Introduction to Mixed-use development in Hong Kong

Hong Kong represents a singular case of its own. Hong Kong is unique because it represents an extreme case of overcrowding, escalating population growth, scarcity of land resource, intensification of land-use activities, burdened by an absence of raw materials and natural resources. High-rise and high density living is a way of life for most of the 6.7 Million population of Hong Kong. The merits and demerits affiliated with Hong Kong’s compact urban form continues to attract academic deliberations and debates over the acceptability of such urban form as an alternative to urban sprawl for future city and urban life-style. Because of an articulated land shortage, acute topography, escalating population growth, and shortage of time, Hong Kong government and planners have little options left but to adopt vertical development, resulted in a densely and mixed use urban habitat packed with closely built high-rise residences and commercial buildings. According to the survey by Wang Xu and Lau Siu Yu, it is clear that mixed and intensive land use, high quality of living and recreation infrastructure, efficient public transportation network, and segregation of pedestrian and traffic can facilitate the performance of compact urban form. In addition, most of Hong Kong families have been accustomed to high-rise living pattern and the disadvantages such living pattern might cause on its resident’s social communication and children education are readily ignored by most of the people.

A view of the Hong Kong skyline with Victoria Harbour

Photo 1: A view of the Hong Kong skyline with Victoria Harbour

Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board,


Hong Kong Mix use development timeline

Figure 1: Hong Kong Development Timeline

Source: Urban Design and Planning Consultants Limited, Retrieved from

Transformation of building typology in Hong Kong

Figure 2: Transformation of building typology in Hong Kong

Source: Urban Design and Planning Consultants Limited, Retrieved from


Building Compatibility to surrounding context

For the compatibility of new buildings, namely podium structures in this study, into the existing urban form and specific built environments of different areas is a substantial consideration to enrich and contribute to the surrounding neighborhood. As the new development form of large-scale podium structures bring to the economic success of both government revenues and business interests, the large building frame is also highly advocated to contribute and integrate into the existing built environment. The opportunity and failure that can be seen in the comparative study is learned and developed into three design features which contributes to the building compatibility of typical podium structure.


Through mandatory opening up holes, notches or sections of the continuous podium frontage in response to the surrounding context, the main accessing street or existing footbridge system, the continuity of streets and street functions from neighbouring buildings would be extended and connected with the new commercial development. Through providing 24 hours public passage of appropriate percentage of the floor area within the large building frame in addition, the accessibility through the podium structure on a large-scale street block would be facilitated between surrounding city fabric. Both the visual and building permeability in the cityscape would be effectively enhanced, and therefore, the pedestrian environment by making connections and pursuing movement logically and legibly.


Building compatibility addresses the connections between pedestrians and podium structure at ground level and multi-level by considering the reasons and needs of people to access. While developing the enclosure area for value-adding uses, the alignment of edge activities along continuous building frontage of podium is an alternative way to advance the building compatibility of podium structure. The appropriate percentage provision of edge activities like retail frontage is desirable in response to the neighbouring building edge to activate the whole street activities between new podium development and old building area.


Building Functionality

Podium structures as mega-structures accommodating all the functions or part of the functions of the development within the large frames does not fully comply with the anticipation of the general community. Rather than accommodating functions of new development merely, the overall concern of community is proposed to address the connections with surrounding neighborhood by housing functions and key services for the general public. The diversity of building functionality would successfully engender social interaction within the large frame of podium structure and foster a quality and sustainable built environment. The guidelines or mandatory provision of appropriate percentage of community facilities and transportation facilities above or below ground within the podium complex is substantial to standardize the desirable building functionality in the new development form of podium structure. However, the definite application criteria on the provision percentage for building functionality and also building compatibility have to be examined through more case studies of typical podium complexes in Hong Kong.