The Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront is one of the world’s most extraordinary urban sites, yet despite its dramatic setting, rich historic and cultural heritage, and popular appeal, its potential was largely unrealised. Although close to the heart of Kowloon, Hong Kong, the wide and busy Salisbury Road separated the waterfront from the city, making it difficult to access. While the existing waterfront drew large crowds for specific events such as the Symphony of Lights, Chinese New Year celebrations and Dragon Boat Races, extensive portions of the waterfront offered only minimal amenities.
The former garden design did not take advantage of the fantastic waterfront setting, instead of focusing on a small central fountain and blocking views to the harbour with plant rooms and dense shrub planting. There was very little seating and limited shade for pedestrians as the tree planting comprised mainly palm trees and small trees incapable of providing adequate shade. The garden was largely hidden from view and not a popular destination despite its close proximity to the waterfront.
With the goal of creating a vibrant public garden and open space landscape, URBIS Limited was engaged as the Executive Landscape Architect to work alongside James Corner Field Operation (JCFO) as the Project Leader and Design Landscape Architect and Pegasus Greenland Limited as a contractor. In order to capitalise on the extraordinary potential of the site and establish a world-class setting, JCFO developed an ambitious design to connect, enhance and consequently revitalise the entire public realm of the waterfront. The plan sought to expand amenities, improve connections to adjacent areas and enhance public use by providing a higher-quality experience for all who visit the area. But, as with all urban areas, there were some unique challenges that needed to be overcome.
Firstly, the entire Salisbury Garden is built on top of an underground shopping mall making it challenging to provide a long-term planting solution for large established trees central to the design. In order to achieve this, a sizeable, interconnected planting pit was created using Citygreen’s Stratavault structural root cell system with suspended pavement above. This successfully provided the trees with sufficient soil volume to grow and mature, providing much-needed shade for park users.
Another challenge was the site’s exposure to extreme weather events including typhoons. Typhoon Mangkhut hit Hong Kong in September 2018 damaging the majority of trees in this project, some irrecoverably and requiring replacement. Given the typhoon prevalence in Hong Kong and the exposure of this site, good health and rapid establishment are important to limit the risk of future damage during the typhoon season. The Stratavault system in combination with high-quality soil and good management practices are key to the success and stability of the trees in this re-development and the long-term sustainability of the large trees at the site.
Re-opened in November 2017, today the waterfront has emerged as a fully integrated precinct for leisure, culture, recreation, education and tourism. The design is highly responsive to the site’s complex technical constraints (relating largely to the underground mall beneath the garden) while striving toward a new standard of excellence in public realm design.
Actively programmed, carefully designed, and richly detailed, the new landscape responds to its unique setting and diverse use and provides places for people to sit, pathways to stroll, spaces for social gathering and a large open lawn for daily lounging as well as occasional celebrations and performances. New tree plantings offer shade around the edges of the space while lush ground-level and Garden Wall plantings are intended to engage and delight visitors. The new design capitalises on the magnificent views of the Hong Kong skyline while facilitating access and expanding appreciation of Victoria Harbour for public enjoyment. Pedestrian connections between the city and its waterfront have transformed Salisbury Garden into a lush and inviting landscaped garden, revitalising the Avenue of Stars Waterfront Promenade and establishing a world-class setting for Victoria Dockside.
The planting design by URBIS performs several important functional and aesthetic roles in the Salisbury Garden design. The trees play a key role in shaping and defining the different spaces within the garden, framing views towards the harbour and providing the shade that is so vital to the comfort of users in the hot summer months. The shrubs, groundcovers and Garden Walls provide the visual interest and detail to enliven the garden by use of flower colour and fragrance and leaf form, colour and texture.
From the outset, the garden design was configured to retain as many trees as practical and where these could not be retained, they were either transplanted to a new location or replaced by better quality trees. 19 trees are retained in Situ within the garden, including 2 large Ficus microcarpa (Chinese banyan). In addition, 12 trees have been transplanted to new locations within the garden, which now create an attractive welcome at the north-east entrance.
46 new trees were planted throughout the garden. In the Central Bosque, a grove of 12 tall stately Terminalia mantaly (Madagascar almond) were planted to provide dappled shade for this gathering space in the hot summer months. Similarly, in the Western Bosque, a grove of 11 tall Bischofia javanica (autumn maple) provides cool shade for users to enjoy food and snacks from the nearby kiosk. Along the eastern side of the Central Lawn, a grove of transplanted Syagrus romanzoffiana (Queen palms) provide shade for picnicking or relaxing on the grass.
Despite the effects of Typhoon Mangkhut, this project has received awards from professional institutes recognising urban or landscape design related projects with outstanding performance and contributions in promoting excellence in design, including:
- A Gold Award (2018) with the Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architect (HKILA)
- A Merit Design Award (2018) with the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design (HKIUD)
- A Sustainability Award (2019), a Merit Award (2019) under A&A and Conversion Category with Building Surveying Division of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors
- A Finalist Award under the World Architecture Festival (2019)
Despite no previous experience installing the Stratavault structural root cell system in Hong Kong, the materials were delivered to the site and installed with no delays. The hope is that this critically acclaimed precinct will be a useful site reference for future tree planting and the provision of better growing environments for the urban forest in Hong Kong.