Benoy has released a new conceptual vision for the highly debated pedestrianisation of Des Voeux Road Central in the heart of Hong Kong. The team talks to PRC this month about lending its support to the campaign which seeks to see the busy Des Voeux Road thoroughfare transformed into a pedestrian-tram green zone. With a cross-studio team from Hong Kong and the UK, Benoy collaborated with DesigningHongKong and Walk DVRC to develop the concept.
Running through the heart of the Central Business District on Hong Kong Island, Des Voeux Road Central is one of the city’s busiest major arteries. The road supports vehicular traffic, the city’s tram line and between 4000 to 8000 pedestrians per hour. Small streets and laneways dissect the road along with a number of elevated walkways and footbridges. For those who know the area, it is often congested with poor air quality and pedestrian amenity is challenging.
“The campaign for pedestrianising Des Voeux Road Central is an initiative we have followed closely over the last couple of years. We wanted to bring a renewed vision to the idea and further develop the visuals which would support the movement. Coming together with our partners, we hosted a number of creative Think Tanks to elevate the concept and we have delivered, what we believe to be, a compelling proposal for Des Voeux Road Central to be a globally recognised destination in Hong Kong,” said Trevor Vivian, Global Director at Benoy.
A New Global Attraction
The potential for Des Voeux Road to be a global attraction and exciting pedestrian gateway to Hong Kong is very tangible, says the team, with its strong connections to the Airport Express, MTR and Central Ferry Piers. According to the campaign, energising the 1.4km stretch of road to become a walkable linear park could catalyse the potential upgrading of the wider area including the uphill links to Hollywood Road, SoHo, Mid-Levels and beyond.
“Des Voeux Road Central provides a great model for the walkable cities debate. We have here an already highly trafficked street which is well connected for pedestrians and to transport hubs. The opportunity to open this up, redesign and animate the streetscape for pedestrians, and enrich the heart of Hong Kong with the power of a public realm, both commercially and socially, is very persuasive,” explains Simon Bee, Managing Director of Global Design at Benoy.
Benoy’s design focuses on delivering a connected and diversified realm of experiences to the walkable 1.4km thoroughfare. The proposal sees the removal of cars and buses, giving real public space to pedestrians and addressing the congestion and pollution issues. The city’s historic tram network remains intact, celebrating the significance of this early form of public transport. The concept also uses digital technologies and light projections onto surrounding buildings to capture the evolution of Des Voeux Road Central and its transformation over many decades through the city’s extensive harbourfront reclamations.
Reimagining the pedestrianised road through four key nodal areas – Benoy’s concept journeys from ‘The Gateway’ at Pedder Street, to ‘The Courtyard’ at Queen Victoria Street, ‘The Plaza’ at Hillier Street, and culminates at ‘The Market’, next to historic Western Market building. Each of the areas has been specifically themed with refreshment, recreation and relaxation to create a strong identity and sense of belonging.
Experiential Street Design
Taking a multi-faceted approach to experiential street design, Benoy’s concept introduces a wide spectrum of architectural and design features. Temporary structures, installations and semi-permanent façades allow for constant evolution and pop-up opportunities for retailers and restaurants. 3D light projections on buildings, as mentioned, bring a digital experience and opportunity to promote and celebrate a wide range of events and themes.
The concept introduces an active sports programme which would create a strong attraction and first-tomarket offer in the city centre. Stages for events would facilitate community gathering and provide a platform for engagement. Outdoor markets and squares could deliver a changing calendar of events throughout the year and present further commercial opportunities.
“We believe the visuals speak for themselves in terms of relaying the type of atmosphere, experience and walkability we want to bring to the heart of the city. While based in Hong Kong, this is also a model which can be applied to other cities, local nuances observed of course,” explained Simon Bee.
“The overarching message we want to promote is that as we urbanise, we will continue to live, work and play in ever-densifying environments. These are our neighbourhoods, our backyards, and we should be inspired to see them evolve as engaging, green, walkable districts which promote a better quality of life in the hearts of our cities.”