ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “pier

NORTH POINT PIER (北角碼頭), North Point (北角), Hong Kong

For several occasions a year, usually in summer, fiery red skies would blanket Victoria Harbour. People at both sides of the harbour would flock to the waterfront after work to take photos of the beautiful skies. For me, the closest harbourfront lookout is North Point Pier, a public ferry pier situated below the expressway Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊) at the northernmost point of Hong Kong Island. Built in 1963, North Point Pier connects Hong Kong Island with Kowloon City, Hung Hom, and Kwun Tong in Kowloon. Together with the adjacent bus terminal and MTR station, the pier has established North Point as a transportation hub in eastern Hong Kong Island. But for many, North Point Pier is much more than just a transport interchange. It is also a community node where neighbours mingle, a dog park, a fishing spot for retirees, a dining destination, a seafood market, a venue for the controversial fish release ceremonies for Buddhist believers, and most recently, a hotspot for real estate investors. For us, North Point Pier is where we would hop on and off bus 23 to and from work, and have Japanese omurice or Vietnamese pho for lunch at the new Harbour North Shopping Centre (北角匯) below the luxury apartments of “Victoria Harbour” (海璇). Awkwardly, “Victoria Harbour” here is used as the name of the real estate development, the project that pushed up the record square foot rate of North Point to HK$65,846 (US$ 8,400) in 2018.

But North Point Pier was not always about money and luxurious living. Back in my childhood, North Point Pier was also home to North Point Estate (北角邨), a public housing estate comprised of seven 11-storey blocks with a total of 1,956 flats. Completed in 1957, the famous social housing complex was designed by architect Eric Cumine. With its convenient location at city centre, North Point Estate was a highly popular social housing estate back at its heyday. In late 1980’s, I often come to take lessons with Mr. Ip, a dedicated art teacher and traditional Chinese painter. I still remember walking in the open corridors and stairs of the housing complex where sea breeze would come all the way to the unit doors. Many residents would keep their doors open behind the metal gates so that sea breeze could reach their living spaces. Through the gate, I would count on seeing Mr. Ip’s paintings, images of Virgin Mary and photos of Mrs. Ip’s visit to the Vatican on the wall to ensure that I had arrived at the right flat for my art lessons. North Point Estate was cleared in 2002 and demolished in 2003. The land was subsequently sold to a local real estate developer and became what we now know as “Victoria Harbour”.

Several days ago, the vivid skies over Victoria Harbour had attracted many arrive at North Point Pier. [2022]
From North Point Pier, the skyline of East Kowloon was blanketed under the burning skies. [2022]
North Point Estate in 1989 [Photo by Benjwong at Wikipedia, public domain]
The skyline of North Point Ferry Pier after North Point Estate was demolished. [2014]
The skyline of North Point Ferry Pier after the luxury apartments of “Victoria Harbour” was erected. [2021]
North Point Pier includes a number of ferry docks extending out to the sea below the expressway Island Eastern Corridor. [2022]
Some of the old vehicular ferries have been converted into cruise ferry for tourists. [2021]
Since 1960’s, North Point Pier offer ferry services to Kwun Tong. [2022]
Another wing of the pier offer ferry services to Hung Hom and Kowloon City. [2022]
The pier is flanked by two rows of fishmongers and seafood shops. [2021]
Not much has been changed inside the pier in the past few decades. [2018]
It is a pleasant way to end the day by taking the ferry in Victoria Harbour. [2022]
North Point Pier is a great place to enjoy the scenery of Victoria Harbour and East Kowloon. [2021]
Kowloon Peak and the skyline of Kowloon Bay is the perfect backdrop for a ferry journey across Victoria Harbour. [2021]
Looking back to North Point Pier from a ferry journey. [2021]
Luxury apartments of “Victoria Harbour” replace the social housing estate North Point Estate in 2018. [2022]
The new North Point Promenade (北角海濱花園), residential and hotel development replace the former North Point Estate. [2021]
North Point Promenade (北角海濱花園) is a pleasant venue for an evening stroll. [2020]
Across Victoria Harbour from North Point, Lion Rock (獅子山) is the most iconic feature at Kowloon side. [2022]
View of Lion Rock from an art installation at North Point Promenade. [2021]
Lion Rock beyond North Point Pier. [2022]
Lion Rock beyond North Point Pier. [2021]
Adjacent to the pier, Java Road Market offers a popular dining destination for the North Point community. [2020]
Tung Po Kitchen (東寶小館), the most popular eatery at Java Road Market, offers beer by traditional Chinese bowls. [2020]

LANDMARKS FOR THE LOCALS, North Point (北角), Hong Kong

What does “fort”, “oil”, “electric”, “power”, and “wharf” have in common? They are all street names in North Point that reveals the neighborhood’s strategic location and utilitarian past. The “fort” or battery hill is long gone, leaving behind a parkette up on Fortress Hill Road that even local residents may not know about its existence, and the name “Fortress Hill” that defines the westernmost area of North Point District. The former oil depot, powerplant and wharf facilities that gave us the street names “oil”, “electric”, “power”, and “wharf” have all been replaced by high density residential developments. In the 20th century, North Point has gone through series of transformations, from just a defensive battery at the northernmost point of Hong Kong Island and a cluster of infrastructure facilities that supported the adjacent Victoria City, to an area teeming with domestic life where amusement park, theatres, swim sheds, department stores, and red-light businesses sprang up and then mostly faded away. Due to a large influx of mainland immigrants in mid 20th century, especially the Hokkien Fujianese and Shanghaiese, North Point has become the most densely populated place on earth in late 1960’s, according to the Guinness Book of Records. Today, the urban density of North Point may no longer ranked top of the world, but a stroll on King’s Road, the district’s main thoroughfare where blocks after blocks of concrete apartments encroaching in all directions, can still be disorienting for many.

Published by Hong Kong Art Centre as part of “Via North Point” art programme in 2020, a local magazine did a poll with a group of local residents about their favorite landmarks in North Point. Unlike the monumental and glamorous urban icons in Central or Tsim Sha Tsui, their top five selected landmarks include two theatres, a pier, a market and even a street intersection. For them, these daily scenery have defined the collective identity and a sense of belonging for the community. For us who have been working in the adjacent Quarry Bay for the past eight years, North Point is also an area we would pass by almost everyday. We share some of their sentiments and also find beauty from these what may seem like ordinary street scenery by first glance. Here are their top five favorite landmarks in North Point:

NO. 5: King’s Road (英皇道) and the North Point Road (北角道) Intersection (4.3%)

Being the most important thoroughfare in North Point, King’s Road is probably the street that most residents in the neighborhood would visit on a daily basis. [2014]
Densely packed concrete buildings abutting each other is a common scene in King’s Road. [2014]
Taking the tram is probably the best way to experience King’s Road. [2017]
With a concrete footbridge, an apartment block painted with eyecatching red outlines, and a rail junction where the tram turns into Chun Yeung Street Market, the intersection of King’s Road and North Point Road is a well recognized intersection in North Point. [2021]
Against the backdrop of eye-catching Coronet Court (皇冠大廈), even a simple footbridge can be photogenic. [2022]
Coronet Court (皇冠大廈) dominates visually at the street intersection even if one is not facing the building. [2022]
From the footbridge at North Point Road, scenery of King’s Road can be neatly framed. [2022]
Somehow, openings of the footbridge match perfectlynfine with the round corner of the adjacent building. [2021]
At North Point Road, some trams would divert from King’s Road and make a detour into Chun Yeung Street Market. [2022]

NO. 4: State Theatre (皇都戲院) 8.7%

Now under scaffolding, the listed former cinema awaits for its turn of rejuvenation. Opened in 1952, the unique concrete structural arches on the roof have make the former cinema a one-of-a-kind building in the city. [2021]

NO.3 : North Point Pier (北角碼頭) 10.9%

Offering the most prominent harbourfront promenade in the area, North Point Pier has been a local’s favourite for years. [2020]

NO. 2: Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) 17.4%

Founded by Shanghainese emigrants in the 1950’s, Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) is the most important theatre in Hong Kong to showcase Cantonese opera. [2020]
Neon sign of Sunbeam Theatre has been a prominent feature in North Point for decades. [2022]
Sunbeam Theatre features Cantonese opera all year round. [2022]

NO.1: Chun Yeung Street Market (春秧街街市) 21.7%

Appeared on foreign travel shows and guidebooks, Chun Yeung Street Market is no doubt the most well known attraction of North Point. Named after a wealthy sugar tycoon Koeh Chhun-iong (郭春秧) who bought a huge lot of North Point in 1921, Chun Yeung Street Market has been a busy commercial street for a century. [2017]
Bisected by the tram railroad right in the middle, Chun Yeung Street Market is renowned as the only railroad market in Hong Kong. [2022]
Known as Little Fujian, Chun Yeung Street Market is a great place to find traditional Fujianese and Chiuchow food. [2022]
Double Happiness Noodle has been a fixture at the street market for half a century. [2015]
Many come to Chun Yeung Street Market for seafood at bargain prices in the evening. [2014]
While Chun Yeung Street Market is famous for produce, meat and seafood, the adjacent Marble Road Market is filled with stalls selling all kinds of dried goods. [2015]
To many, Chun Yeung Street is a great spot for urban photography. [2022]
Handcrafted souvenir mahjong tiles depict the landmarks of North Point, including Chun Yeung Street Market in the far left, then Sunbeam Theatre (second from left), and North Point Pier (third from left).

LANDMARKS IN FORTRESS HILL:

Situated between Causeway Bay and the heart of North Point, Fortress Hill (炮台山) has long been under the radar. In recent months, East Coast Park Precinct in Fortress Hill has emerged as one of the hottest new attractions in Hong Kong. Apart from the harbourfront lookout, the following two spots in Fortress Hill are also gaining popularity on Instagram as well.

Oi! Art Space (油街實現), Former Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club

Oi! Street Art Space is housed in the former Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club headquarters and clubhouse. [2022]
Serving as the former Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club headquarters and clubhouse between 1908 and 1939, the masonry building is now a Grade II historic building and a popular landmark in the neighborhood. [2022]
Oi! Street Art Space is an inviting community art centre. [2017]
Small art exhibitions would sometimes be held at Oi! Street Art Space. [2017]
Open to both Electric Road and Oil Street, Oi! Street Art Space is a highly welcoming node for the community. [2017]

Staircase at Fortress Hill MTR Station

Thanks to IG and blogs, perhaps the most recognizable landmark in Fortress Hill is the checkered staircase right by Fortress Hill MTR Station. [2017]

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]

FAIR WINDS AND FOLLOWING SEAS: Goodbye Fenwick Pier (分域碼頭), Wan Chai (灣仔), Hong Kong

Earlier version of Fenwick Pier and the Servicemen’s Guides Association at the waterfront of Gloucester Road, with the Royal Navy Dockyard in Admiralty at the back. [Photographed in 1962, wikimedia commons, public domain]

On 2 February 2022, we had our final visit to Gia Trattoria Italiana, an Italian restaurant at Fenwick Pier in Wan Chai. Two months have passed, and we have already missed their Bistecca alla Fiorentina, lobster pasta, and all the delightful moments we spent at the restaurant. A few days after our February visit, the restaurant was closed for good, as the government decided to terminate the lease of Fenwick Pier. The pier was set for demolition and the site would be redeveloped into a fire-station. A little out of the way from the closest MTR station, the 4-storey pier building looked a little worn out, with paint peeling off here and there. Occupying a small piece of land less than 150m inland from the new Wan Chai Harbourfront, the utilitarian box structure probably wouldn’t be missed if it was just an ordinary building. But Fenwick Pier was no ordinary building. For two months before returning the closing the pier, people flocked to Fenwick Pier to photograph and bid farewell to this remnant from the colonial times. The nostalgic visitors even formed a queue outside the gate in the midst of pandemic. For the latter half of 20th Century, Hong Kong was the first port of call in Asia for many American seamen and navy personnel, while Fenwick Pier served like the arrival gateway in the city. The pier fulfilled its duty till the very end, offering foreign sailors and seamen free guidebooks, free local sim cards, transportation shuttles, tourist information, shops and services such as tailoring, hairdressing, souvenirs, etc. Local Hongkongers could also join the pier membership right at the door, so that they could enjoy the facilities in the complex. Fenwick Pier offered locals a “taste of America” from fast food to fine dining, and foreign seamen a place where they could enjoy products and services that defined the concept of East meets West.

While 2022 marks the end for Fenwick Pier, and its NGO operator, the Servicemen’s Guides Association (SGA – 香港軍人輔導會), the story began in 1953 with a humble information desk on the sidewalk next to Fenwick Street to serve the arriving American military sailors during the Korean War. Later on, the SGA was granted by the colonial government a small piece of land to establish the Fenwick Pier. The pier was moved and rebuilt a few times due to typhoon damages and land reclamation, until 1970 when the current building was erected. In 1994, Fleet Arcade (海軍商場), the 4-storey shopping centre, was founded serving mainly visiting sailors. As incoming vessels have significantly declined since 1997 and the pier became landlocked in 2016 due to land reclamation, the final demise for the pier was almost certain. At its peak, the pier received almost 100 vessels with 97,000 visitors a year. Wan Chai, the area where Fenwick Pier stood, was the official hub for all foreign sailors. Restaurants, bars, strip clubs and all sort of entertainment businesses flourished in Wan Chai, during the golden age of Fenwick Pier. After receiving 1.26 million sailors in 69 years, Fenwick Pier was finally sealed off by the government, and officially became an important piece of history for Hong Kong.

Nothing fancy about the decor of Gia Trattoria Italiana, but the decent food and harbour views made the restaurant our favorite Italian restaurant in the city. [2022]
With buffet appetizer an dessert, the restaurant was a popular place for weekend brunch. [2022]
Cheese is always important for any Italian restaurant. [2022]
The once open harbour views have been lost due to recent reclamation. [2022]
The tasty Bistecca alla Fiorentina was perfect for sharing. [2021]

***

Fenwick Pier just before permanently closing for demolition. [2022]
Windows of Gia Trattoria Italiana and the main signage of the pier. [2021]
Entrance gate of Fenwick Pier across the street from Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. [2021]
The tree at the forecourt has grown to as tall as the building itself. [2021]
Towering behind the complex, the International Financial Centre (IFC) reminded visitors how close Fenwick Pier actually was from the central business district. [2021]
The exterior facades of Fenwick Pier looked a little worn out from the corrosive marine air. [2022]
The lobby of Fenwick Pier was rather low key. [2021]
With the decorations from 1990’s, stepping in the Fenwick Pier was like stepping back in time. [2021]
Despite vessels were no longer coming, colours of the interiors reminded visitors the marine identity of the complex. [2021]
The sailor wall art was one of the most eye-catching thing in the lobby of Fenwick Pier. [2021]
The entire building of Fenwick Pier was filled with a causal ambience, like a North American school building. [2021]
Many visitors loved to take selfies at the old rickshaw and the former Mac Donald’s seating from 1990’s. [2021]
Coat of arms plaques of marine related organisations lined up on walls and columns on the ground floor of Fenwick Pier. [2021]
As numbers of foreign sailors declined in recent years, the heyday of the Fleet Arcade felt like a distant past. [2022]
Bespoke tailoring was one of the most popular services at Fleet Arcade in the good old days. [2022]
11 February 2022 was the official last day for Fenwick Pier before being closed off by the government. [2021]

RUNNING BELOW THE SKYLINE, Central (中環) – Wan Chai (灣仔) Promenade, Hong Kong

In 1997, the first Standard Charter Hong Kong Marathon attracted 1,000 runners. As love for the sport grows universally, the annual event in Hong Kong has gained popularity and attracted about 70,000 runners (pre-pandemic) from around the globe, defying the humid conditions to run in the subtropical heat. Despite the dominance of East African runners in the race, local participants have increased in both numbers and results in recent years. In fact, the sport has become so popular in Hong Kong that more and more running related shows are broadcasted on television, and more and more sports equipment shops have popped up in busy commercial neighbourhoods in recent years. Runners are everywhere: on sidewalks and waterfront promenades, or in parks and on trails in the countryside.

Some run for health benefits, while some run just to loosen up their minds after a long day of stress. For people who have had enough time sitting in air conditioned offices, doing an evening run is a decent alternative for going to the gym. For a city as dense as Hong Kong, it might be surprising to find that pleasant running routes are never far away. For residents on the Island side, many choose Bowen Road in Wan Chai, or Lugard Road at Victoria Peak, while on the Kowloon side, West Kowloon Art Park or Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade are the obvious choices. In recent years, the government put efforts to transform the once out of limits harbourfront areas on the north shore of Hong Kong Island into public promenades. These promenades have become instant hits for local runners. Harbourfront scenery is particularly pleasant between Central Piers and the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai when the urban skyline lit up after dusk. With such amazing backdrop, there should be no excuse for anyone not to put on their running shoes and headphones, take in the lovely views and seaside breezes, and burn some calories.

The iconic skyline of the northern shore of Hong Kong Island forms the backdrop of the waterfront promenade between Central and Wan Chai. [2020]
From Central Piers, the curvilinear Convention Centre at Wan Chai waterfront is just 1.5km away. [2020]
In recent decades, the business district has extended from Central all the way to Wan Chai. [2020]
From Central Piers, the waterfront promenade passes by the Harbourfront Event Space to Admiralty (金鐘), the commercial neighbourhood between Central and Wan Chai. [2020]
Leaving Central Piers and the setting sun behind, the promenade heads east along Victoria Harbour. [2020]
The towering Two International Finance Centre (2IFC) dominates the skyline. [2020]
In front of the government’s headquarters in Admiralty, construction work was underway to provide pockets of recreational spaces for children and families. [2020]
A runner passed by the neon light artwork on the construction hoarding in Admiralty. [2020]
In 2021, the recreational areas in front of the government headquarters opened to the public. [2021]
All these recreational spaces enjoy views of Victoria Harbour and the distant skyline of Kowloon. [2021]
Leaving Admiralty behind, the promenade arrives at the public spaces adjacent to the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. [2020]
In a clear day, the Convention and Exhibition Centre offers fantastic views of the skyline of Central and Admiralty. [2020]
There are plenty of spaces to chill out near the Convention and Exhibition Centre. [2021]
Many runners would take a break at Convention Centre to watch the sunset. [2020]
Red skies would appear occasionally over Victoria Harbour. [2020]
From Wan Chai, spectators may notice just how narrow Victoria Harbour has become (Central of Hong Kong Island at left and West Kowloon Art District at right). [2020]
The magical moment would appear just after sunset when the skyline of Central and Admiralty begin to lit up. [2020]
The view of sunset and urban skyline from Convention Centre is breathtaking. [2020]
A few would test their luck on fishing during sunset. [2020]
Many come to photograph the sunset and Central skyline at Wan Chai Promenade. [2021]
The Convention and Exhibition Centre (香港會議展覽中心) New Wing was completed in 1997 and hosted the Hong Kong handover ceremony. [2021]
The sculpture at Golden Bauhinia Square (金紫荊廣場) adjacent to the Convention and Exhibition Centre was a gift from China for the handover ceremony in 1997. [2021]
Responsible for search and rescue, the Government Flying Service has one of their helipad outside of the Convention and Exhibition Centre. [2021]
In 2021, the Wan Chai Promenade extends eastwards to Causeway Bay. [2021]
On the newly reclaimed land, temporary public spaces have been constructed along the Harbourfront of Wan Chai. [2021]

MORE THAN JUST A DOCK: Central Piers (中環碼頭), Central (中環) Hong Kong

At midnight 12th of November 2006, Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier (also known as Star Ferry Pier 天星碼頭) Clock Tower played its last chimes of its 48-years service, before being decommissioned and demolished along with the third generation Star Ferry Pier. Manufactured by Dent (London clock maker who was responsible for the clock of the Big Ben), the clock had told the time and chimed every 15 minutes since 1958. Although the timepiece mechanism was eventually preserved, the clock tower was discreetly toppled in early morning on 16th December 2006 amid public outcries and activist protests. Then four months later, just a stone throw from the toppled clock tower, Queen’s Pier (皇后碼頭) became the next harbourfront icon to fall victim for the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project. Named after Queen Victoria, Queen’s Pier was the main arrival and departure point for all colonial governors since 1925, and the landing spot for British royal visits (Queen Elizabeth II in 1975, and Prince and Princess of Wales in 1989). After their failed attempt to save the Star Ferry Pier, local conservationists reunited at Queen’s Pier to held rallies, hunger strikes and candlelight vigils to fight against the demolition. While winning support from the public and even some celebrities, the activists once again failed to convince the government to consider preservation the colonial pier. Despite their fruitless attempts, the incidents of Star Ferry Pier and Queen’s Pier have significantly raised public awareness on heritage preservation in Hong Kong, and triggered widespread support for later conservation projects such as Central Market, Police Married Quarter (PMQ) and Tai Kwun Police Headquarters.

As a port city, pier structures have always been essentials to Hong Kong. Based on an university study of photos from 1863, there were once 56 piers and jetties between Western District and Causeway Bay in mid 19th century. Excluding the restricted zones, that works out to be 56 piers in 5.5km of shoreline, or roughly a pier every 98m. As port facilities were moved away from the heart of Victoria Harbour and the opening of Cross Harbour Tunnel in 1970’s, pier activities along the north coast of Hong Kong Island have significantly declined, except for the pleasant Star Ferry and the other boat services to the outlying islands. I still remember the excitement as a kid in 1980’s when arriving at the Outlying Islands Ferry Pier (港外線碼頭) boarding a boat for day trips to Lantau or Yamma Island, or rubbing shoulders with foreign tourists taking photos of traditional rickshaws at Star Ferry Pier (天星碼頭), or watching couples taking wedding photos at Queen’s Pier (皇后碼頭) after tying the knot at the adjacent City Hall. Each pier had its own ambience and scenery. Each pier has become a unique piece of memory. Since the completion of Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project, the old Central piers are all but gone. About 300m north of the former piers, a cluster of ten new piers were established between 1990’s and 2000’s as the new Central Piers. Assigned with Pier No. 7 and 8, the current Star Ferry Pier was erected in Edwardian style mimicking its second generation predecessor from 1910’s. The “fake antique” and “theme park” approach of the architecture have drawn heavy criticism from the public. Between Pier No. 9 and 10, Hong Kong Observation Wheel, a 60m Ferris wheel, was erected in 2014 as a new tourist attraction. Despite being skeptical about the necessity of a new attraction, many do see the Ferris wheel as a delightful focus for the harbourfront, and a welcoming feature upon arriving at the Central Piers by ferry.

In colonial times, certain piers were designated to play ceremonial roles for the city. A Triumphal arch was erected at Pedder’s Wharf for the visit of Duke of Edinburgh in 1869. [Photograph by John Thomson, 1869, Wellcome Library no. 18643i, public domain]
Landing of The Duke of Edinburgh at Pedder’s Wharf in 1869. [Image courtesy of National Archives, Kew, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
Located at the junction of Pedder Street and Chater Road, the Second Generation Star Ferry Pier was constructed in 1910 in front of the former Queen’s Building. [Photograph by Eleanor Mitchell, 1912-1917. Image courtesy of E.G. France, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
In 1925, Cecil Clementi became the first colonial governor to land and sworn in at Queen’s Pier. [public domain]
Similar to modern taxis, rickshaws drivers line up outside Blake Pier and Star Ferry Pier in 1930. [Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]
Blake Pier (middle left) and Star Ferry Terminal (right) had served the Central community for decades before being torn down for the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project. [Photograph by Martin Funnell, 1955. Image courtesy of Martin Funnell, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
The Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier or Star Ferry Pier, its clock tower and car park structure belong to be a single building complex. Today, only the carpark remains. [Photo of Edinburgh Place, 1957, public domain]
At midnight 12th of November 2006, the Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier Clock Tower played the last chimes. [Photography by WING, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -WING, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons]
Taken from the 10th Floor of City Hall High Block in October 2005, the former Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier (Star Ferry Pier) can be seen on the left, former Queen’s Pier on the right, and the current Central Piers under construction at upper left. [Photography by Carismith, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -Carismith, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons]
After failing to stop the demolition of Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, local conservationists shifted their focus to the adjacent Queen’s Pier. [Photography by CX257 in September 2007. Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -CX257, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons]
Local celebrity Chow Yun Fat signed the petition at Queen’s Pier in April 2007. [Photography by Leo Cheung, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -Leockh, CC-BY-SA-3., Wikimedia Commons]
Locals gathered for the last night of Queen’s Pier on 31 July 2007. [Photography by Wing1990hk, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -Wpcpey, CC-BY-SA-3., Wikimedia Commons]

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A series of pier structures lined across Central Harbourfront as the current Central Piers. [Photo taken from Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
The former Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier has become Lung Wo Road and the Central Harbourfront Event Space. [Photo taken from Lung Wo Road outside the City Hall, 2020]
As part of the former Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, the Star Ferry Car Park remains as a prominent modernist structure in Central. [Photo taken from Lung Wo Road outside the City Hall, 2020]
A footbridge links the Central Piers with the main financial district further inland. Each time a land reclamation projects is completed, the time it takes to reach the piers f would increase. [Photo taken from Lung Wo Road, 2020]
With reference to Edwardian architectural features, the fourth generation Star Ferry Pier has been criticized for failing to represent the contemporary spirit. [Central Pier No. 8, 2020]
For many, the new Edwardian clock tower of the current Star Ferry Pier in Central appears like a theme park backdrop. [Central Pier No. 9, 2020]
The real antique at the Star Ferry Pier is the ferry boats themselves, such as the 58-year old Day Star (晨星號). [Central Pier No. 7, 2022]
At the upper deck of Star Ferry Pier, a farmer’s market selling local organic produces is held every Sunday. [Central Pier No. 7, 2019]
Across the harbour, the 1957 Streamline Moderne pier structure of the Star Ferry Pier (天星碼頭) in Tsim Sha Tsui offers a glimpse of what its counterpart in Central, the now demolished Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier used to be like. [Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2021]
In June 2020, regular ferry service between Central and Hung Hom has resumed after a 9-year service suspension. [Central Pier No. 8, 2020]
The easternmost Pier No. 9 and 10 offer fine views of Victoria Harbour. [Central Pier No. 9, 2020]
It is pleasant to linger at Pier No. 9 and 10 at dusk. [Central Pier No. 9, 2020]
The public Pier No. 9 and 10 are occasionally used by private boats. [Central Pier No. 10, 2020]
Pier No. 9 and 10 have become a popular place to hang out after work. [Central Pier No. 10, 2020]
As casual public spaces, Pier No. 9 and 10 are often shared by different groups of people. [Central Pier No. 10, 2020]
Between Pier 7 and 8, a Ferris wheel known as Hong Kong Observation Wheel has become a new focal point in Central Harbourfront since 2014. [Central Pier No.8, 2022]
Sitting up to five people, all gondolas of the Ferris wheel are equipped with air conditioning [Central Pier No.8, 2020]
The pandemic has prevented outside visitors coming to Hong Kong in the past two years. Most tourist related businesses, including the Hong Kong Observation Wheel, have suffered a considerable time. [Central Pier No.8, 2020]

THE GOLDEN GOOSE OF VICTORIA HARBOUR: Central Harbourfront (中環海濱), Central (中環), Hong Kong

Between April 2021 and March 2022, land sales have generated an HK$91.6 billion (US$11.7 billion) income for the Hong Kong government, out of which HK$50.8 billion (US$6.5 billion) came from a 47,967 sq.m lot at Central Harbourfront, the prestige waterfront in the city’s financial district. Like many business areas in the city, this land is created from a massive land reclamation project. Every time a massive reclamation project along Victoria Harbour is completed, the government would increase its land supplies and potential sources of income. The city’s iconic skyline would undergo another phase of transformation, and the harbour would once again get narrower. This new piece of land comes from Phase 3 (2003 – 2018) of the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project, the last major plan (first initiated in 1985) that altered the waterfront between Central and Wan Chai. Land sale has always been a major revenue source for Hong Kong ever since early colonial times. Due to the limited land supply and continuous growth of the population and economy, reclaiming land from the sea was a cost effective way for urban expansion given the city’s rocky and mountainous terrains. Since 1840’s, about 7000 hectares (70 sq.km) of land has been reclaimed. Compared to 59.1 sq.km of Manhattan Island, 70 sq.km is a decent piece of land housing 27% of Hong Kong’s population and 70% of its businesses. While the search of flat land has always been a challenge, voices against land reclamation among the public has gained momentum in recent decades. Given the negative impact to the environment and Victoria Harbour, many now consider land reclamation as an unsustainable solution that would likely do more harm than good.

Victoria Harbour is a vital component for the economic success of Hong Kong since the founding of city. It is a safe, all-weather and deep harbour, a perfect place to establish an international port as history has proven. Yet, 180 years of land reclamation has narrowed the water to such a great extent (distance between Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui has been halved) that the natural potentials of Victoria Harbour has been diminished. On the other hand, many began to recognize the significance of waterfront planning and its impact on shaping the city’s identity. Up until 1980’s, the harbour was developed mostly for the purposes of infrastructure, with wharfs, piers, godowns, warehouses, and dockyards occupied most of the harbourfront, leaving only pockets in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui for public and commercial uses. Under such context, the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance was passed in 1997 to recognize that Victoria Harbour is more than just a safe port. The law acknowledges that “the harbour is to be protected and preserved as a special public asset and a natural heritage of Hong Kong people, and for that purpose there shall be a presumption against reclamation in the harbour.” First covering only the waters around Central, then expanding to the entire harbour in 1999, the law basically put a stop to land reclamation in Victoria Harbour. If the law is here to stay, then the HK$50.8 billion land at Central Harbourfront would be one of the last available plots of waterfront land in Central. Meanwhile, plans for creating a more accessible harbourfront for all to enjoy have begun to realize, with the completion of various waterfront promenades on the Island’s north coast in recent years. Also from the Phase 3 of Central and Wan Chai Reclamation, the lot east of the HK$50.8 billion lot remains unoccupied in the past decade. Designated as Central Harbourfront Event Space, this land has been a vital public space at the heart of the city, hosting events from music festivals and sporting events, to large scale art installations. After this lot is developed, would the 180 year transformation of Central Harbourfront can finally call it a day, or would the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance be reverted one day due to economic and political pressure? The future is anyone’s guess.

Stretched from the General Post Office to the Ferris Wheel at Central Pier, the HK$50.8 billion (US$6.5 billion) lot is one of the last pieces of reclaimed land in Central. [Photo taken from footbridge connection of Central Piers, 2019]
Included in the HK$50.8 billion (US$6.5 billion) lot, the current General Post Office (4th generation) will likely be demolished in the near future. [Photo taken from footbridge connection of Central Piers, 2020]
The same piece of land seemed like a large construction site about a decade ago. [Photo taken from footbridge connection of Central Piers, 2012]
The HK$50.8 billion (US$6.5 billion) land has been idled as an empty lawn for almost a decade already. [Photo taken from footbridge connection of Central Piers, 2020]

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The year 1873 saw the completion of Praya Reclamation Scheme phase 1, extend the waterfront from Queen’s Road Central to Des Vouex Road Central. [Photo by John Thompson, 1873, Illustrations of China and Its People, public domain]
After completing the second phase of Praya Reclamation Scheme, the Central waterfront was extended to Statue Square and Connaught Road Central. [Hong Kong skyline in 1920’s. Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]
In the subsequent decades, land reclamation in Central pushed the waterfront to the current City Hall and General Post Office. [Skyline of Central in 1970’s. Image courtesy: ken93110, wikimedia commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Central and Wan Chai Reclamation began in 1993 and ended in 2019, adding the Terminal of Airport Express, the International Finance Centre (IFC) complex and Central Piers in 1996, the government headquarters in 1999, a series of commercial buildings and waterfront promenade in 2008, and the submerged Central-Wanchai Bypass in 2019. [Photo taken at Ocean Terminal, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
Most of the business district of Central is located on reclaimed land created from the Praya Reclamation Scheme in the 19th century, several smaller projects in mid 20th century, and the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation Scheme between 1993 and 2018. [Photo taken from The Cenotaph, 2020]
In late 19th century, Paul Chater (Hongkong Land) and James Johnstone Keswick (Jardine Matheson) carried out the Praya Reclamation Scheme that dramatically transformed the north coast of Hong Kong Island, while their companies remain as the largest landlords in Central today, owning a large amount of commercial buildings including Jardine House, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Prince’s Building, Chater House, Alexander House, etc. [Photo taken from Statue Square, 2020]
Owned by Hongkong Land, the luxurious Landmark Atrium is another icon in Central. [2020]
Illustrated on the ground floor pavement of the HSBC headquarters, the shoreline of Central has undergone multiple transformations throughout the past 180 years. [2020]
Commonly known as the original northern shoreline on Hong Kong Island, Queen’s Road now lies somewhere between 500m to over 1km (in Wan Chai) inland from Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken at Intersection of Queen’s Road Central and Ice House Street, 2020]
Des Voeux Road Central was constructed after phase 1 of the Praya Reclamation Scheme. [Photo taken outside of Central Market at Des Voeux Road Central, 2021]
Named after Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Connaught Road was completed in 1890 as a waterfront thoroughfare. Today the road is completely landlocked after a series of land reclamation. [Photo taken outside of Exchange Square at Connaught Road Central, 2020]
The towers and shopping mall of International Finance Centre (IFC) are resulted from the Phase 1 of Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project (1993 – 2019). [2020]
Phase 3 of Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project includes the Central-Wanchai Bypass, which starting from 2019 connects Central to Causeway Bay via a tunnel under the harbour. [2020]

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Much of the reclaimed Central Harbourfront is designated as an open space for public events such as the Hong Kong Marathon. [2017]
Hong Kong ePrix, an international Formula E race, is also held at the Central Harbourfront Event Space. [2019]
Between 2016 to 2018, Clockenflap Music and Arts Festival, the city’s biggest annual music festival, was held at Central Harbourfront Event Space three years in a row. [2017]
In 2017, British trip hop and electronic band Massive Attack was the final guest of the three day Clockenflap festival. [2017]
Before the pandemic, the Clockenflap events were some of our most memorable nights we spent at the Central Harbourfront. [2017]
During the pandemic, the Central Harbourfront Event Space was used occasionally for fairs and large scale art installations. [2021]
Inspired by Victoria Harbour, American Artist Patrick Shearn from Poetic Kinetics covered a large strip of the event space with a colourful kinetic sculpture that waved in the wind. [2021]