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Above It All – Hong Kong’s Pedestrian Infrastructure Created a City Without Ground

By Stasia Fong 8 August 2014
  The hustle and bustle of busy workers commuting to and from jams Hong Kong’s trains, buses, and trams each day. However, many residents still put one foot in front of the other when they need to head somewhere. Often we get around using an intricate infrastructure of walkways and underground tunnels, connected paths from building to building. But, when you think about it, how close do we come to putting our two feet on the ground when we step outside? Luckily for anyone who wants to know the answer to that question there is a captivating cartography project called “Cities without Ground” that studies the infrastructure of our pedestrian filled city. The project’s authors and architects Adam Frampton, Jonathan D. Solomon, and Clara Wong provide a fascinating, in-depth look at the pedestrian walkway infrastructure through incredibly detailed maps. The complex layers of these systems seem more like a map from “Resident Evil” than any civil department. Click through to view a few maps from the project and you may be surprised to see your commute is rarely on ‘ground level’. For example, Central’s walkways connect us from the Ferry Piers to IFC, to Jardine House, and so on. Some commuters can go straight from the MTR to their office building without coming on to the street level ‘for air’, so to speak. “[Hong Kong’s] model is one many other cities, especially in fast-growing parts of the world, are emulating,” Solomon tells Localiiz. “Dense, transit-oriented, multi-use complexes linked by pedestrian access networks are now common in developments throughout Asia…this is a compelling model because it is convenient and efficient, and therefore by some measures more sustainable.” Clearly our walkways help to fuel the never-ending productivity of our city’s residents, allowing more people to use shared space. Solomon believes the convenience of our pedestrian infrastructure works because the government and the community both value it. How long that lasts, he points out, is always a question. “Free movement is a value of both a free economy and a free society, and to the extent that either are under threat in Hong Kong, the spatial model may not last,” Solomon explains. We at Localiiz sure would not be able to imagine the sheer horror of walking from our Sheung Wan offices to IFC without sailing down the handy escalators, that’s for sure! To purchase the book, now in its second printing, click here. Got anything cool you'd like Localiiz to share? Send us your stuff!

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Born in Singapore and raised in Hong Kong, Stasia Fong is a freelance writer with dreams of breaking into the television industry and executive produce her own television show.