ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Kai Tak

THE BEAUTY OF CONTRADICTIONS, Kowloon Bay (九龍灣), Kowloon, Hong Kong

Between the former manufacturing powerhouse Kwun Tong (觀塘) and the old Kai Tak Airport (啟德機場) lies a vast piece of reclaimed land that is neither bustling nor world famous like its neighbours.   Yet, without this piece of in-between place where the MTR established its headquarters and Kowloon Motor Bus built its largest depot, and where dozens of industrial complexes, cargo centres and godowns called it home, Kai Tak could hardly become the world’s busiest cargo airport, and Hong Kong would lack its essential heart to keep things running.  Reclaimed from the waters of Kowloon Bay in the 1970’s, the district of Kowloon Bay had served as an industrial and logistic centre packed with airplane hangars and cargo storage to support the neighboring airport.  On 6th of July 1998, after Kai Tak Airport closed for good, the destiny of Kowloon Bay fell into the unknown.  In 2001, signals for a new direction for Kowloon Bay began as the district’s designated zoning changed from industrial to business.  A bold statement of the new urban vision emerged in 2007 when the eye-catching MegaBox opened its doors. Capturing the eye from far and near, the red structure instantly became the district’s new icon.  With the city’s first IMAX theatre and largest skating rink, MegaBox is probably Hong Kong’s largest shopping mall.  Since then, industrial complexes and cargo centres were gradually replaced by commercial towers around MegaBox, turning the heart of Kowloon Bay into a mixed-use neighborhood.  Zero Carbon Building opened its door in 2012 across Mega Box as Hong Kong’s first ever carbon neutral architecture. The ZCB signifies another new vision for Kowloon Bay towards a sustainable future.  But the story of revitalizing Kowloon Bay is much more complicated than erecting new structures. Urban redevelopment is not a simple matter of replacing concrete buildings with glassy structures, or overriding an old dream with a new vision. Whether the new developments can attract enough business demands or sustain economic downturns is yet to be seen. And in what way can the creative and efficient spirits of the industrial past perpetuate in the reinvented Kowloon Bay, creating a unique identity for this ever-changing neighborhood?

Thanks to work projects and a good friend who works in the area, we visit Kowloon Bay regularly in the past few years, and have witnessed its evolution like a time-lapse video.  Today, depending on who you ask, some may say that Kowloon Bay is still an industrial hub of Hong Kong, while others may say it is a core business centre of Kowloon East.  Among the cluster of sleek commercial towers, dozens of old industrial blocks packed with small companies and startup businesses are still going strong.  The oddity of seeing multi-level drum ramps of cargo centre standing side by side to glassy office towers, or walking from a wide arterial road designed for trucks and trailers into a network of lush green pedestrian paths catered for healthy jogging often intrigue us. These somewhat contradicting experience in a changing neighborhood offers an interesting urban scenery and a transient beauty.  It is a picture that celebrates the convergence of distinct planning visions, contrasting ambiences, and conflicting visual identities that may seem odd at the first glance.  Yet, the beauty of finding diversity, ambiguity, equilibrium and even contradictions would eventually creep in, especially when seeing the juxtaposition and layering of distinct architecture somehow complementing each other, or the mingling of people in different professions at the same public square.  Singular and segregated zoning was largely a product of industrialization when polluting and noisy industries were separated from residential and commercial centres.  In many cities, especially in North America, highways and railways were often used to demarcate the boundaries of different zones.  As heavy industries shifted away from city centres in recent decades just like the case of Kowloon Bay, many former industrial buildings have become a venue of opportunities for young startups.  Together with financial institutions, restaurants, retail, and other small businesses, these small entrepreneurs would form a diverse urban ecosystem and a multifaceted community.  Would there be room in the revitalization of Kowloon Bay that some industrial components can be retained and reach a harmonic relationship with the new commercial establishments? There is still much more to be seen in the coming years.

Kowloon Bay was once a natural bay in Victoria Harbour stretches between Hung Hom (紅磡) and Kwun Tong (觀塘). Today, the name mainly refers to the mixed-use district of Kowloon Bay between Kai Tak and Kwun Tong, and its MTR station.
Opened in 1979, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is the major public transportation system in Hong Kong. With 10 lines, 167 stations, over five million trips per workday and a 99.9% on-time rate, the MTR is an essential piece of jigsaw of the Hong Kong story. Home to MTR’s headquarters and largest train depot, Kowloon Bay has always played behind the scenes for the city’s operations. [2022]
Completed in 1983 on top of the MTR train depot and station, Telford Gardens (德福花園) contains 41 towers and 4,992 apartments units. This combination of public transportation and housing estate has become an essential and common development model in Hong Kong that also help to fund the expansion of the MTR. [2022]
Linking Kwun Tong with Kai Tak and passing by Kowloon Bay along the way, Wai Yip Street (偉業街) played a pivotal role in connecting the industrial areas of Kowloon East and the former Kai Tak Aiport. [2022]
Established in 1986, the largest bus depot of Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) maintained buses that operating in Kowloon East and Sai Kung, and also all airport buses during the years of Kai Tak Airport. [2022]
A quiet pedestrian street leading towards the bus depot of KMB. [2022]
It’s hard to imagine that some of these sleepy buildings are so crucial for maintaining the dynamic pulse of Hong Kong. [2022]
It is not uncommon for an utilitarian industrial block in Kowloon Bay, such as Hope Sea Industrial Centre (富洋工業中心), to use vivid colours to distinct itself from surrounding buildings, whose height are similar due to planning restricts dated back to the Kai Tak Airport years. [2022]
Home to exhibition halls, conference facilities, sport facilities, retail, cinema, and headquarters of a local TV station, Kowloonbay International Trade & Exhibition Centre (九龍灣國際展貿中心) is another remnant from the twilight years of Kai Tak Airport. [2021]
Many industrial buildings in Kowloon Bay, such as Pacific Trade Centre (太平洋貿易中心), has become a mixed-use building for office and industrial uses. [2022]
With less windows and sturdy walls, many industrial blocks in Kowloon Bay stand like a small fort structure occupying entire street block, including Po Lung Centre (寳隆中心). [2022]
Built in 1983, Sunshine Kowloon Bay Cargo Centre (三湘九龍灣貨運中心) was erected in the heydays of Kai Tak Airport. [2022]
With a prominent drum ramp, cargo trucks can go all the way up to the roof of Sunshine Kowloon Bay Cargo Centre. [2022]
The curved building form of Sunshine Kowloon Bay Cargo Centre 三湘九龍灣貨運中心 (1983), Water Supplies Department Kowloon East Regional Building 水務署九龍東區大樓 (2000), and the Quayside 海濱匯 (2019) echo each other despite their distinct functions and construction time. [2022]
Nicknamed the “cake”, the 1984 constructed Dah Chong Hong (大昌行), a conglomerate with a wide range of businesses from car sales to cosmetic, food, logistics, etc, appears in contrast to the lush green podium facade of China Construction Bank Centre (2011). [2022]
Probably constructed in late 1970’s, the airplane-like Footbridge KF38 belongs to the original phase of Kowloon Bay development, when the primary goal was to construct an efficient industrial and logistic hub. Today, commercial towers and the red MegaBox have gradually replaced the original industrial skyline and dominate the view from the bridge. [2015]
Hardly anyone would refer to the footbridge as KF38. Since 2007, the bridge has appeared in multiple MTVs and movies, including the 2010 popular romantic comedy Love in a Puff (志明與春嬌). Today, the bridge is commonly called Jimmy Bridge (志明橋), named after the main character in the movie. Today, Jimmy Bridge remains as the most popular and Instagrammable attraction in Kowloon Bay. [2020]
Today, the skyline of Kowloon Bay is dominated by glassy towers and the red MegaBox, one of the largest shopping centre in Hong Kong. [2015]
With its vivid colour, MegaBox has been the icon of Kowloon Bay since 2007. [2022]
Across the street from MegaBox, the Zero Carbon Park and its Zero Carbon Building has become the heart of Kowloon Bay in recent years. [2022]
The ZCP offers a leisure public space for both the office and industrial workers of Kowloon Bay. [2022]
Godowns, cargo centres and hazard storage once dominated the southeastern end of Kowloon Bay where it meets Ngau Tau Kok (牛頭角) and Kwun Tong Typhoon Shelter (觀塘避風塘). [2015]
Beyond Kwun Tong Promenade and Kwun Tong Bypass stand the interconnected towers of The Quayside (海濱匯), a recently built office and retail complex in Kowloon Bay. [2019]
The extensive use of shading fins on the curtain wall of the Quayside greatly contribute to the building’s sustainable design standards, interior comfort and long term energy saving. [2019]
Apart from offices for industrial and commercial companies, cultural exhibitions have been introduced to Kowloon Bay, including a Banksy exhibition in 2019 held at FTLife Tower (富通中心). [2019]
The Brahma Shrine (四面佛) at Goldin Financial Global Centre (高銀金融國際中心) signifies the arrival of spiritual elements in Kowloon Bay. [2022]
In the shadow of Kowloon Bay’s commercial towers, Yip On Factory Estate (業安工廠大廈) stand stubbornly against the change of time for four decades. [2022]
Despite fully packed with tenants, Yip On Factory Estate have been scheduled for demolition by the end of 2022. [2020]
News emerged that the two blocks of Yip On Factory Estate would be replaced by new public housing. Given there aren’t much supporting facilities such as grocery shops in central Kowloon Bay, introducing housing development at the heart of the formal industrial district could be a challenge. [2022]
The utilitarian and honest appearance of the old industrial buildings contrasts to the sleek and glassy commercial towers of Kowloon Bay. [2022]
We would likely miss the boldness and horizontality of old industrial buildings in Kowloon Bay. [2022]

BREAKING THE BARRIER, Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊), Hong Kong

In Canada, there has long been a debate of tearing down the elevated Gardiner Expressway in Toronto waterfront. Maintaining the deteriorating and somewhat underused infrastructure has become a burden for the city. As the trend of urban sprawl reversed in recent two decades, land in downtown Toronto, especially along the waterfront of Lake Ontario, has become precious asset for the city. Since 1960’s, the Gardiner has been a prominent barrier that cut off the city from its waterfront. The uninviting wasteland underneath the expressway has prevented most pedestrians walking to the waterfront especially at night. Since 1990’s, studies have been made for replacing the expressway, such as turning it into a tunnel or an urban park like the Highline in New York. Despite all the studies and debates, most of the Gardiner Expressway still remains in Toronto waterfront today. On confronting an aging waterfront expressway that hinders urban development and pedestrian connection, Toronto wasn’t alone. Negative aspects of these waterfront expressway are quite universal: poor waterfront access, wasteland below the structure, discontinued harbourfront, undesirable air ventilation, unattractive streetscape, high maintenance cost, etc. Since 1990’s, a wave of waterfront revitalization projects and demolition of elevated expressways have sprung up across the globe. Double decker Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco was torn down in 1991, and so did Rio de Janerio’s Perimetral Elevated Highway in 2014, and Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct in 2019.

In Hong Kong, sections of elevated expressways flank the Victoria Harbour in Western Kowloon and Eastern Hong Kong Island. The idea of building an expressway in Eastern Hong Kong Island was brought out in 1968 to tackle the traffic problems of King’s Road. It wasn’t until 1980’s that an elevated expressway, namely Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊), was erected between Causeway Bay at the centre of Hong Kong Island and Chai Wan (柴灣) at the eastern end. The expressway includes a viaduct along the harbour between Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣) and Quarry Bay (鰂魚涌), passing by North Point (北角) along the way. East of Quarry Bay, the expressway shifts slightly inland from the coast, leaving a strip of waterfront promenade between Quarry Bay and Shau Kei Wan (筲箕灣). Designating the waterfront for public enjoyment was never the top priority in the 1980’s. From Causeway Bay to Quarry Bay, there are only a few boat landings and viaduct pillar supports where the public can walk out to have a peek of the harbour. In 2008, the authority proposed to construct a waterfront promenade between Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter and Shau Kei Wan. In the past decade, stretches of waterfront promenades have been built to connect the harbourfront from Central to Causeway Bay, up to East Coast Park Precinct. East of Causeway Bay however, the waterfront promenades remain fragmented. After years of speculations, boardwalk constructions under the expressway have finally commenced in North Point. If the works can really deliver a continuous walkway below Island Eastern Corridor, then sooner or later we can walk along the north coast of Hong Kong Island all the way from Central Pier to Aldrich Bay Promenade (愛秩序灣海濱花園) in Shau Kei Wan, via a 9.5km pedestrian path. Then the barrier that separates the harbour from Eastern Hong Kong Island would finally be broken.

Today, about 6.8km of Gardiner Expressway in Toronto is still elevated from the ground. [2013]
The wasteland beneath Gardiner Expressway remains as a barrier between downtown Toronto and the waterfront. [2013]
In Hong Kong, the Island Eastern Corridor begins from Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter at its western end. [2020]
Together with Central-Wan Chai Bypass and Connaught Road West Flyover, Island Eastern Corridor serves as the main artery road on Hong Kong Island known as Route 4. [2020]
From Causeway Bay to Quarry Bay, Island Eastern Corridor is mainly a viaduct that runs along the waterfront of Victoria Harbour. From East Coast Park Precinct to City Garden (城市花園), construction work of a waterfront promenade is still ongoing. [2022]
The majority of Island Eastern Corridor in North Point was built over the water. [2021]
Built in 1984, the monolithic Provident Centre (和富中心) is a spectacle when driving on Island Eastern Corridor. Back then, the building code has little restrictions on the facade length. The continuous facade of Provident Centre has led to a negative impact on ventilation of the local neighborhood. [2014]
In North Point, people can still enjoy the harbour view below the elevated expressway. [2021]
At the end of Tong Shui Road (糖水道), North Point Public Pier has become a public harbourfront lookout for the neighborhood. [2020]
Only a handful of boats would use the pier. For most of the day, the wharf serves as a gathering node for the local community. [2020]
The public pier is particular popular at sunset. [2021]
Many would come to the pier to enjoy the sunset after work. [2021]
Liking it or not, Island Eastern Corridor is part of the waterfront scenery of Eastern Hong Kong. [2021]
At a bend of Hoi Yu Street, an unofficial lookout beneath Island Eastern Corridor is frequented by people who come for recreational fishing. [2020]
The local community even set up their own “footbridge” to reach the outermost pillar support of the expressway. [2021]
The lookout is popular throughout the day. [2016]
While most come for fishing, some would come to the lookout just to chill out by Victoria Harbour. [2020]
The lookout offer fine views of Kowloon East, including the famous Lion Rock (獅子山). [2020]
Kowloon Peak (飛鵝山) is the most dominated feature in Kowloon East. [2021]
The causal lookout has come to an end in recent months, as the space has been boarded off as a construction site for future’s boardwalk project. [2016]
Since the closure of the lookout, people have shifted to other waterfront parks to fish, where proper railing and fixed benches are provided. While the level of safety has improved, the sense of freedom is inevitable compromised in the new setting. [2017]

VICTORIA HARBOUR (維多利亞港), Hong Kong

Before the pandemic, Hong Kong was a highly popular tourist destination in Asia, ranked among the top cities in the world for the number of international visitors. Just like many tourist cities around the globe, tourism in Hong Kong has suffered enormously during the pandemic. The numbers of foreign visitors have plummeted, and the once crowded sights across the city have been largely tourist free. Despite the loss of tourist activities, this situation is prompting the return of Hongkongers to places they would normally avoid before the pandemic. Apart from popular museums, beaches, amusement parks, and shopping centres, waterfront promenades along Victoria Harbour, especially in Tsim Sha Tsui at the tip of Kowloon Peninsula, has always been packed with tourists before the Covid. Just like our childhood years, today we can once again wander freely on the Avenue of Stars or linger in the shadow of the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower without bumping into aggressive tourist groups. At night, the undulating reflections of neon lights, LED billboards, and glittering building facades in the water provides the perfect foreground for the skyline of Central, backed upon the silhouette of Victoria Peak. For decades, this postcard perfect Harbour panorama has served as the impeccable visual representation of Hong Kong’s prosperity and vibrancy, illuminating the legend of a city that never sleeps. Beyond the charming skyline on both sides of the water, the busy Victoria Harbour has much more to offer than just its visual glamour.

In Feng Shui, the traditional Chinese practice that harnesses the energy of surrounding environment, the element “water” is often associated with wealth and fortune. For Hong Kong, this water element can be definitely identified as the Victoria Harbour. From founding of the trading port, to the establishment of Far East’s finance and servicing hub, Victoria Harbour, the 41.88 km2 stretch of sea between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula, has always played a vital role. The Harbour is indeed where the story of Hong Kong begins. Known for its deep and sheltered water, the natural landform of the Harbour was one of the main reasons why Hong Kong was chosen by the British in 1841. Since the mid-19th century, the British put a great deal of effort to establish Hong Kong as their subtropical metropolis in the Far East and commercial gateway into China. The Harbour and its waterfront developments have been at the centre stage of Hong Kong’s evolution every since. To sustain population and economic growth, major land reclamation projects have never ceased to transform the urban extent of the city ever since 1840’s. More office towers, residential complexes, hotels, shopping centres, government buildings, museums, convention centre, stadiums, cruise terminals, promenades, piers, etc. would be erected after each reclamation scheme, redrawing the urban coastline at least once in every generation.

For many neighborhoods in the city, Victoria Harbour is always just a few blocks away. Exploring the everchanging waterfront areas is an interesting way to understand the past, present and future of Hong Kong. Our next series of posts will do exactly that.

British, American and Dutch ships and Chinese junks sailed through the calm waters of Victoria Harbour in 1855, under the shadow of the majestic Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island. [Painting by unknown painter, Public Domain]
165 years later, Victoria Peak has been dwarfed by the skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island. [Photo taken at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
Throughout history, Hong Kong has always been a gateway of the Far East for the West. In the past 180 years, uncounted vessels have passed through Victoria Harbour. [Photo of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon Peninsula beyond, taken by Felice Beato, 1860, Public Domain]
Taking in the business district of Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsular across Victoria Harbour from Victoria Peak (太平山) has always been one of the most popular panoramic views for tourists. [Photograph by Denis H. Hazell, 1925, University of Bristol – Historical Photographs of China reference number: Bk09-05, CC BY_NC_ND 4.0]
Today, the iconic panorama from Victoria Peak (太平山) is dominated by the closely packed skyscrapers and the splendid bend of Victoria harbour. The serenity of the Harbour during the pandemic was a rarity in the city’s 180 years of history. [Photo taken from Lugard Road, Victoria Peak, 2020]
After several rounds of land reclamation, the coastline of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon have gone through dramatic transformations. The width of Victoria Harbour has been drastically reduced in the past century and a half. [Display about land reclamation of Hong Kong Island since 1842. Photo taken at Wanchai (灣仔) waterfront promenade, 2021]
In the mid 19th century, the extent of the city’s commercial district was limited to Central (中環) on Hong Kong Island. [Photography by John Thomson, 1868/1871, Public Domain]
While Central (中環) and Sheung Wan (上環) continue to serve as the city’s central business district, the panoramic skyline of Hong Kong has dramatically expanded along the north shore of Hong Kong Island, and the waterfront of Kowloon Peninsula across the Harbour. [Skyline of Central taken in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
The northwestern limit of Victoria Harbour is dominated by Kwai Tsing Container Terminals (葵青貨櫃碼頭), once the world’s busiest container port between 1992 to 2004. Serving as the biggest intermediary trading hub between China, Southeast Asia and the West, international logistics means big business in Hong Kong ever since the 19th century. [Kwai Tsing Container Terminals taken at the waterfront of Sheung Wan, 2021]
Before WWII, the Triangular Pier (三角碼頭) at Victoria Harbour in Sheung Wan (上環) was one of the busiest trading ports in Asia. The pier has long disappeared after land reclamation, but the century-old trading companies and shops selling all kinds of imported dried seafood, spices, herbs, and food merchandises survive to the present day. [Photo taken at intersection of Eastern Street and Des Voeux Road West, 2021]
From West District to North Point, a 5.5km promenade along the north coast of Hong Kong Island is set to open at the end of 2021. [Photo taken at Admiralty Waterfront, 2021]
The western end of Victoria Harbour is marked by the District of Kennedy Town (堅尼地城) on Hong Kong Island (left). Beyond the Kennedy Town and the small islands of Green Island (青洲), Kau Yi Chau (交椅州), and Peng Chau (坪洲), the ridges on Lantau Island (大嶼山) form a distant backdrop for the Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
The reclamation land of West Kowloon is split between the 17-venue West Kowloon Cultural District (西九文化區), the high-end residential and commercial development of Union Square and the High Speed Railway Station. [Photo taken at Sai Ying Pun Waterfront, 2021]
Since 2014, the 60m Ferris wheel known as Hong Kong Observation Wheel in Central offers visitors a new vantage point to enjoy the scenery of Victoria Harbour. [Central Piers and HKOW as seen from Admiralty Waterfront, 2021]
The parabola gesture of the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀) marks the southern tip of Kowloon Peninsula. [Photo taken at Wanchai Waterfront, 2021]
The Ocean Terminal Deck offers the perfect place to take in the iconic skyline of Hong Kong, especially after dusk. [Photo taken at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
For a fare less than 0.50 USD, the Star Ferry offer the most pleasant way to enjoy Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
The 88-storey, 415m International Finance Centre (IFC) on Hong Kong Island (left), and the 108-storey, 484m International Commercial Centre (ICC) in Kowloon (right) tower above the tranquil water of the Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken at Wanchai waterfront, 2020]
A number of typhoon shelters dot around Victoria Harbour, offering safe refuges for fishing boats and yachts during typhoons. [Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣) Typhoon Shelter with skyline of Central beyond, 2020]
The West Kowloon Cultural District (西九文化區) is finally taking shape after 20 years of planning and construction delays. In a few year’s time, a few more cultural venues would be constructed below the 108-storey ICC. [Photo taken from Tai Hang, 2018]
The northeastern waterfront of Hong Kong Island is dominated by the vehicular expressway Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊). [Photo taken from Hung Hom Waterfront, 2020]
The waterfront of Eastern Kowloon stand the new business districts of Kowloon Bay (九龍灣) and Kwun Tong (觀塘), and the former airport runway of Kai Tak (啟德). [Photo taken from North Point Ferry Pier, 2021]
Between Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門) and Shau Kei Wan (筲箕灣), the narrow passage of Lei Yue Mun marks the eastern gateway of Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken from Devil’s Peak in Lei Yue Mun, 2020]
The best moment to appreciate the panoramic view of Victoria Harbour is the magic moment at dusk. [Photo taken from Red Incense Burner Summit, 2020]