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The Future of Kowloon East

At this year’s Knowledge of Design Week, Michael Li, along with Dr. Simon Kwan, spoke about the government’s vision for the area that was once home to Kai Tak Airport. We get a glimpse of what’s to come.

KoDW 2016, Kai Tak regeneration


BY Janice Seow

July 7th, 2016


Pictured above is the former runway at Kai Tak, now set to be home to a cruise terminal, public park, hospital and more

Until 1998, Hong Kong’s international airport sat right on Victoria Harbour, and those on the waterfront on Hong Kong side could watch planes as they landed. By the time it closed, the airport was showing its age. It had been built in the 1950s, and even as early as the 1980s there were issues with overcrowding, as well as curfews imposed due to its urban location. Finally, a year after the Hong Kong Handover, the city’s airport facilities moved to Chek Lap Kok and the reclaimed land the old airport was situated on lay dormant for well over a decade.

It might not have looked like much was happening on the site until 2007, but discussions were well underway about how the land could be repurposed. “Ever since Kai Tak Airport moved to Chek Lap Kok, there has been debate about how the area could be used. It’s a very long public discussion,” says Li Kiu-yin, Michael, Chief Project Manager, Architectural Services Department, HKSAR.

KoDW 2016
Michael Li

Li spoke at this year’s Knowledge of Design Week (KoDW), an annual event that sees experts and stakeholders come together to share ideas, present best practices and debate the ways in which design can and should benefit the world. Under discussion at this year’s KoDW, hosted at Hotel ICON in June 2016, was how design can enhance sustainability and quality of life in the face of rising urban density.

In his talk at KoDW, given in conjunction with Dr. Simon Kwan, Chairman of Simon Kwan & Associates Ltd., the architecture firm designing the Hong Kong Children’s Hospital, which will be located within the 3-hectare zone that is the runway park at Kai Tak. The hospital is one of the key aspects of this project, an area now referred to as Kowloon East. The regeneration project is due for completion in 2017, while the hospital, which will be the Hospital Authority’s main source of paediatric care in the city, is set to open in 2018.

KoDW 2016, Hong Kong Children's Hospital
The Hong Kong’s Children’s Hospital will house research and admin in one wing, and paediatric care facilities in the other

Kwan pointed out in their talk that the Hong Kong Government has set aside HK$200 billion over the next 10 years to implement hospital developments, growing the number of public hospitals in the city to 320, adding 90 additional operating theatres, and increasing the number of hospital beds by 5,000.

Kwan and Li both expressed concern over  whether the development and design process can keep up with technology. “For hospitals, technology is moving much faster [than other industries]. It’s like your iPhone; in a few years, your technology will be obsolete,” says Li, speaking to IDLHK after the presentation. “Will it be state of the art after 10 or 20 years? As Dr. Kwan was saying, things like MRI could be out of date – there will be something newer.”

When it comes to other aspects of the Kai Tak regeneration project – such as the promenade that will run the length of the runway park and beyond, extending for 11km – technological developments are not so much of an issue. And, as Li points out, parts of the promenade are already open to the public. “We’re building it in stages, you learn in the process. We can see how people enjoy it and we can improve along the way.”

KoDW 2016, Kai Tak regeneration
The promenade at Kowloon East 

As well as the promenade, the area will feature a large, open green area, a centralised district cooling system and a museum showcasing ancient artefacts found in the area.

Kowloon East’s history as Hong Kong’s international airport will not be forgotten, either: the shape of the runway will be left intact. “There was a suggestion that they should fill the channels in between, but they didn’t in the end,” says Li. The yellow-and-black checkered squares that acted as signals for incoming and outgoing airplanes will also stay put.

“If you get rid of them, people will say, ‘Why are you knocking this down? It’s part of my past’,” says Li. “We have to think about how you deal with these collective memories.”

KoDW
kodw.org

Energizing Kowloon East
ekeo.gov.hk