ARC2024 reference to Generic City and Ground Control,
Posted On May 27, 2019
ARC2024 About Architecture: Cities, Cultures and SpaceTIMES SQUARE HONG KONGAn Exploration of Forces of Production and Control In the Operation of the Privately Owned Public Space Cities 1. With reference to Generic City and Ground Control, and through a careful reading of a specific example of a contemporary city of your choice, explore the forces of both production and control that can be seen to operate within a small-scale piece of public/private land. You are asked to select somewhere that you consider to sit at between public and private ownership, and that is accessed by the public.IntroductionTimes Square Hong Kong is one of the most successful vertical malls that was built in the early 90s. It is located in the heart of Causeway Bay on the Hong Kong Island. The vertical mall itself is not controversial as it sits on privately owned land. The place in Times Square that sits at the blurry edge of public and private ownership that is accessed by the public is the Privately Owned Public Space (POPS) located at the ground floor of the mall, between the streets.It is a 24-hour accessible place by the public. The conflict of private owned and public space sparks a large discussion in Hong Kong. Forces of production of such space a blurry edge of public and private and forces of control in operating this space that is worth exploring.Forces Pushing the Production of the Open Piazza a. Urbanisation of Hong KongThe former Hong Kong Tramway Depot was located among the high-density residential buildings in Causeway Bay, surrounded by Canal Road East, Sharp Street and Russell Street. The Tram Depot was a restricted area from the public, even though the gates of it is always open. Clearly, the streets around are places people interacts. From dawn to midnight, the nearby area would always have hawkers selling all sorts of daily goods (Fig 2), Russell Street even have a full street of Dai Pai Dong, open-air street stalls that serve cooked food very affordable and serves meals for locals and the tramway depot workers. This is the classic street condition and social space in Hong Kong in the 80s, the crowded street was filled with the diversity of daily life and was vibrant and energetic. Fig 1. Residential blocks surrounded the Tramway Depot. The narrow Russell Street straight down the middle of the image is crowded with Stalls and Hawkers.Fig 2. Hawkers selling daily goods on Matheson Streets next to the Tramway Depot Fig 3. Stores open until late at night. As early as the 1970s, the Sharp Street Tramway Depot was already considered to be redeveloped into a small scale residential block. Wharf Real Estate Investment Company Limited, which was still under Wheelock and Company Limited at that time, was one of the biggest integrated conglomerate in Hong Kong, which focused on properties, hotel, telecom and infrastructure. After the mid-80s, the company’s main goal was to promote and strengthen their properties investment quality. Peter Woo, one of the directors of the company, was in charge of the redevelopment of the Tramway Depot. He realized the potential of the site as more than just for a residential building. Looking at Russel Street, stalls open until late till midnight. He reckons that it will be more viable with retailing. Together with the development of Mass Transit Railway (MTR) in Hong Kong, creating the convenient transit hub to other parts of Hong Kong, that he could see this part of Causeway Bay with its potential to become a golden area for shopping. However, not like other malls that developed horizontal in form, the streets around the area is crowded and narrow, and the parallelogram shape of the site, these restricted the stretch of the building horizontally. He proposed a pioneering idea of building high low towers and a sixteen-storey vertical mall. Moreover, to reduce the narrow crowded feeling of Sharp Street and Russell street, the entire ground floor was designed as an open space with the towers set back. A huge TV Wall is also installed to attract and bring in people. This is the production of this 4364 sqm of rare open space in the middle of the vibrant city.A huge part of the forces behind the production of Times Square is the City’s urbanisation. Hong Kong’s development is largely economically driven as it is an easy place to set up a company and start a business with the low taxation. Alike many Generic Cities, Hong Kong in the 80s was developing around a core value of retail and service, the rise of the shopping mall was the result of the modernisation of replacing the old. Times Square is a product of replacing the former Hong Kong Tramway Depot in Causeway Bay, seeing the potential of retail at the site. Fig 4. Times square under construction on the right Fig 5. Same angle of Times Square on the right nowadayb. Urban Development Policy: Introduce of Privately Owned Public Space (POPS) to Hong Kong”Privately Owned Public Space” (POPS) were first introduced by the Government as one of the urban development policies during the rapid economic growth of Hong Kong in the 1980s as an opportunity for the corporations to take responsibility towards the city’s growth and improvement of the crowded urban environment, which in fact also assisted the British Government in building a colonial city. POPS is a special type of public space, as it sits on a privately owned and managed plot of land while being a public space that is accessible to the public. This open piazza provided by Times Square is a typical example of POPS. Times Square’s open piazza is located in the Times Square Area that is owned by Wharf Real Estate Investment Company Limited and managed by Times Square Limited. A Deed of Dedication was is executed for the purpose of dedicating space of the private property to the public. About 1347 sqm of the piazza is dedicated to street widening and about 3017 sqm is dedicated to pedestrian passage and passive recreation space. Fig 6. Dedication for Road Junction Improvement Fig 7. Dedication for Road Widening and FootpathFig 8. Dedication for Open Piazzac. Interest of Wharf and Times SquareEven though the intention of POPS is to improve the crowded urban environment and provide an open space for the public, in the eyes of the private developer, the open piazza’s main function is not this. The piazza is a by-product of the mall, It was introduced to strengthen and promote their business. The production of this open space is very clear a commercial decision as part of the development of the Times Square. By dedicating the open piazza area and street widening area, as a return, Wharf Real Estate Investment Company could get a bonus floor area of 120000 sqm, which is around five storeys. Five more storeys of usable floor area mean that more shops or office space can be put in, Times square would get extra profit just simply from renting out these spaces as shops or office space. This already was already a great benefit to Wharf.What is more, the open piazza is the incorporation of the public realm in the footprint of the vertical mall, owned by the large powerful properties developer Wharf Real Estate Investment Company. Then, the pedestrian movement is directed into and channelled through the open piazza. Firstly, by its location at the ground floor with entrance point on both Russell Street and Matheson Street, it acts as a connection of these two streets as a shortcut, instead of needed to go round the building to get to the other side. Secondly, the open piazza contains long escalators that lead to shops upstairs, basement shops and MTR station, ground floor department store and supermarket. No matter if you are going to the mall or the MTR station, you will have to enter this open piazza to access. Channeling people into this space surrounded by this monotonic program of shopping is a strategy to increase people’s urge to spend in this mall. Shift of Social Interaction Space from the Public to the PrivateMentioned previously, in the 80s, the streets were the stalls and hawkers hang around and people will come here to meet each other and socialise. (Fig 9.) After Times Square is built, the streets are now taken over by roads for cars, this left the narrow sidewalk for people. (Fig.10) Fig 9. Russell Street in the 80s with stalls on street Fig 10. Russell Street Now with car road in the middle and Pedestrian walkway on the sides.People now sit down on the edge of the flower bed for a rest, stand around to chat for a while, wait for friends at the piazza, enjoy music performances by street performers at the piazza. The social space of people shifted is moved onto the sidewalk and into the piazza, a privately owned public space incorporated in the design of the shopping mall. Fig 11. People sitting on the edge of flower bed for a restFig 12. People waiting for friends at the piazzaFig 13. People crowd to see the music performance by the street performerWhat does this phenomenon of shift of social interaction space from the streets that is public to a privately owned public piazza mean? Why is it so significant? Forces of Control in the operation of the Open PiazzaTimes Square LimitedThe design principle of Privately Open space is connectivity and accessibility, flexibility and quality. Whenever the principle is affected, there is a force of control in the operation of the POPS. A huge force of control in operation of the open piazza is Times Square Limited, the building manager of Times Square. It is closely related to the the shift of social interaction space from the public streets to a privately owned piazza as this means that public space had fallen under surveillance. The control exists in several forms and all are related to surveillance of the open piazza. a. RulesThe open piazza of Times Square is POPS that is located on the ground floor and connecting Russell Street and Matheson Street. To keep the space clear from obstruction for the smooth flow of the public is important, so to keep the space accessible and perform its function as a connection space. it is needed to set up rules and regulations to ensure that the users’ health and safety and avoid some users affecting the other users. The following are the rules of the Times Square Piazza and Its Surrounding.Fig 14. Rules signage placed on the wall of the open piazzaThese rules in nature already is a kind of control that restrict and rule out a certain type of people or activities. This is because Times Square put up these rules where what cannot be done is stated. Whoever did the acts that are not allowed is considered affecting other users, either affecting their health or safety or blocking the open piazza causing a jam in the connectivity of the space. To make sure that these rules are followed closely, CCTV and Security Surveillance exists in a form of running the rules and regulations. b. Surveillance: Security Guards Security guards hired by Times Square are guarding on site, to make sure that the rules are followed closely, at the same time Rules also grant the security guards authority and power to take action to stop any violating activities. This is most obvious surveillance of Times Square. It is visible to the public that the security is always observing the space and any action taken when anyone violates the rules. On the day of observation of the open piazza, a man was crossing the piazza area whilst riding on a skateboard. The Security Guard keep chasing after him to stop him from continuing the use of skateboard. Skateboarding is not allowed according to rule (4) “No Bicycle, Tricycle carts or other forms of vehicular traffic (other than perambulators or wheelchairs for the handicapped) are allowed in or on any part of the Amenity Grounds …” as a skateboard is wheeled and serve as a tool for transport, vehicular traffic. Obviously, this man had violated the rules and the guards were doing their part as a person guarding and monitoring the space. Fig. 15 Man on Skateboard crossing the Open Piazza c. Surveillance: Close Circuit TelevisionClosed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance system is installed in the Open piazza is related to the safety part of the Quality of POPS. A high quality POPS should allow the users to feel safe using the space. Therefore Main reason CCTV is installed is because can help to enhanced security and prevent crime through the video-film and recording function of CCTV 24 hours a day. The forces of control of Times Square exists in CCTV surveillance is not only because of having a CCTV system in the open piazza.Of course, having a CCTV system in a public space would worry some users as CCTV would have a chance that captures images of individuals or information relating to individuals which are recorded down. It is the use of the CCTV footage that gives very much control of Times Square. CCTV system is not limited only to the open piazza, but all over the mall. From the step into the space, through the footages of the CCTV, we are being monitored. All the CCTV camera footages are played in one single room on multiple TVs. If a specific person is being monitored, this person can be tracked in the footages from multiple cameras. d. Architecture: Layout of the SpaceAnother form of control force of Times Square relates to the phenomenon of directing pedestrian movement into the open piazza. The open piazza is connecting Russell Street and Matheson Street. The journey through the open piazza passes by long escalators that lead to shops upstairs, signages directing people and encourage people to go down to the basement for more shops, specialising direct lifts up to the restaurant levels, and great openings to the ground floor department store and supermarket. The whole journey is surrounded by one single element, which is spending at the mall. Programs surrounding the open piazza are homogenous programs, all shopping related programs, Even though Times square did not physically control us in terms of where to go, and can absolutely just use the open piazza as a pathway from one street to another, the arrangements of the open piazza definitely have encouraged us to spend in the mall in a very subtle way. The whole piazza is separated into two parts by these escalators being side by side, directs a very clear pathway into the shopping mall, both upwards and downwards. No matter which side of street one enter, the open piazza comes to this bottle neck point where the escalators meet.(Fig 17) This is where the open public space instantly turns inwards, inwards to the shopping mall. The layout of these escalators at this part of the piazza almost seems to narrow down the openness of the open space like a funnel and channel people into the shopping mall. The strategy to channel people through this environment is a very commercial act, upholding the ultimate meaning of the existence of a mall: reinforcing the core value and meaning, shopping and spending for the customers and income and profit for Times Square and the tenant. Fig 17. Diagram showing main pedestrian movement through the plazaThe PublicOn a privately owned property, Times Square’s forces of control on the operating of the open piazza are, of course, a big part. Since the open piazza is also a public space, the public also has the right of the space. The forces of control from the public evolve from monitoring the use of the open piazza by Times Square. In the Deed of Dedication, the open piazza is allowed for non-profit making and charitable events, such as exhibition, and passive cultural performance to take place as long as the open piazza still have enough portion of the space open for other use. Radio programme of Commercial Radio Hong Kong, “On a Clear Day”, disclosed that Times Square open piazza had been privatized by Wharf in February 2008. Callers to the programme stated that they were prevented from sitting remaining in the public area despite the fact that they did nothing. Another incident disclosed afterwards was that a section of the open area of Times Square was leased to Starbucks Coffee from July 2003 to March 2005. It was a violation of the Deed of Dedication, the coffee shop is a not a non-profit making or charitable event nor a street performance, it is commercial, which violates the fact that only pedestrian passage, non-profit making or charitable events such as exhibition and or street performance are allowed on the open space. Both of these incidents were discovered by a few members of the public and put forward to discussion in the public. The public discussions are the main evidence of public monitoring Times Square and the open piazza. Public monitoring the space is a controls the violating acts Times Square as a private company did according to the Deeds of Dedication. The role of monitoring the private company, Times Square, by the public is important as a balanced power of the private company and the public/ on the Privately Owned Public space, which ultimately is to aim for a better POPS for all. ConclusionBeing on the controversial edge of public and private, the Privately Owned Public Space, the open piazza is produced under the push of urbanisation, urban development policies and Wharf Real Estate Investment Company Limited. It is however not the main product of the forces that caused the production, it is a by-product which is very much produced with the intention of benefiting the company. This production of social space from the public to the private. This leads to the forces of control of Times Square on the open space by surveillance of the privately owned public space and the control of Times Square. The public also has forces of control over Times square by monitoring Times Square to prevent the abuse of the public space. What is important from exploring these forces is that these forces of control once again inforced the conflicts of privately owned and public space. 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