A Liveable Compact City? Local Perspectives from Hong Kong
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Proponents of the compact city concept have been promoting high-density and mixed-use developments as the critical solutions to countervail the negative externalities of urban sprawl. It is suggested as a model which could bring about mixed urban land-uses, less car dependency, thus reducing energy consumption and preserving the environment. Herein, the implementation of a compact city model would be able to provide a sustainable and liveable environment to urban residents. However, not everyone appreciates the high-density way of compact city development. Critical appraisals have pointed to different trade-offs between urban density and liveability, such as failures in providing affordable housing, shortages in urban green space or overcrowding in the urban residential area (Burton,1999; Neuman,2005). While various cities in East and Southeast Asia have decided to develop in a high-density way emphasising the benefits of this compact urban form, the benefits or trade-offs of this urban form on people’s urban living conditions are yet to be validated. While much of this debate dates back from the late 1990s and early 2000s (Jenks & Burgess, 2000; Jenks, Burton, & Williams, 1996; Jacobs, 1961; Williams, Burton, & Jenks, 1996; Burton, 2002; Burton,2000), it is time to review the validity of such claims in view of the considerable growth in urban densification in many East and Southeast Asian cities over the last few decades. In this research, claims and observation on these benefits and trade-offs that are previously suggested by urban experts, scholars, and more would be reviewed through the lens of a case study. By zooming into an exemplary, well-developed compact city, we would have a chance to validate the theoretical and hypothetical claims on the benefits or trade-offs of compact development form on people’s daily life. Based on a detailed qualitative case study of the city of Hong Kong and several expert interviews, this research identifies rising liveability concerns of the high-density compact urban form, providing critical insights into ‘compact city’ debates.