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BY CHERMAINE LEE

Months of protests leave a mark on Hong Kong’s streetscapes.

FROM THE JUNE 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Until recently, gray metal railings have been a ubiquitous element of Hong Kong’s streetscape. Installed to delineate spaces for cars and pedestrians and enhance safety, the railings have multiplied over the past decade. In 2010, the government reported 435 miles of these roadside barriers. By 2018, the number had more than doubled to 1,087 miles, according to Hong Kong’s Transport Department.

But in the wake of the recent antigovernment protest that first erupted in response to a bill that would have permitted extradition of criminals to mainland China, the metal railings have been torn apart by thousands of black-shirted protesters to use as roadblocks, and bricks have been dug up from the road for use as weapons. Along with changing political and social dynamics, Hong Kong’s urban fabric has experienced dramatic changes. What has long separated pedestrians from the roadway is suddenly gone, and the definitions of public space have become more flexible. As the government has been slow in replacing the railings, perhaps for fear of the metal bars being again used by protesters, urban designers in the city are wondering if the interim streetscape is an opportunity. (more…)

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