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Reaching Out

Design Competition Unlocks Students’ Creativity in Building Inclusive Community with Local Characteristics

group photoThe judging panel and winners pose for a photo at the final cum award presentation ceremony on 5 July.

The Central and Western District in Hong Kong has a unique charm enthralling visitors often with distinctive buildings that have a long history. These distinctive buildings, in addition to carrying forward the cultural legacy of the Central and Western District, can also be developed into community spaces for pubic enjoyment as the city evolves. To encourage creative urban regeneration ideas, the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) has for the second consecutive year partnered with Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE) and Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI), both under the Vocational Training Council (VTC), to organise the Innovative Design Competition. Students with a passion for district revitalisation were invited to come up with proposals incorporating place-making concepts for rejuvenating buildings that can meld with local characteristics of the Central and Western District and create public open spaces for fostering community networks.

Basing their design on one of the four urban regeneration project sites within the district, namely Peel Street/Graham Street, Central Market, Pak Tse Lane Park and H6 CONET community space on the ground level of The Center, the participating students were required to employ creative thinking and incorporate smart-living design to showcase the local characteristics and foster cross-generation harmony and sustainable development in the community, having made use of the professional knowledge they learned at school and taken into account the cultural landscape of the Central and Western District that they have thoroughly explored.

During the seven-month contest, exchanges between higher diploma students from IVE’s engineering programme and HKDI’s architectural design and interior design programme have sparked creativity. Prior to the competition, students were given guided tours to the redevelopment and preservation projects in Central and Western District by the URA, so that they could familiarise themselves with the historical and cultural landscape of the district to find inspirations. Visits to the Urban Renewal Exploration Centre were also arranged to help students gain comprehensive understanding of urban renewal from different perspectives.

Winning by good functionality and a showcase of local characteristics

The outstanding work of ‘Invisible Oasis’ by higher diploma student of Architectural Studies of IVE (Tsing Yi), Elmer Tai and his team has won both the Gold Award and the Most Community-Friendly Award. Picking Central Market as the design topic, the team introduced the idea of a ‘Cave of Water Curtains’ design, in which four water curtains, each about two stories high, are featured at the open space of Atrium to relieve the noise nuisance from outside in order to create a tranquil space for the office workers in the Central and Western District.  Elmer said, “Apart from the soothing sound of running water that brings tranquillity amidst the hustle and bustle of urban life, the water curtains can also serve as digital screens for real-time display of information about buildings and sights in the vicinity providing a communication platform for the visitors.” Another entry titled ‘HYGGE’, which is marked by the installation of community farms and a roof garden inside the Central Market, has won the Bronze Award for its endeavour to create slow living ambience and a sustainable community space at the heart of hectic district.

goldFeaturing water curtains at the Atrium of the Central Market, ‘Invisible Oasis’ is presented with the Gold Award winner for creating a tranquil open space for the community.

silverSilver Award winner ‘Mountain City’ injects ‘place-making’ elements into the revitalisation of Central Market by setting up a large-scale outdoor museum that connects history with our community life. 

bronzeThe Bronze Award winning project is named ‘HYGGE’ – a word originated from Denmark that implies the meaning of creating an enjoyable, inclusive and sustainable community at Central Market.

Awarded with both Silver Award and the Best Idea for Place-Making Award, the work of ‘Mountain City‘ by Max Ng and Yam Wing-lam, HKDI’s higher diploma students from the interior design department, stood out in the competition with its idea of a large-scale outdoor museum. Depicting the museum, Wing-lam said, “It will connect with the heritage buildings, the community environment and local living culture across different parts of the district’s street network and bring out the uniqueness of local streetscapes and people’s social bonding with the community.” She added that as streets in the Central and Western district are built on hillside where people have to walk uphill every day, the historic district embodying both Chinese and foreign cultures resembles the image of a ‘mountain city’, an impression that had become the central theme for developing their design concept eventually leading to the idea of incorporating a large-scale outdoor museum in the Peel Street/Graham Street project. Featuring an open space built with masonry material for hosting exhibitions and art performances, the museum will be connected with various historic and cultural sites through distinctive decorated paths so that people working and living in the vicinity could tour around this living heritage museum at any time. “We are also working towards developing some augmented reality devices to enhance the visitors’ experience, in which people can use their mobile devices to watch video stories of the heritage buildings that are narrated by virtual characters dressed in nostalgic costumes.”

Implementing new Place-Making initiatives for Central and Western District

Through incorporating new place-making initiatives in the of urban regeneration projects, the URA facilitates the building of an inclusive community while at the same time continues to integrate local characteristics into its urban planning according to the district-based principle, allowing more room for community space and more flexible design for community facilities that can help build the distinctive image of a district. The URA will also host a wide range of public activities at its revitalisation projects in order to foster a sense of community for all members.

Members of the public are welcome to check out the award-winning works and photos of this year’s Innovative Design Competition by visiting the Facebook page of URAmity (  

Gold teamHigher diploma students of Architectural Studies of IVE (Tsing Yi): (from right) Elmer Tai, Valli Leung and Ivan Lee, receive the Gold Award and the Most Community-Friendly Award for their outstanding and innovative design of  ‘Invisible Oasis’.