Urban identity in Hong Kong's New Town : a case study of Tung Chung's urban morphology

Goudsmit, Inge; (2022) Urban identity in Hong Kong's New Town : a case study of Tung Chung's urban morphology. In: Annual Conference Proceedings of the XXVIII International Seminar on Urban Form. University of Strathclyde Publishing, Glasgow, pp. 1126-1133. ISBN 9781914241161

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Despite the ambitions of the government to develop 'balanced developments', new towns in Hong Kong have long been criticised as 'dormitory towns'; the community has little connection with the place and a low sense of belonging and satisfaction. This paper examines the relationship between the urban morphology of new towns and the creation of culture, identity and social connection –and thus a sense of place, arguably an essential element to build a resilient and inclusive community. A long history of scholarly studies looked into how mega blocks negatively affect the vibrancy of street life and suggested that smaller blocks and mixed-use programs facilitate a stronger community that boasts its character. However, few examined how urban forms affect the sense of identity and culture of new towns in Asia. Using the theoretical framework of Lefebvre's Production of Space (1991), I will compare the designed city with the lived experience of daily life. This research compares built forms of several new towns developed in different phases in Hong Kong and then zooms in to Tung Chung through urban analysis. The comparison reveals that street blocks in newer new towns are increasingly larger and are void of street culture. A series of interviews with local stakeholders, reviews of local news reports and site observations further reveal first-hand experiences of residents. This allows us to draw a direct relationship between Tung Chung's urban forms - mainly its density, street network, block size and poor distribution of civic amenities - and residents' lack of sense of ownership. The population of Tung Chung is forecasted to triple and reach 270,000 in the coming decade, while Hong Kong is proactively developing plans for large-scale construction at its peripheries; this research hence serves as an important and timely insight for future policymaking, planning and design.

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