Shaping the Central Harbourfront of Hong Kong

By Bert Bulthuis

The Hong Kong harbourfront is a well-known and important place for most citizens of Hong Kong. It is obvious that in recent years some major changes have taken place to make the waterfront more accessible.

In fact, the park at Tamar has become a much used public space and further plans are underway to connect the Central waterfront to that of Wan Chai.  A 2011 masterplan study of the HK SAR Government gives future perspective on this area between the Central Ferry Piers and the Wan Chai Convention Center. As a citizen of Hong Kong I have enjoyed this upgraded accessibility a lot, which has extended my ambles to the Sun Yat Sen Park in Sai Ying Pun and, hopefully at a later stage, on to Kennedy Town.

One of the core locations within the waterfront development is the area between Statue Square and Jardine House to the south, the IFC to the west and the ferry piers to the north, now known as, ‘Location 3’.

Figuur1Location 3

The Location 3 lot includes the Central Post Office and the car park at Connaught Road Central, both of which will be demolished, according to the development brief of the government. While the Central Post Office is not a monument, it is very much a valued part of the Hong Kong collective memory. The five-storey building was erected in 1976 to replace Hong Kong Post’s previous Edwardian-era headquarters at the junction of Des Voeux Road Central and Pedder Street. Though less of a ‘wow’ building than its predecessor, its high ceilings and airy spaciousnedss make it a rarity here. People’s love of the building has activated this faction to strive for the integration of the old building within the new rather than erasing the past altogether. My personal opinion is that it would be wonderful to integrate the Central Post Office because mixing the old with the new provides a city with more ‘time-layers’, and as such, a city becomes more diverse and interesting.

20180619_124713Central Post Office at the edge of Location 3

20180619_124634Empty space at Location 3

To integrate or not to integrate was one of the talking points at the ULI (Urban Land Institute) Asia Pacific and ULI Hong Kong-organized summit from 5-7 June, when, on the last day of the summit, a closed workshop was organized on the development of Location 3. The main objective was to brainstorm on the development process and come up with recommendations to the Government on how to add a clearer benchmark of quality to the development brief. This involved looking at different mechanisms for the land tender to trigger the highest guarantees for urban and architectural quality.

The Dutch Chamber received an invitation to participate in the high profile symposium and Muriel Moorrees, General Manager of the Dutch Chamber, proposed me to be present among the group of urban planners, real estate developers, project managers and representatives of official organisations such as the Chambers of Commerce.

20180607_122751Tom Murphy: Case Studies

The Hong Kong workshop took place at the Standard Chartered Bank Building in Central and counted some 45 attendees. City planners, real estate developers, project managers and architects from all over the world were present at the informal yet professional event. Following in-depth introductions on the location by David Faulkner of Colliers International and a presentation of global case studies by Tom Murphy of ULI Washington, the general planning brief of Location 3 was discussed among the group as a whole. Two of the main conclusions of the case studies were generally accepted by the group. The first was that adding an incentive system for quality public space within the development would be a great tool to guarantee urban quality (Case study, Hudson Yards, New York).

Hudson-Yards-RenderingHudson Yards, New York

The second conclusion was that using a Master Plan Framework (MPF) would be beneficial. That is, a framework in which all the potentials of the location would be intensely researched and described before any bidding process were to take place (Case study, Barangaroo, Sydney). This would establish a quality benchmark before the bidding, as well as a tool for developers to create a design and bid, perfectly suited to the high potential location. The public consultation is best begun while the MPF is underway.

Barangaroo2Barangaroo, Sydney

Four panels were formed to deliver specific recommendations for the location and the process. As an architect and representative of the Dutch Chamber, I was assigned to the group guiding principles for design and development. The discussion was lively and we came up with some possible additions to the development brief, aimed to guarantee greater urban and architectural quality from the outset. These included:

– Specifying the public access and amenity requirements, thus defining an open space goal and guarantee of public access.

The quality of public space is very important in city building and particularly so in a space such as Hong Kong. My firm, Sitec Studio is a big advocate of the design of public space as a context for buildings, and, only then, the design of public space as part of a building (for instance, the IFC).  I would prefer the location to be cut in two or three parts and organised around designed public space. However this is not the perspective of the developers of Location 3 who prefer a ‘one-location approach’.

– Specifying mixed use requirements to include hotels and serviced apartments.

Mixed use of the location will guarantee 24-hour city activity and ensure that the area  really be part of the city.

Requiring that the process looks beyond the lines of the exact location to guarantee great connectivity to the rest of the harbourfront and adjoining properties.

A city’s quality depends on the whole fabric in which a development can play a connective part.

– Developing a bonus system/incentive system to promote public amenities including social housing.

This mechanism would create additional value to the development, streaming a small part of the profit back into improving the city’s quality of life including building much needed social housing and special needs group housing  in other areas of Hong Kong.

– Creating an incentive to the developer on sustainability measures including seawater cooling.

A high level of sustainability is the basis, though the aim should be for maximum circularity and sustainability. By creating an incentive for this aim, we hope to create a beautiful example of sustainability and circularity in the heart of the city.

The recommendations of the four groups were shared among all attendees and will shortly be summarized and published by the Urban Land Institute Hong Kong.

The June summit was a worthwhile discussion of a high profile location with specialists from around the world giving their input to the HK SAR government. Together we will be able to say that we built this city.

 

Bert Bulthuis is the founder and chief architect at Sitec Studio Hong Kong and member of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong.

 

 

 

 

Hof van Thorbecke

Sitec Studio is currently working on the Hof van Thorbecke, an urban design project of 24 apartments and two houses in Zwolle, The Netherlands. The project is situated on a prime location along the Thorbeckegracht canal, Friesewal and Kanonsteeg.

urban plan

The Urban plan creates a natural connection between the Kraanbolwerk development and the historical city fabric.HF6hf3

Hof van Thorcke urban plan 05

 

Hof van Thorbecke , residential complex , Sitec Studio Architecture

The strength of the fabric and the mix of architecture from different centuries is an important characteristic of Dutch historical inner cities.

Studio SITEC is a strong advocate of the preservation of this fabric. But at the same time, we work with modern contextual architecture to maintain the dynamics of these inner cities.

Where the original fabric is lost, a careful reconstruction is advised; and where there is no historical fabric, a careful contextual insert is supplied. The latter is the basic idea for our urban insert in this specific location.

Around a newly created square, we are developing three different architectural buildings. Each has its own style and this creates a family of objects around the square: different but still related.  This style is also developed on the outer boundaries of the plan to create contextual architecture, both in architecture and building program. The existing monument building remains intact and has been incorporated into a plan which honors the historicity of the building and its surroundings.

The building stage has recently begun and the piling finished. Because of the  vulnerability of the surrounding historical buildings, a special less invasive technique has been used (mortar screw piles). The basement of the apartments along the Thorbeckegracht is under construction.

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A New Club on the SS VIRGO

Refurbishment of a floating resort

The three back decks of the SS Virgo, a 879-foot passenger cruise ship had been used as children’s playgrounds and an outside eating area. To attract a new and younger crowd to the ship, a new concept, ‘Beatship’, was developed. This party concept comes alive every time the ship anchors in Hong Kong. Sitec Studio was asked to design the club.

Key to this challenging project was that the onsite works had to be carried out while the ship was fully operational.

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The main back deck (8,800 ft2) on level 10 was transformed into a party zone with DJ booth, video screens, dancing podiums and leisure pools with love seats.
Samsung 20 juli 2015 540Samsung 20 juli 2015 536

Samsung 20 juli 2015 543

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Curved bars were added, the longest over 20 meters (225ft), from which can enjoy a magnificent view of the sea while having a cocktail.

The two second decks (level 11, 4,300 ft2)  were transformed into a VIP club zone with different types of seating, jacuzzis and bars.

The third deck (level 12, 7,200 ft2), a little more remote from the bustle of the party zone, was transformed into an outdoor sports bar including snooker, beer pong and various seating areas. This zone is mainly used as a pre-or post-party zone.
SS VIRGI, sportsbar,3, Sitec Studio, Bert Bulthuis (4)SS VIRGI, sportsbar,2, Sitec Studio, Bert Bulthuis (3)
The interior children’s playground was transformed into the Diamond Club, used as an entrance zone for parties on the decks and a quiet bar zone.
SS VIRGO, entrance zone, bar, 04, Sitec Studio, Bert Bulthuis (4) - Copy

SS VIRGO, entrance zone, bar, 03, Sitec Studio, Bert Bulthuis (3) - CopySS VIRGO, entrance zone, bar, 01, Sitec Studio, Bert Bulthuis (1) - Copy

Around 1,000 guests can attend a party on the ship. These parties take place overnight on the open sea, after which the ship returns to Tsim Sha Tsui Harbour in Hong Kong’s Kowloon for breakfast.

Bulthaup Studio, The Netherlands

A modern element in a historical context

17th century monument with 21st century extension

Respect for the old is a nice virtue. Europe’s historical cities consist of a mix of architecture from the Middle Ages to the present organised on a 15th, 16th or 17th century urban fabric.

The strength of the fabric and the mix of architecture from different centuries is an important characteristic of Dutch historical inner cities.

Studio SITEC is a strong advocate of the preservation of this fabric. But at the same time, we work with modern contextual architecture of this time to maintain the dynamics of these inner cities.

Where the original fabric is lost, a careful reconstruction is advised; and where there is no historical fabric, a careful contextual insert is supplied (See project, Hof van Thorbecke).

Returning to the project at hand, the monument building which would be part of the new Bulthaup kitchen studios was formerly a warehouse belonging to the rich merchant houses at the Thorbeckegracht.

Later, existing small houses, like those on the Assiesplein, were demolished. The back elevation of the monument became visible to the street.

The elevation was, wrongly (according to history) upgraded as if it was a historical front elevation.

A main feature of the new plan was the restoration of the historical fabric by adding new volume at the north side, at the Assiesplein. In this way, the historical profile together with the 18th century prison (now Librije’s hotel) has been restored.

FOTOwerk walter frisart-610_4277-01The architecture is a modern interpretation of a historical volume with a pitched roof. A copper slab has been folded in the shape of a house, but on the east side, it has been folded back into  a horizontal position to open volume onto the small green square. The front of the volume is a completely open elevation, but with double wooden window frames to put the architecture into context.

FOTOwerk walter frisart-610_4288-05

Between old and new, the two volumes have been cut loose and light enters the building. A vertical window and a lower architectural connector on the outside, and a glass bridge and void in the interior complete this subtle connection between old and new.

FOTOwerk walter frisart-610_4744-14

The project  was commissioned and built for  Bulthaup Keukenpresentatie Zwolle. The kitchen studio uses the lower two floors. Under the pitched roofs, there are three inner city apartments with a separate entrance.

FOTOwerk walter frisart-610_4738-12