Cross-border and Transient Public Space book chapter

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingChapter in an edited book (as author)Academic researchpeer-review


In the dense environs of Hong Kong, where land is a highly commodified resource, public space is notably limited and has a complex relationship to its civic functions. In planning terms, provision of public space in Hong Kong broadly falls into two distinct realms. One is the formal manifestation embodying governance and its symbolic representations, often as residues of colonial rule, can be seen in Statue Square for example. More recent examples can be found in the neo-liberal commercial developments which tend to off-set increased densities with token public space amenity - evident in Hong Kong’s Times Square Development (1994) for example - resulting in highly regulated corporate public spaces. On the contrary, public space for citizens throughout Hong Kong’s history is often left to the informal; manifested as numerous market streets, transactional spaces doubling as forms of public gathering spaces. In such market streets, the dense overlaying of temporal and changing functions – at one moment a goods market and later in the same day a cooked food or performance street – enact spatial choreographies. Across the border in Shenzhen, albeit for different developmental, state controlled and regulatory reasons, public space provisions fall into a similar rubric with the Futian government axis symbolizing power versus the more active former urban villages in which the street becomes a barometer of vibrant civic function and public space.
Although often contested, the transactional and therefore transient spaces of the street rely on difference to enable their lively nature. This is evident in the recent civic unrest periods in Hong Kong whereby streets have been occupied (the Umbrella Movement of 2015 for instance), but equally can be seen in many everyday instances in the city that take advantage of the unique spatial conditions. The nature of these differences – be they cultural, social, political, economic - give rise to a conception of transient public space – one that can happen in any urban condition - but which is clearly exacerbated by the engendered differences afforded by cross-border conditions arising from the Hong Kong – Shenzhen border. The border itself can therefore be posited as an integral part of a public space or threshold condition that generates issues that are played out in a series of micro and macro transient public spaces in both Hong Kong and in Shenzhen.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPublic Space in a Chinese Megaregion: Contemporary Urban Practices and Design Strategies of the Greater Bay Area
EditorsM Mitrasinovic, T Jachna
ISBN (Electronic)9780367367176
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


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