Great cities have great public spaces—think Piazza San Marco in Venice, Central Park in New York City, or the exotic night market Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech—all of which are Instagram-worthy and ideal for both tourists and locals alike to gather and interact.
Hong Kong’s public meeting space is called the Avenue of Stars (AOS), where visitors from around the globe have swooned over its panoramic views of Hong Kong Island during the day and the city’s dramatic skyline at night. Located at the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula in Tsim Sha Tsui, a trendy shopping and nightlife district in Kowloon, the AOS has been a massive draw ever since opening as a scenic walkway along the waterfront in 1982. By 2004, it had been transformed into Hong Kong’s version of the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’ —and people absolutely loved it. The walkway quickly became Hong Kong’s most visited attraction, taking in roughly half a million visitors per month. However, after 11 years of heavy foot traffic, AOS was in need of a facelift, if you will, and it went under the knife with the steady hand of some highly-conscious developers.
The renovation is just one part of a much larger project known as Victoria Dockside: a $2.6 billion, 3 million-square-foot mixed-use development zone that includes a flagship shopping mall, the 10-story K11 Musea, which offers a unique mix of luxury retail and cultural events; K11 ARTUS, a new concept for luxury living, with 287 residences spanning 14 floors, each with eclectic touches and customized elements; a 66-floor skyscraper with Class A offices; a Rosewood ultra-luxury hotel and residence; and plenty of inviting outdoor public space like Salisbury Garden, and yes, the Avenue of the Stars.
Guided by Adrian Cheng, founder of K11 and Executive Vice-Chairman and General Manager of New World Development, the new Victoria Dockside is poised to become a new global cultural destination for Hong Kong, providing a blank canvas for artists, designers, and businesses to help create one of the most exciting neighborhoods of tomorrow. It’s also one of the biggest redevelopment projects in Hong Kong’s illustrious history.
For the re-design of the promenade, Cheng collaborated with James Corner, founder and director of James Corner Field Operations, an urban design and landscape architecture firm, renowned for their revitalization of the Chelsea High Line in New York. “It was Adrian’s idea and priority to completely renovate and update the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront for the 21st century, all part of his larger urban revitalization of Victoria Dockside and the surrounding community,” said Corner. “It was important to Adrian that the waterfront be wholly public, dynamic, and iconic for Hong Kong. This will be one of the most visited waterfronts in the world.”
To this extent, Corner, in partnership with Hong Kong designers such as LAAB, One Bit Design Studio, Urbis Limited, and Ronald Lu & Partners, wanted to reinvigorate the promenade and create a better ambiance and overall visitor experience. In the past, AOS was somewhere you rarely wanted to linger, especially when the tropical heat and suffocating humidity descended upon the city. Corner’s plan was to simply amplify what was already there but to improve accessibility and design better places to sit and linger, particularly by sprinkling in some much-needed shade areas.
In the end, Corner added numerous trellises, trees, and other canopies to provide 800 times more shade than what was previously offered at AOS. But even more importantly, Corner believed that the waterfront should feel more accessible, offering enough space for art installations, open-air concerts, and other cultural events. He also added simpler touches like a balustrade designed for passersby to lean on with their elbows, something that will provide added comfort with which to take in the world’s most iconic harbor-front skylines.
The actual space for AOS was redesigned, and the celebrity handprints and statues were moved to another location on the promenade. Additionally, the handprints of all 107 movie stars (with five more to be added in early 2019) are now mounted on handrails along the harbor front, so visitors can now take endless photos of them framed by the city skyline. QR codes have also been added to each set of prints which, upon scanning, will allow visitors take selfies with their favorite movie stars via AR technology, and let them read detailed bios of the artists and watch key clips from their films. The beloved statues of Bruce Lee, late local diva Anita Mui Yim-Fong, and others have also been freed from their restrictive barriers, making them instantly more interactive for photo ops. And to support and promote homegrown brands, AOS now boasts a series of food kiosks and mobile carts that offer everything from Avenue of Stars special edition souvenirs and I See I See ice pops to a branch store of TINY, a Hong Kong toy and model brand specializing in local model architecture and car accessories.
In Hong Kong, outdoor areas are often treated minimally and without many aspirations for a well-designed public space, but the new green space of Salisbury Garden and the Avenue of Stars mark a wholly new direction where significant care, design, investment, and programming offers visitors from around the world a tremendously unique and high-quality public realm. “As integral components of the larger arts and design emphasis of the entire Victoria Dockside, both the Salisbury Garden and AOS offer magnificent, highly visible public platforms for showcasing culture, heritage and spectacle,” shared Corner. “This is all about bringing more people to the harbor front, celebrating the spectacle of public life in the context of the harbor and the city skyline, and enhancing the experience of people enjoying Hong Kong.”
The redesigned promenade, including Avenue of Stars, will reopen after a three-year hiatus on January 30th—just in time for the Chinese New Year fireworks celebration.