced the number of these markets to the detriment of the local culture. The bustling crowds that attend these markets daily are, however, a likely point of transmission. Post-SARS, Hong Kong has had to deal with the sensitive clash of traditional lifestyle versus sanitary practice. For example, a central abattoir project set to be completed in 2011 by the Hong Kong government to reduce the likelihood of further epidemics was abandoned after public opposition.
The industrialisation of tradition
poultry farm new territories
Hong kong island
densest urban areas
POULTRY FARMS AND MARKETS
The rapid rate of Chinese urbanisation makes poultry farms in rural areas of both Mainland China and Hong Kong the most likely areas for a new emergent disease (Martin 2011, Wilcox 2011). This is due to new emergent diseases (NEDs) developing due to many of the worldâ€™s wild fowl migratory routes passing through China mixed with Chinaâ€™s new intensive farming systems.
Local scale broiler house
Industrial scale broiler house
Sham Shui Po indoor market outdoor markets
The larger indoor markets become a hub for new private start-ups in the surrounding streets. The markets are often centrally placed in residential districts for ease of access. It also affords the smaller shops to be situated on largely vehicle free roads (except for the occasional goods lorry). As fresh food is a tradition that spans many generations of Cantonese life the easy access appeals to the older generation who would find out of town supermarkets difficult to commute to.
OUTDOOR WET MARKETS
INDOOR WET MARKETS
While more hygienic and controllable than street vendors,
Around Hong Kong, the Food and Environmental Hygiene
outdoor wet markets are still chaotic affairs. Hong Kong
Department (FEHD) has designated government-owned indoor
residents like to inspect the quality and freshness of their meat.
wet markets divided into various different produce. It is a form
While the shops exposure to street life makes them part of
of planning that seeks to regulate the markets while trying to
every day life, it also exposes them to pollution and infection.
conserve traditional lifestyles. Indoor markets also have the added advantage of not being exposed to roadside emissions, a problem for outdoor vendors.
Due to the ideas of lack of familiarity through distance as discussed in the Real vs. Perceived chapter,
appreciate the changes to their daily life as readily as if the changes had happened in their own neighbourhood. The further away poultry markets are, the less fresh meat will turn up in Hong Kong’s wet markets; a cultural aspect of life that is being slowly phased out.
poultry farms PANDEMIC PREVENTION Farm reports unusually high mortality rate in stock in one broiler house. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) notified. Movement control and strict attention to biosecurity. More and more deaths due to disease are detected in nearby broiler houses. Farms are quarantined. Ring Vaccination Programme; local farms’ livestock are vaccinated (in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s guidelines for containment). All livestock is likely culled unless there is time for them to be vaccinated. The safest measure, however, is to cull. END RESULT The disease is stemmed but at a loss of thousands of livestock. Farms are compensated for this.
wet markets PANDEMIC PREVENTION Indoor Wet Market - The single poultry level can be closed while the remaining floors stay open. In actuality this is rarely the case as authorities will not risk further contamination. Outdoor Wet Markets - Single meat stalls can close as they are spread sporadically along the street. Remaining floors or stalls, regardless of whether they sell meat or poultry, are put under surveillance. END RESULT The area will become stigmatized and lose business. In some cases it takes months for normal business to resume. The closure of a large market in the centre of a residential district can put pressure on the surrounding smaller outdoor markets and compounding the situation of overcrowding. Famously the chinatowns in America took a full year after the epidemic before normal business resumed. Residents must travel outside of their neighbourhood, a particularly difficult task for the elderly. Unaffected markets become overcrowded increasing overcrowding and further risk of transmission.
the risks of living at high density
from public ...
... to private
housing While I have argued on the subject of the top down approach
restricted period of time i.e. until the regulations are needed
of the government, market forces are far more destructive to
no longer. “Private citizens should also be encouraged
the urban and public environment. This is largely due to Hong
to make suggestions and demands to participate in the
Kong’s position as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) which has
redevelopment.” ‘Trade up plans’ would allow the sharing of
resulted in rampant wealth gains for private investors. The
property rights and the owning of living rights. These steps are
upshot of this is a wildly fluctuating property market making
crucially important in giving a stake of the city to the resident
it difficult for landowners to do anything. In ‘Transforming
and hence making them feel more empowered and tied to their
the Urban Development Model is the Key to Post SARS
city. This last sentiment is one that the art historian Elke Krasny
Rebuilding’ Xin (2003), a senior economist at the Hong Kong
may hold too, as her research on grassroots urbanism points
Trade Development Council (HKTDC) argues for new policies
to empowerment when a community collectively organises its
and a new development model to improve residential living
shared space. Additionally, a report by the public policy think
tank Civic Exchange (2010) ‘Hong Kong lags far behind other developed cites in involving the public in district level planning
Xin’s argument seems to be, while Hong Kong is constrained
by available land use and would if it were any other city expand beyond its borders, it must densify. He advocates an
Overall, I believe Xin makes an argument that Hong Kong
increase in periphery building to alleviate congestion in the
development is not inherently broken and small, precise
inner city. What has not happened alongside the densification
changes to the urban model can be decisive. In terms of urban
is the increase in quality of building which is a must when
planning, I believe the same sensitivity or ‘urban acupuncture’
services and infrastructure face unprecedented strain. As I will
is in order for many of the same reasons as Xin states. It also
explain later the redistribution of density to the outskirts of
seems, according to various bodies, that the public need to be
urban areas can simultaneously benefit air movement in the
far more involved in their city’s development.
area. NEW PUBLIC TRUST While I have argued against the top down approach of the government, Xin argues otherwise and points to certain controls that are in fact out of officials’ hands. At the moment the land use is organised by private developers. Xin argues for a government-restructuring period that still allows developers to build but under a new urban development model for a
Wong Chuk Street
Oi Man Estate
Old (left) to new (right). A variety of housing typologies have emerged in an effort to accommodate Hong Kongâ€™s increasing population.
not built up < 1,000 people/km2 < 10,000 people/km2 < 50,000 people/km2 > 50, 000 people/km2
Wong Chuk Street Amoy Gardens
Oi Man Estate
URBAN HEALTH RISKS 1
2 Overcrowding 3
Single, shared circulation
Reentrants are typically incisions into the buildings floor plan that house exhaust fans, plumbing, drainage pipes and condensers from air conditioning units. They arise due to building regulations requiring all family rooms to have one externally facing window which leads kitchens and bathroom to be clustered together. This 92
shared space is at high risk of cross-contamination (Tsou 2003).
1.2 rooms/person (average)
Wong Chuk Street Amoy Gardens
Oi Man Estate
23 wong chuk st. District
Sham Shui Po
9, Ground Floor Commercial Floor Area
Density Tier 4 tier : >50,000 people/km
4 per floor, 40-48m2 each
urban areas are being gradually replaced by ‘real-estate pressure and by the government’s Urban Renewal Authority, which is replacing blocks designated unfit for living.’ LSE Cities
ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT Hong Kong’s Building Environmental Evaluation Assessment
Urban areas, like Wong Chuk Street are being gradually
Method (HK-BEAM) was originally based on the UK’s
replaced by ‘real-estate pressure and by the government’s
BREEAM framework (Lau). The problem with this tool was
Urban Renewal Authority [est. 2001], which is replacing
that Hong Kong quickly grew to have an incredible variety of
blocks designated unfit for living.’ (Taylor 2011). These plans
building types due to the entrepreneurial capitalism witnessed
have been in action for over a decade but the problems of
in the 90s. The system began to expand to a Comprehensive
older neighbourhoods still persist.
Environmental Performance Assessment Method (CEPAS) so as to recognise the large array of building types.
oi man estate District
Ho Man Tin
20-23 Floor Area
Density Tier 2 tier : <10,000 people/km
34 per floor, 36-44m2 each
SOCIAL HOUSING Rather than just demolishing central urban areas, authorities
space per apartment is smaller than Wong Chuk Streetâ€™s.
built social housing on the outskirts of older districts in
Although it would seem sensible to assume modern buildings
response to overcrowding in Kowloon. Oi Man Estate is one
are more advanced, they do not necessarily improve living
such estate. This typology is representative of a new building
conditions The government must juggle improving peopleâ€™s
form that would come to characterise the Hong Kong skyline;
living conditions with accommodating a growing population.
almost twice as tall as the older Kowloon block it replaces,
The increasingly smaller room sizes are a global problem that
the floor area is considerably larger too. Interestingly, floor
all megacities are facing from Tokyo to London.
amoy gardens estate District
30-40, first 3 floors retail Apartments
Density Tier 4 tier : >50,000 people/km th
8 per floor, 48m2 each
THE AMOY GARDENS INCIDENT The continuing demand for land has given rise to multiuse building types such as the mall acting as a podium to residential high-rise. The ultra-densification that was inherent in Hong Kong became its downfall in 2003 when it engendered the spread of SARS through Amoy Gardens Estate. The multiuse of space worked against developers as the whole site became quarantined.
pandemic paralysis RISK FACTORS Single service core that connects straight to the mall below. Incredibly dense and compact floor plan. Space is designated as either circulation or retail space, there is no lesiure space. Deep floor plan means a reliance on artificial lighting and ventilation systems. A failure of one of these systems makes the entire building vulnerable. Different floors accessed primarily by lifts (a perceived risk of infection by the public during the SARS epidemic) for ease of movement.
Amoy Gardens estate PANDEMIC PREVENTION An infected person enters a tower block and infects those within his or her apartment. The infection then spreads due to a faulty sewege pipe that is shared among all floors of the block. Due to the close proximity of nearby tower blocks, the wind speeds are particularly high and are able to carry the lingering virus droplets across to other tower blocks. The massive outbreak prompts the authorities to quarantine the initial block residents. The building is deemed a possible cause of the transmission and residents are moved to two holiday homes on the outskirts of Hong Kong to isolate them from the public. END RESULT The incident caused real concern worldwide about the epidemic. Schools were closed due to this one event. The area and its residents were stigmatized. Many of the initial infected block inhabitants suffered psychological problems afterwards.
highest density areas
lowest income areas
most overcrowded areas
0m Mostly between 9 and 13 stories, the building heights of Sham Shui Po are fairly standard. The lack of variety between building heights makes it difficult for breezes to penetrate the urban fabric.
0m Mong Kok displays a variety of building heights from the old 6 storey residential blocks to the new 24 storey commercial centres.
sham shui po and mong kok SHAM SHUI PO
In Cantonese Sham Shui Po (深水埗) means ‘Deep Water Pier’.
Directly South of Sham Shui Po is Mong Kok (望角, ‘Prosperous
This characteristic of deep water made it an ideal harbour for
and Crowded Corner’) district. The two districts merge
large cargo ships and hence was one of the earliest places to
seamlessly from old residential apartments into commercial
develop as part of what is known as Hong Kong today. Many
retail, restaurants and markets. Streets are generally far more
of the residential units were built for industrial Mainland
crowded with shoppers travelling from all over Hong Kong
workers who worked in the factories and warehouses near
who come to peruse the specialist markets that have emerged
the harbour. Being one of the oldest areas and housing the
like nowhere else in the city (examples include Photocopy
poorest income homeowners, the area is in dire need of urban
Street, Goldfish Street, Flower Market Road and Ladies’
renewal. In 2006, the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS)
Street). The streets exhibit an eclectic mix of building typology
began its ‘revitalisation project’ in Sham Shui Po. The project
and use; huge malls dwarf the remaining old Kowloon blocks
aimed at the ‘beautification of public areas’ around three
that sit beside them.
MTR exits, lasted one year and cost HK$7 million. Phase 1 included:
For the purposes of the following study I have focused on Sham Shui Po while at the same time using Mong Kok to
- planting trees;
highlight particular characteristics inherent in the mix of new
- repaving coloured ground tiles;
and old development that is slowly becoming the norm in
- decorating the areas with 3 artistic sculptures
contemporary Hong Kong.
designed by renowned designer, Dr Kan Tai-keung - providing amenities and benches on the walkways. Phase 2 was similar and largely revolved around adding more sculptures. Albeit the HK$7 million is a relatively paltry sum, the project seems to completely bypass issues raised in the previous housing chapter about healthier living conditions and the need for more community involvement that were suggested by academic bodies and local think tanks. It seems remarkable that a proclaimed ‘housing’ society should miss the point so badly. Looking North on Sham Shui Po.
A se cti on
lines indicate how the districts have been divided into planning areas.
TRANSITIONAL CITY Hong Kong is a hub for international travel and business.
TRANSPORT CITY The city works because of its excellent public transport system and infrastructure.
Transport can also be part of the problem, congesting and polluting residential areas.
STAGNANT CITY Hong Kong limited useable land is beginning to feel the strain.
COMPARTMENTALISED CITY What is public is broken up and subdivided into ever smaller areas.
CLUSTERED CITY ...and the city is becoming denser and more crowded as migrants come for work and better living conditions.
Hong Kong disaggregated Hong Kong is a difficult place to define. For the purposes of understanding the urban geography and enabling a solution to its problems, I have categorised it into five characteristics that both describe Hong Kongâ€™s character and explain its predicament. 1
TRANSITIONAL CITY Hong Kong has been connected to some of the worldâ€™s most infamous outbreaks of infectious disease in modern history due to this trait. New infectious diseases typically emerge due to social, cultural or ecological development, all three of which define the transient city that is Hong Kong and have been discussed in previous chapters. In Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok, the risks surround the imports of fresh meat to the markets and the flux of tourists mingling with locals in the commercial retail that largely defines Mong Kok.
32% stockholm 34% london
58% new york 48% hong kong
Proportion of public transport in various cities.
â€œI think we have the best transport here [Sham Shui Po]. I moved into the area just because of this.â€? - Aunt Kwok, retired and disabled 73 year old
TRANSPORT CITY Hong Kong has one of the best transport systems in the world. Sham Shui Po’s elderly and low-income population rely on good transportation and the area has many mini bus ranks, bus stops and MTR connections. The movement of its population is so intrinsic to Hong Kong’s success that housing comes under the jurisdiction of the Secretary for Transport and Housing. There are worries that the efficiency of the service has ramped up the city’s pace of life (LSE Cities). The lack of time in public space has even led the Environmental protection department to state pollution is not a problem because people spend so little time outside (EPD 2010). Pedestrian safety and accessibility seems a secondary concern to the car-orientated Transport Department (Tsoi 2013). In places like Mong Kok (see image) where roads are less pedestrian friendly, the public are robbed of the shared exterior space and encouraged to use the interior malls to move around.
% who avoided using public transportation during SARS
MASS TRANSIT RAIL (MTR) The MTR system affords much needed public transport access to densely packed population. However, the crowding in close vicinity of MTR exits is a cause for concern, especially during times of epidemics.
SHAM SHUI PO
SHEK KIP MEI
MONG KOK EAST
YAU MA TEI
ROADS Nathan Road is one of the most polluted roads in Hong Kong and “obtained the five highest mean route-averaged concentrations of NO2, NOx, PN and BC. ” Most polluted roads were found to also have highest concentration of pedestrians (Civic Exchange 2010). Idling engines are a huge problem, note the junctions have been highlighted to show potential problem areas. This doesn’t include the host of minibus ranks and bus stops that are needed but are equally polluting.
likely intensity of pollution nodes at junctions
MTR exits themselves funnel people which while efficient makes travel monotonous, drilling in efficiency. 0m
Minibuses are an easily accessible and cheap mode of transport for the elderly. They are also a major culprit of exhaust fumes from idle engines. 0m
Breezeways into the dense urban fabric.
STAGNANT CITY Poor air quality is what can lead to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) (S. S. Y. Lau 2006). The spaces most susceptible include areas with only a few small open spaces leading to poor air circulation and stagnation that leads to the build up of both pollutants and contaminants. The adjacent plan details how the prevailing Easterly winds find difficulty in penetrating the dense urban fabric of Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok. Those streets perpendicular to the winds are most likely to be areas of stagnation. At an urban level it is difficult to discuss indoor air quality although in Lauâ€™s post-SARS report he suggests that a combined assessment of both the indoor and outdoor air qualities is mutually beneficial.
The low and unvaried building heights, narrow streets and dense housing blocks all help to contribute to the urban microclimate that is a key effect of urban canyons.
Unauthorised building works such as shop signs and awnings are typical obstructions that inhibit urban air paths. 10m
0m Makeshift informal market stalls selling clothing and other retail goods are a common occurrance in many of the less traffic heavy streets. While they add to the local economy, they take up valuable vehicle-free space. During epidemics the whole street becomes a risk as bypassing the markets is impossible.
Shopowners who want to gain access to potential customers perusing the stalls must connect themselves by blocking the pavement between them and the market. 10m
Building facades cluttered with UBWs and narrow streets block air movement.
If it is not cars blocking pedestrian routes then it is market stalls. The former is a pollution risk, the latter a risk during epidemics.
The accumulation of detritus and additions to living conditions over time have become a characteristic of old Kowloon communities. 140
The highest priced apartments are typically collected on the higher storeys because they have access to views and are further away from the polluted streets (LSE cities).
CLUSTERED CITY Originally this section was labelled â€˜Compact Cityâ€™ but there is a more nuanced definition that better describes a clustering effect where uneven densification occurs around certain key amenities. I have already covered how Hong Kong residents are forced to accept their smaller cramped conditions (S. S. Y. Lau 2006, Taylor 2011) but the competition among them for the best spaces in the city is apparent. For example, markets are clustered around MTR exits, commuters rush to the next train or rush for the bus. The MTR system and the high-rise near major roads which seeks to alleviate the issues of density and overcrowding actually contributes to a clustering of crowds and density. As discussed previously, Xin suggests redistributing development to the periphery of the city to reduce the strain on infrastructure.
For some Hong Kong locals they must not just adjust their lifestyles to live but sacrifice them. Cage homes are the worst consequences of high density living. The work and amenities available in a megacity such as Hong Kong are what many of the poorest are willing to sacrifice their living standards for. 141
All exhibit some aspect of a clustering effect; whether that be the clustering of buildings (market stalls) or vehicles and people (minibus and bus ranks, MTR stations)
% who avoid going outside during SARS
% who avoid crowded places during SARS
These transport hubs and commercial stalls that are crucial to the functioning of Sham Shui Po are also the highest risk areas for the spread of fear and infectious diseases like SARS.
standardised mortality ratio of premature deaths 104
least dense areas
3 health & density
The clear relationship between density and health.
20% hong kongâ€™s total land use
Within this 20% the density varies remarkably from <1,000 people/km2 to >50,000 people/km2.
COMPARTMENTALISED CITY Hong Kong’s public space is being appropriated and what remains of it is heavily regulated. In his chapter ‘Legibility and simplification’ in ‘Seeing Like a State’, the political anthropologist James Scott (1998) describes how the very act of making sense of a chaotic, unregulated form of the state has a reciprocal effect on the form itself. To put this in the context of Hong Kong, the government is under heavy pressure to be able to regulate a population in flux and an ever expanding and densifying cityscape. By seeking to regulate the environment, the Hong Kong government is trying to micromanage at all scales of daily life. Travelling through Hong Kong one is bombarded visually and acoustically. Announcements in the MTR constantly tell you how and where to walk, traffic lights make an incredibly shrill sound to make it unmistakable when is safe (and lawful) to cross the street, physical barriers prevent you from crossing at certain places and notices reassure you that the handrail you are holding is hygienic. This is a city that is does not trust its population so how can its population learn to trust it?
“While Hong Kong is dense and some layering is necessary, these aerial networks keep us away from our own streets, and our own sense of community.”
- HK Magazine, ‘Pedestrian Planning: No Clear Path’
Some walkways are used as a way to alleviate crowding near mass transit hubs (1) or to aid safe pedestrian crossing (2) although there is a current increasing trend for walkways to be used by large commercial buildings to bypass the streets altogether. In their book “Cities Without Ground”, Adam Frampton, Jonathan Solomon and Clara Wong (2012) have mapped the increasing disconnection between social space and ground and the illogical, irrational masterplanning that arises from unplanned top down and bottom up urbanism. The journalist Anna Minton (2012) takes a far more critical view of the commercialisation of public space in “Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the Twenty-First-Century City”. In it she argues that some public spaces should be completely free of retail. With Hong Kong’s progression to further commercialisation, this seems like an unlikely future. Mong Kok is an example of a once residential district that is slowly taking away the street space from pedestrians. While in Sham Shui Po the shops are still on the ground floor plane and the block sizes are smaller, newer commercial developments take up larger plot sizes. They actively try to draw consumers in with no exterior protection from the elements unless one chooses to use the walkways that draw you straight into the shopping lanes. Hong Kong’s public space is increasingly becoming a series of connected malls. 146
A new urban design model 149
A feasibility Study for an Establishment of Air Ventilation Assessment System (AVAS) by the Department of Architecture, Chinese University of Hong Kong uses the analogy of a sponge when describing how the urban fabric should filter and circulate air (CUHK 2005).
hong kong REDESIGNED Having previously conceptually explored the hands-on urbanism, the following design for a new urban model is based on a top down approach that can tackle the issue of air pollution at all scales. The model also seeks to regain public space for local residents.
The following are general principles of good air flow practice. Airflow is one of the most complex environmental qualities to design and analyse which is why rules of thumb are often a good place to begin.
Prevailing winds are largely Easterly and enter the Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok areas from a relatively open area of ground. As can be seen by the above diagram, prevailing wind have no easy access through these high densiry urban neighbourhoods.
breezeways 01. parallel breezeways Breezeways parallel to the prevailing winds are essential to channel air and help it penetrate the dense urban fabric.
02. perpendicular streets Streets perpendicular to the prevailing wind should be avoided. They create stagnant zones that are very difficult to aerate.
03. acute breezeways Acute breezeways are streets angled 0 to 30 degrees to the prevailing wind. This allows the wind to be channeled through but just as importantly the street facades will be able to tap into this fresh air. For this reason it is perhaps preferable to a parallel street.
perforation 04. vertical perforation With Hong Kongâ€™s fondness for highrise towers, this is often the most suitable intervention. It is, however, difficult to retrofit by cutting through existing buildings.
05. horizontal perforation A positive way of again infiltrating streets perpendicular to breezeways. It may be easier to retrofit Kowloon blocks by knocking through non structural walling.
06. perforated block Once air is channeled into the urban fabric through breezeways the air must perforate the full building volume.
building heights 07. height difference A variety in building heights help to disrupt the air that would otherwise flow over the area and channel it downwards and through potentially stagnant areas.
08. height and prevailing winds Building heights should gradually increase away from the prevailing wind direction. The minimal height difference on a street will channel air downwards.
09. the washing machine effect An idea taken from the Chinese University of Hong Kongâ€™s feasibility study was the idea called the washing machine effect. At junctions, a particularly hazardous polluted area due to the large amounts of traffic and idling engines. Placing two tall building blocks, one significantly taller than the other, on opposite sides of the junction will cause air paths to curve down and then back up again thereby removing the stagnating polluted air.
building widths 10. widened street A greater width of street increases wind speeds through. The street width to building height ratio is important but widening streets is an impractical task in a pre-existing neighbourhood.
11. set-back street Slightly more practical is a staggered set-back from the street. Buildings can make full use of their plot size and their street presence.
interventions 12. vegetation While foiliage can cause unnecessary blockage to air paths, trees and other plants can improve the air quality and offer natural shading which is an improvement on the more claustrophobic overhangs offered by traditional Kowloon blocks.
13. wind towers and stack chimneys I have already explored the use of wind towers and stack chimneys in the facade study. Some of the particularly deep urban canyons may need additional help from air being siphoned into the streets. In some ways the relatively low building heights that are inherent in Sham Shui Po and areas of Mong Kok may be an advantage as wind towers have an ubobstructed path for the prevailing winds.
Phase 1: Expansion of Breezeways The first step is to carry out a ‘Spot Field Measurement
microclimate’s airflow in several areas (Similar to Ren’s 2009 study of certain Kowloon areas). Streets that would most benefit increased airflow are set back a total of 3m on either side so as to encourage airflow. Ideally the eastern streets should be angled parallel to allow the fresh air easy access into the interior of the high density areas. Interior streets should be angled between 0 and 30 degrees for facades to be allowed access to the clean air.
Phase 1.2: New Breezeway Policy
As has been studied, the Buildings Department find it almost impossible to control UBWs in older neighbourhoods. What may be viable, however, is to target particularly troublesome areas. Concentrating on enforcing laws against illegal horizontal signage (see image) specifically along the breezeways will ensure that air can penetrate into the heart of Sham Shui Po.
PEDESTRIAN PATHS. It may seem like a small and insignificant addition, but non-physical barriers such as a line on the pavement may help social distancing in times of epidemics. It worked for cars, why not for people? Pedestrians are naturally guided by barriers on the streets and in this case they are not as invasive as the metal posts that usually line the pavement. It is an intervention that relies on the power of suggestion, not the power of force.
COMPARTMENTALISATION OF INFORMAL MARKETS By accepting the informal stalls that arise on minor roads, the Building Department can formalise them, bringing them more in line with rules and regulations that indoor markets must abide by.
Minor roads provide in-built supports for market stall metal frames. This should help organise the market form and reduce the likelihood of spillover onto
congestion, air paths are also left between the markets and buildings.
Phase 1.3: Pedestrianisation of Breezeways
Districts judge themselves on the cleanliness compared to other districts (Taylor 2011). New interventions in Sham Shui Po must be deliberately in contrast with the remaining area. This is for two reasons. Firstly, it is an unfeasible task for the authorities to depollute the whole district and secondly, by accentuating the process of urban renewal, residents must notice how much better the interventions are compared to their old environment. These areas are subject to the strongest air paths and therefore can afford to be planted with trees which, although slow down airflow, contribute to filtering air pollution, provide natural shading and improve public space. Existing public space.
The main pedestrian areas are now also the areas with the best air circulation in the district
Paths are segregated from transport routes (and reduce transport routes in built up areas, creating heavier polluted main roads but these roads will be dealt with later, putting all the problems into one manageable area).
Pathways connect to existing public space making it easier to access for those residents furthest away.
“Hong Kong’s standards for provision of open space have not been updated for 40 years and are among the lowest in the world.” - ‘Hot, Stacked and Crowded’, a report by Civic Exchange.
“The presence of open public spaces was a major talking point for focus group participants... [the spaces] provide open space and clean air right at the heart ... of Hong Kong.” - ‘Living at Density: Voices of Hong Kong Residents’ by LSE Cities. 166
range of interventions, ranging from planting that is specifically good at absorbing certain air pollutants to mechanical systems that almost act as follies. Their catalogue of different interventions in Taichung, Taiwan is especially relevant as Taiwan and Hong Kong share a similar climate.
residents aware of the pollution and purification that is happening in their neighbourhood. Structures like these would have been a much better investment by the HKHS rather than the purely aesthetic sculptures that 168
were placed instead.
RECALIBRATING EXISTING PEDESTRIAN INFRASTRUCTURE Visual stimulation. Perhaps materials should be
A scientific perspective would tell us to increase
more malleable to airflow to make it even clearer
social distancing but the social aesthetic perspective
to residents that their neighbourhoods are being
tells us that society needs to be seen as functioning
normally for it to function at all. For this reason, social distancing schemes have been incorporated
Private areas in public spaces.
into landscaping schemes. Plant beds segregate the different lanes giving pedestrians a choice of path. All are linear as people still value efficient, non-time-consuming circulation. During times of epidemic where social distancing is key, a choice of paths makes it easier for people to avoid others.
Angled landscaping and the break of large spaces discourages the potential for informal market stalls to congregate and congest these thoroughfares.
Already Hong Kongâ€™s vernacular calls for materials that are suited to being cleaned. In a hot humid climate, materials such as wood splinter and bulk to easily and are replaced with synthetic plastics and ceramic panelling.
Machine washable - cleanable architecture
THE ILLUSION OF CHOICE Hong Kong residents value convenience. Disrupt their fast pace by slowing it down and ‘create a relaxing atmosphere’ would be most architects’ initial response but people would then worry about being out-competed by others. The only available solution is to give the illusion of choice.
The MTR exits have been widened to not only improve accessibility but also as an attempt to give commuters a feeling of more freedom in their journey rather than simply a single, direct route to and from work. True, simply making MTR exits will not achieve this, but a synthesis of planning and design across the whole pedestrianisation scheme could promote a less stressful daily commute.
paradox - Hong Kong residents want to shave off time so that they have more of their own time but this will invariably increase the pace of life which is what they worry will happen.
Phase 2: Height Differences New migrants in the 1950s required a building ordinance that increased the allowable building heights (LSE Cities 2011). There is no reason this cannot be done again. I am ware that to the West of the site the ratio of street width to building height becomes worrying in relation to the urban canyon effect. Ideally streets would become wider the further West across the site one travels. However, as I will later discuss, there are alternatives to this relatively impractical intervention.
Street width to building height is a significant ratio. It is easier to adjust building height enough to make a difference than set back streets.
To ensure unobstructed airpaths, the Building Department should focus on removing roof communities on the East side.
Washing machine structures at major road junctions with the highest congestion levels.
The variety of heights in Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok have actually been flagged as a good example of a diverse building height difference. However, in terms of channelling air into the deepest parts of these neighbourhoods, a concerted collective effort is required.
The indirect implications of height differences across Sham Shui Po is the redistribution of density away from the city centre to the western periphery. Although this moves the population away from the transport and amenities that are so important to them, the pedestrianised breezeways developed in phase 1 should connect these new communities directly to the MTR stations and main commercial hub that is Nathan Road. As mentioned earlier, the redistribution of density to the urban periphery is a development that the economist Xin advocates to improve living conditions.
As the building height increases it may be
This building height has been lowered rather
necessary to perforate the buildings with sky
than increased so as to allow wind to further
penetrate the urban fabric.
Phase 3: Perforation of Urban Form To be able to get air into the stagnant streets that are angled perpendicular to the prevailing wind, the dense Kowloon blocks must be perforated. 1
Better wind flow does not necessarily
mean dedensifying. Here the added height to this building helps recirculate air into the alley between the two buildings. 2
A stack chimney can help extract air in
particularly confined environments like the alley. 3
Some distance needs to be established
between buildings. The best way is to demolish the smallest buildings that have built in the leftover space between blocks. These populations can be moved into Phase 2â€™s new apartments. 4
a set-back on the facades on breezeways
can encourage air to perforate further into the stagnant air zones. Older Kowloon apartments often have balcony segments which could be quite easily demolished to provide this set-back.
1. 2. 3.
In some particularly dense high-rise areas in Mong Kok, it may not be possible to properly perforate or set-back the buildings from the street. In these cases it may be preferable to use wind towers to extract fresh air and pump it into the street level while stack chimneys extract polluted air and expel it above street level.
Stack chimneys may also be an intervention that could be set above particularly harmful junctions where idle engines are the main polluting culprit. 178
Phase 4: Set-back on Major Roads
Major roads through the district that are perpendicular to the prevailing winds i.e. areas with the highest vehicle activity and with poor air circulation, must have their buildings set back from the road. As the buildings nearest the main roads are typically commercial and therefore taller than a normal residential block, they are key contributors to the urban canyon effect. To be able to take the additional traffic that has been displaced by the pedestrianisation of breezeways, it may be that eventually these major roads are expanded.
Trees provide natural sun shading while also filtering pollutants.
Barriers removed to allow unim access.
pedestrianised breezeways Kong Kong residents spend very little time on the street when commuting so the main pedestrian routes have been set along the breezeways to ensure they are exposed to the freshest air for the longest amount of time.
Horizontal signage removed to allow the prevailing wind to flow through.
MTR exits are expanded to decrease the speed of the daily commute.
A choice of path is important when a pedestrian wants to make a choice about joining a crowded or quiet path through the streets. During an epidemic a choice of paths also increases social distancing.
stack chimneys expel street pollution in the most stagnant zones of Mong Kok. 186
In zones that are particularly polluted such as minibus ranks or road junctions, stack chimneys could be placed to extract exhaust fumes.
feasibility study with relevant parties mentioned
a holistic framework
Building heights gradually increase to deflect air into stagnant zones.
Set-backs on major roads, the highest polluters, allows proper circulation. 188
Breezeways parallel to the prevailing wind cut through the dense urban form.
conclusion The study has explored the Hong Kong populacesâ€™ Post-SARS
what stops communities from being more involved in their
perspective on urban health and sought to convene a possible
environment. Already I have explored how much residents
urban model to address real and perceived risks equally.
understand risk in their environment and studied how they
This exploration was an opportunity to disaggregate Hong
have either adapted their habitation or adapted themselves.
Kong into its component problems far enough to firstly identify solutions and secondly to understand how components
Hong Kong is so characterised by its complexity that this
study has only been able to scrape the surface. To deal with this complexity the urban design model has taken an
Three aspects that have emerged and deserve even further
holistic approach to include policies. Additionally, it will be
scrutiny are airflow, the community and its involvement in its
beneficial to see how this new urban model could involve
surroundings and the effect of the city on the first two aspects.
more community participation.
Including Gissenâ€™s wider aesthetic view of pollution (and also
To conclude, air is such an omnipresent feature of all cities that
furthering this idea to an aesthetic view of SARS), rather
to effect it in any way requires a collaborative effort between
than a purely scientific view, has allowed me to keep airflow
diverse governmental and societal bodies.
principles basic enough to be able to weave them into a larger urban design model and general enough to discuss their social impact. By considering how air plays a part in depolluting Sham Shui Po, more specific environmental analysis can now be undertaken to assess the interventions that would be most pertinent to this district. It became progressively clear that various bodies concerned with
community involvement and property rights to develop their neighbourhoods. It is also clear that there must be some resistance to this idea as it appears few of these plans have been instigated. A further study should seek to understand
appendix design brief
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