This the Urban area on Hong Kong island which was transformed from a “barren rock” to a “vertical city”. The lack of land on the foreshore with hills rising steeply from the shore prevented urbanization. Reclaiming or filling in of the north shore of the HK Island started as early as the 1840s and the hillside were cut to form housing terraces. Roads were built up the hills as access. With further influx of people into the region, this process was repeated with further reclamation, demolition of the older structures, building of new and higher buildings, widening of the roadways; today the area is also served by the world’s longest outdoor escalators from the CBD to the Mid-Levels.
Urban living means living close to others, usually above or below others, with good access to public transportation, medical and community facilities. Hong Kong has just (2012) been ranked No.1 by the Economist for Liveability. This is a spatially adjusted ranking taking account of the green space which HK has. This is a strange city where buildings are densely concentrated. With less than 10% land allocated to housing, HK has many country parks, conservation areas and walking trails which are within 30 minutes from most residents. The very efficient and effective transportation and health care systems also mean people in HK are active and live the longest lives ( for both males and females; male longevity surpasses Japan in 2012 and becomes No. 1).
To many of us, it comes as a bit of a shock to read in Triumph of the City, the latest book by America’s leading urban economist, Professor Edward Glaeser, of Harvard, that cities are a lot greener than the suburbs and countryside.
Cities or urban areas make economic sense. With the need to accommodate 7 million people and economic activities within a small area, there is no option for Hong Kong but to go “vertical”.