The practice of everyday space : the reception of planned open space in Hong Kong

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The practice of everyday space : the reception of planned open space in Hong Kong

 

Author: Siu, Kin Wai Michael
Title: The practice of everyday space : the reception of planned open space in Hong Kong
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2001
Subject: Open spaces -- China -- Hong Kong
City planning -- China -- Hong Kong
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: School of Design
Pages: xiii, 464 leaves : ill., maps ; 30 cm
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b1553368
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/265
Abstract: In recent decades, the Hong Kong government has continuously set up strategies and plans, and sought authority through legislation to control city space. When undertaking urban development, as Lefebvre (1996) has commented on current urban development, the government follows the planning principles of administrators who accompany the deliberate forms of operational rationalism, and tend to neglect the "human factor." They see rational planning generally considered as a technique of communication and circulations as an active force and the "only" and "proper" means of directing the community towards the ideal of social harmony. The government also follows the planning principles of developers who openly maximise profit. What is new and recent is that they are no longer selling housing or buildings, but planning. In the studies of "sociology of everyday life," some French sociologists, such as Michel de Certeau, Henri Lefebvre, and Michel Maffesoli, point out that the everyday life in modem society is organised according to a concerted programme, and the urban setting is cybernetised. People's everyday life is embodied in the experience of a highly organised society, which is strictly programmed according to the closed circuit of production-consumption-production (Lefebvre, 1984). These sociologists have conducted detailed studies on the everyday life of common people, and offer us a new perspective from which to see everyday life and the response of Hong Kong people to their programmed living environment. Through the theoretical review of how urban theorists and sociologists see city space and its order from different perspectives, and the empirical research on a market street and some supplementary case-study sites, this study attempts to ascertain that the habitants of a city-city users-are "tactical practitioners" (de Certeau, 1984). This study explores the role of city users and their interaction with the space in which they are living by asking the following questions: (a) What kind of city spaces, particularly open spaces, does the Hong Kong government provide for the Hong Kong people-the city users? (b) What kind of space do the city users truly need? (c) Do the city users in their daily practice observe and obey the objectives of these policies, strategies, and visions? (d) If not, do the city users practice their lives in accordance with the sociologists' ideas mentioned above? In other words, what is the Hong Kong people's reception of planned open spaces? The findings illustrate that the city open space, on the one hand, is not run exactly according to what the government (including policymakers, planners, administrators, executives and implementers) anticipates under its planning and control while, on the other hand, users are not free to operate in the open space without facing any constraints. The fact is that the government continuously sets up strategies and seeks greater authority through legislation to control the city, because it discovered that results do not exactly match the government's determination and planning and city users continuously seek "opportunities" under the strategies promulgated by the government. The findings also show that it is not appropriate to presuppose the government and users of open space are in a binary dichotomous opposition. This means the open space-use system of Hong Kong should be better understood as: (1) a formal and official city/urban policy and implementation, with its codified laws and ordinances and government departments; (2) informal ways of operating, with well-established customary, traditional, conventional, local and individual practices; and (3) an intermediate realm hi which city users tactically "reconstruct" their everyday space to make it inhabitable under continuous interactions with the government, related bodies and organisations, and also with other users of the city. The city users redefine the meanings and functions of space, reterritorialise the boundaries, rebuild the planned environment to implement what they expected, reestablish the rules of using the space, reorder the temporal order, and of course perform more "re"s in order to obtain and maintain a place for their own needs. Based on the theoretical discussions and the empirical findings, and by illustrating some practical project experiences in user oriented research and design, this study emphasises that we should respect city users' ways of living by conducting more in-depth empirical studies. Moreover, the design or redesign of open spaces requires a participatory process where the eventual users, or representatives of the same, are involved in the design process. Research-based recommendations cannot substitute for public participation. Thus, this study proposes that user participation is the best way to obtain and maintain a good quality living environment which suits the city users with diverse backgrounds, cultures, needs and preferences.

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