Creating an oasis of calm in the crowded city of Hong Kong

Buro Happold is proud to be working with Scott Myklebust of M CO Design to enhance the built environment for people who live and work in one of the world’s most densely populated cities

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Hong Kong’s Central District is a visual cacophony of vertiginous high rise developments crammed within a network of narrow streets. Living and working in these surroundings can be described as busy at best, claustrophobic at worst.

Building on our previous successful collaboration, which realised the visionary Dragons Link Bridge on the outskirts of the city, M CO Design and Buro Happold are working together to rectify this imbalance. We propose to introduce some much-needed green space within the cramped confines of the Central District, transforming the historic Central Market site into an expansive urban plaza for the local community to enjoy.

History of the Central Market

From the earliest days of the British Colonial period in 1841 to just 14 years ago in 2003, this area has been the site of Hong Kong’s Central Market. Over the years, the marketplace has been re-envisaged in five different architectural incarnations – but although it’s appearance has changed, its role as the beating heart of the Central District has never wavered.

The site today

Having lain unoccupied for over a decade, the existing 1939 Bauhaus style building that once housed the Central Market is now in a dilapidated state. Yet the site still performs a vital role in city life, providing a pedestrian walkway that connects the main arteries of Queen’s Road and Des Voeux Road in the centre of Hong Kong. This puts a high land value on the site, in addition to its emotional importance for many of the city’s residents.

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Our vision

The project team has been working with Designing Hong Kong to explore options for this site. Taking inspiration from its history as a nucleus of social interaction, we wanted to unlock the area’s potential to once again serve the needs of the local community.

We felt that the best way to improve life for the people of Hong Kong would be to create an expansive public plaza, which will provide much-needed open space within the congested cityscape. An elegant, elevated walkway will traverse the plaza, maintaining the important pedestrian link while giving people an uplifting view of the green landscape as they pass overhead.

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This is a great idea! The old Central Market building has been left underutilised for a long time. In a truly global city like Hong Kong this asset, in the heart of the business district, must be redeveloped either by re-purposing the existing building or, more excitingly, by replacement with a bold new facility, as proposed here.

The proposal to create a green space, which provides people with room to breathe in Central whilst maintaining the connectivity to the walkway and escalator system, would be a fantastic addition to the public realm.
Nick Greenwood
Asia Regional Director, Buro Happold

Forging a better future

By embracing and continuing the site’s essential communal role in city life, we aim to establish a new social hub for the Central District. As well as creating a welcome oasis of green amid the grey cityscape, the expansive plaza will offer visual relief from the surrounding winding streets and high rise developments.

Research has proven that providing people with green space in which to meet, interact and relax is intrinsic to maintaining health and wellbeing in our increasingly stressful urban environments. That’s why we believe that taking this opportunity to transform the disused Central Market site into a community space will add immeasurable value to Hong Kong in the long term.

All images published with permission from M CO Design

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