Street park prototype

Central, Hong Kong

A lot going on in this short snippet of pavement in the heart of Central, Hong Kong.

Renovation is likely afoot in one of the visible shops, but as with much of Hong Kong, limited space means there’s not enough room to store all the requisite materials inside of the space where the work is actually happening (as seen with brooms, shovels, and a variety of other assorted objects). Hence, this temporary storage solution being improvised on the side of this street.

This might be considered a contentious move to pull in the midst of such a bustling street, with parking nearly constantly in high demand across this neighborhood. Unlike the space claims employed by the auto repair shops of Hong Kong, this space claim is a temporary one. Yet it seems as if both the construction materials and those assigned to work with them have been there for a while, and aren’t facing any pressure to rush (or even appear to be rushing, which can be equally tiring). Quite likely there’s a shared (if not a legally binding) understanding between the renovating tenant and the neighbors who aren’t being served by this particular spatial repurposing, with the knowledge that those other tenants’ circumstances might suddenly change to require them to call upon a repair crew and repurpose this space in a similar way for their own needs.

The workers seated on the materials (presumably the same responsible for moving and working with them) demonstrate how well these particular blocks lend themselves to being repurposed from a building material into a seating solution – a clever material repurposing unfolding within a broader spatial repurposing.

Central, Hong Kong

Imagine what this would look like were it less of a “temporary warehouse” and made into a permanent part of the street, in a higher-fidelity way. What if the same understanding and tolerance between the renovating tenant and their neighbors was reformed around a permanent version of a sidewalk-based lounge? What if pavement were grass, the seating came with tables, and the guests and diners from the adjacent hotel and restaurants could use the space as an extended living and dining room? This is what feels exciting behind some of the impressive “1-minute city” magic that Dan Hill is working with his colleagues at Vinnova and ArkDes over in Sweden, creating a kit-of-parts called Street Moves to prototype (with surprising speed and surprisingly little cost) different means of ‘activating’ a given city block.

Consider how it might change the character of the adjacent storefronts, sidewalk, and the surrounding neighborhood were these materials and improvised seating solutions left as a permanent space claim. If it brought a 400% increase in neighbors on the street in Stockholm, just imagine what it could do for street life here in Hong Kong. Think broadly, too – around how this would change the pulse not just of this area’s social life, but its economic one as well (the elimination of parking spaces as compared to the massive uptick in pedestrians).

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