Places of Being and Eternal Paths

Magic Lanes in Hong Kong displays an inspiring community-design project that aims at turning a street into a place for stimulating vibrant urban life, which is rewoven with the present contemporary social fabric. By mapping current use and envisioning potential use of urban space by local residents, the project has set a base for real-life experiments. These experiments highlight the spatial assets people own by nature. In responding to the rapid urbanisation of this early-developed neighbourhood, the project it encourages their participation in the street. Located at Sheung Fung Lane (常豐里), the space used to be an empty concrete urban space characterised by outdoor stairs and blind facades of the neighbouring parking garages, and foremost no people actually staying there. With this project, people have entered a process of place re-making. It seems the essence of what is a ‘li’ (里), because next to its contemporary connotation of ‘lane’, this notion is used more accurate as ‘place’. Yet, also, it is ironically strong because it works with the street name. The notions of ‘sheung’ (常) and ‘fung’ (常) refer resp. to eternal/unchanging and to plenty. As if, magically, a flower pot is always full of living flowers. The project incorporates the ideas of its community members and it facilitates physical changes in this space. If people are present it will be a place again.

一刻 社區設計館,西營盤常豐里2號怡豐閣7號舖
First Community Design Museum;
Shop 7, Yi Fung Court, 2 Sheung Fung Lane, Sai Ying Pun

At the same day earlier, I have also noticed that many streets in Hong Kong are known as ‘toa’ (道). Tao, which has a much longer history, means ‘way’, ‘path’ or ‘route’, and thus is translated simply as ‘road’ today. Philosophically, again de-contextualised, this notion represents the intuitive knowing that life cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept. It relates to the path human beings are on. This path is known nonetheless through the actual living experience of one’s everyday being. This may make the presence of people in space, part of the same endless path we are on, wherever we are.

古之善為士者,微妙玄通,深不可識。
The ancient scholar is virtuous, subtly mysterious, deeply unknown.

or, as we may say at the present:
Once upon a time, those who knew the Way, were a mysterious and subtle people, transient yet profound, tranquil yet utterly unfathomable.
Chapter 15 (第十五章), Dao De Jing (道德經), attributed to Lao Zi (老子)

Public Space: Changing Values

The Quest for Public Space: Changing Values in Urban Design, The City as Learning Lab and Living Lab

This article highlights the dynamics of values in our reasoning on public space. By means of an epistemological study, it tests the contemporary premises underlying our ways to safeguard the inclusive, democratic, agential city, and, as such, it aims to update our view on urban design. The article raises three subsequent questions: [i] Is the city our common house as perceived from the Renaissance onward, containing all, and consequently are public spaces used by the people as a whole? [ii] Is the city formalising our municipal autonomy as emphasised since the Enlightenment, in an anti-egoistic manner, and in this line, are public spaces owned by local governments representing the people? And, [iii] is the city open to our general view as advocated in Modern reasoning, restricting entrepreneurial influences, and synchronically, is its public spaces seen and/or known by everyone? – Inclusiveness, democracy, agentiality are strongholds in our scientific thinking on public space and each issue echoes through in the practice on urban design. Yet, in an aim to keep cities connected and accessible, fair and vital, and open and social, conflicts appear. Primarily based upon reviewing urban theory and particularly experiencing the Amsterdam for this matter, the answering of questions generates remarks on this aim. Contemporary Western illuminations on pro-active citizens, participatory societies, and effects of social media and micro-blogging forecast a more differentiated image of public space and surmise to enforce diversification in our value framework in urban design.

See:
Harteveld, Maurice G. A. D. (2017) The Quest for Public Space: Changing Values in Urban Design, The City as Learning Lab and Living Lab, IN Tieben, Hendrik, Yan Geng, and Francesco Rossini (eds) The Entrepreneurial City, , Rotterdam: International Forum on Urbanism (IFoU) / Hong Kong: School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, pp. 395-411
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