Palmer and Turner Architects; recent alterations by Aedas Ltd.
1964; 1998; 2010
Hong Kong’s Central district pedestrian footbridge system arose from a history of innovative collaboration between developers and the Government. Its typological origins date back to the early 20th century, when architects and planners in Europe and North America first imagined a more efficient means for pedestrians to navigate cities and avoid increasing vehicular traffic. The idea of unrestrained, democratic movement across an entire city also represented an important motivational force behind the footbridge.
Over the course of the 1950s and 1960s, footbridge systems became particularly popular in a number of cities with extreme climatic conditions, including Hong Kong. The first air-conditioned footbridge in Hong Kong was built in 1963 across Chater Road in Central, spanning the twenty-two meter distance between the Princes Building and Mandarin Hotel. Over time, footbridges were used to connect increasingly large, air-conditioned interiors around the city, facilitating both movement and commercial development throughout the district. Subsequent expansions incorporated the Connaught Building (1972), Alexandria House (1974) and the MTR system (1975) together, generating one of the most extensive multi-strata pedestrian walkway systems in the world. Further connections have stretched from Admiralty to Sheung Wan to Central’s mid-level escalator, completed in 1993.
Today, the system consists of a vast network of footbridges, commercial public spaces, and underground concourses. The system also generates a number of fascinating spatial and visual experiences, blurring ideas of what is interior and exterior, architectural and urban space in a number of interesting and noteworthy ways. Its emphasis on efficient movement through the city, meanwhile, makes it a unique example of modern architectural and urban ideals at work in Hong Kong today.
– Edward Leung
For more information about the footbridge system, click here.