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The Hemispheres Design Special

From branded street artists to 14th-century cobblers, style takes a turn for both the new and old



The city that reinvented the sidewalk

Hong Kong is a place built on a layered, interwoven lattice of walkways: elevated bridges and submerged tunnels, aerial paths and suspended passages. The recent Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guidebook represents the first effort to map the labyrinth. Here, co-author Clara Wong discusses Hong Kong’s “futuristic urban experience.”

Hemispheres: What inspired this book?

Wong: As architects working and living in Hong Kong, my co-authors and I are intrigued by its “groundless-ness”—pedestrians move in a three-dimensional network, from interior to exterior, air conditioned to non­-air conditioned, public to private, through a continuum of walkways and tunnels where various activities take place. It can be confusing to navigate, so we decided to make a city guide that maps these 3D routes.

Hemispheres: How did the walkways come about?

Wong: Two factors: geography and economy. Mountainous terrain, limited space and a large population have forced construction to expand skyward and underground. Hong Kong’s hyper economy means it is to everyone’s benefit to have fast and convenient access from transport hubs to retail spaces.

Hemispheres: What do they add to Hong Kong’s look, feel and functionality?

Wong: These networks function in the same way that the ground functions in typical plazas and squares, just in three dimensions and less predictably. There are the same activities that you’d expect to find in streets or public squares: buskers
singing, retirees playing mahjong, ad hoc salons and restaurant seating, smokers gathering, rallies …

Hemispheres: Do you have a favorite?

Wong: My favorite route starts at the Macau Ferry terminal in Sheung Wan district, crossing a walkway that runs alongside the Victoria Harbor to the IFC mall, then over to the Pacific Place complex via dense office and retail space, and an underground tunnel, finally reaching Star Street in Wan Chai—it’s about 3 kilometers long and barely hits the pavement.


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