Inaccessible Air

Related Staff : Eric H Schuldenfrei

Students: Jamie Chan, Liang Chen, Wai Shan Cheung, Oscar Yiu Chung Cheung, Zhen R Huang, Karen Ka Wai Kan, Eddy Yue Pong Kwok, Kin Yip Lau, Yee Ning Liu, Sze Han Ng, Yanessa Wong, Hugh Zong Xi Yao

Inaccessible Air examines Central, one of the densest and most congested urban areas in the world and one of the districts in Hong Kong with the poorest air quality. Working together with the DVRC Initiative, a nonprofit coalition of organisations advocating for the transformation of Des Voeux Road Central into a pedestrian and tram precinct, this studio investigates strategies for creating a new type of linear, catalytic public space in Hong Kong. Going beyond the city’s prevailing technocratic approach to planning, the proposals aim to expand the discussion about the public realm in Hong Kong and its possibilities.

Severe traffic congestion and consistently high levels of air pollution are some of the critical problems facing Des Voeux Road Central. Located in the Central Business District of Hong Kong, the street is one of the busiest and most polluted areas in the city. According to a study conducted by The City University of Hong Kong and Civic Exchange, the air pollution along DVRC is worse than Connaught Road Central and Queen’s Road Central, despite lower traffic flow. Tall buildings with contiguous facades line both sides of DVRC creating a canyon effect which greatly suppresses the dispersion of air pollutants. The unpleasant pedestrian environment drives people to take road transportation even for short walking distances, further exacerbating traffic, congestion and air pollution along DVRC. The studio project aims to spark the public’s imagination about how Des Voeux Road Central can be transformed into a pedestrianized, green thoroughfare—and one of Hong Kong’s great public spaces—in the CBD of Central.

Focusing on the HKU-Columbia University research and collaboration, within the context of the broader initiative, this studio presents both the conceptual and very real possibilities for reimagining Des Voeux Road Central and rethinking the entire Central Business District through design, architecture, and urbanism. The project envisions a highly possible lush-green precinct for pedestrian and trams, reviving the area of abundant public space, cultural elements and artscape. Des Voeux Road Central can be an experimental start, shaping the direction of the city’s future sustainable planning.

As part of the initiative, talks have been held at Asia Society in Hong Kong, Docomomo, and the Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture. An exhibition at Central Market featured the studio designs, a workshop was held for children, postcards describing the work have been created, and a book on the project is forthcoming.

The masterplan and axonometric drawings are created in collaboration with Columbia University GSAPP Studio-X under the direction of Jeffrey Johnson with adviser David Grahame Shane and researchers Li Yang, Boyuan Jiang, Lai Jing Chu, Natasha A. Trice, Akil Matthews, and Julio Cedano.

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