Every city has different ground: Barcelona may have wide pavements, Bangkok may possibly have narrow pavements; London offers buses, Lisbon offers trams. The list goes on. However in central Hong Kong, it is possible to walk all day without ever having to set foot on the ground. As the heart of Asia’s world city, Hong Kong has become modern in every aspect and its electronic, elevated walkways in particular have captivated travellers from all over the world.
Positioned on the coast of southern China, Hong Kong’s geographical location has made it an attractive centre for international trade throughout history. Hong Kong has also grown enormously in the world of business and technology. However the rapid development, increase in population and limited growing space has meant the islands have relied on upward building. On the hilly landscape, with a multitude of people dashing from place to place, the elevated walkway has blossomed as a concept.
The city consists of an intricate network of elevated bridges, floating walkways and suspended passages, which both local people and visitors may use to get around easily. Some elevated walkways are electronic and moving, similar to ones in airports- where the ground is sped up electronically, with a handrail on the side, to assist rushed and late travellers, however the ones in Hong Kong tend to cover quite steep slopes.
Branches of escalators and stairs continuously connect onwards and upwards, to the extent that travellers are even unclear as to what altitude they are at, how far from the street they have been elevated or when they may need to get off. One of the best things about the walkways, other than the fact they are free of charge, is that they intertwine throughout the whole city. A real contrast of landscapes is visible- a New-York-style skyline, an area of vast, green space and a world renowned modern harbour.
It is these contrasts that help make Hong Kong refreshing, unique and special. More than 200 islands make up the city, each so different in terms of landscape and culture. However to make areas more easily distinguishable, there are three main “areas” known as Lantau Island, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The international airport of Hong Kong is located in Lantau Island, where the runway is situated only metres from the sea, in fact on land reclaimed from the sea.
Lantau Island is also home to the world’s tallest outdoor bronze-seated Buddha, called Tian Tan Buddha. Completed in 1993, with a height of 34 metres and a weight of 250 metric tonnes, it is a popular attraction for tourists. To get to the Buddha, travellers must board a cable car to travel 5.7 kilometres to get to the top of the mountain. They must then climb 268 steps to the base of the Buddha to be rewarded at the top, with incredible views ranging across forested mountain landscape to quaint fishing villages on the coast.
The Buddha’s left hand is rested on his lap, whilst the right is raised, representing protection and health. What is unique about the Big Buddha is that the statue faces north, whilst other great Buddha statues all face south. This is because Beijing is in the northern direction and since the Chinese contributed to the construction of the Buddha, it was positioned in this direction as an act of gratitude.
Hong Kong Island is the historical, political and economic centre. On the southern shore of the island sits Victoria Harbour, representing the very deep root from which the development of Hong Kong originated, with its large trade shipping industry. The northern part of the Island, together with Kowloon forms the core urban area of Hong Kong and contains 48 percent of Hong Kong’s total population- about 3.5 million people- making it one of the most densely populated places on Earth.
The elevated walkways that connect the city are just an example of how they may utilise the available space and transform it into a faster and more efficient way to get around. Hong Kong has and aims to continue to grow and as it does so, so might the innovative and modern architectural designs which that attract an array of travellers from across the globe.
How might other cities learn from Hong Kong’s architecture?