The Jockey Club Civic Exchange “Reconnecting Open Space” Programme is a public engagement project that aims to evaluate and raise societal awareness on the quality of open space in the city. It is an initiative funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and led by Civic Exchange, an independent public-policy think tank with a vision to shape a liveable and sustainable Hong Kong. This one-year project covers an 18-district wide public opinion survey, capacity building programmes for tertiary and secondary students, a public forum and a research report.
Public Opinion Survey and Report
Civic Exchange interviewed 3,600 Hong Kong residents across 18 districts between January and March 2018 to collect information about their usage and preference of open space, such as sitting-out areas, parks, recreational grounds, outdoor plazas, and podium gardens. A report on the quality of open space in Hong Kong is scheduled to be published in October 2018.
Civic Exchange runs a “covering open space” multimedia project with Hong Kong Baptist University to help 40 journalism students understand more about the topic and report on relevant news stories in Hong Kong; we also organise seminars for urban planning and design students. This summer, we will co-host a camp for 80 secondary school students with our project partner Hong Kong Public Space Initiative.
To raise public awareness of the importance of open space to our city, we will organise a workshop in June 2018 to engage key stakeholders in various sectors, including the government, property developers, the academia, professional bodies, and community groups. A public forum will be held at The University of Hong Kong on 26 October 2018.
Why Does Open Space Matter?
Overseas research shows that open space brings environmental, health, and social benefits to cities and residents. Open space with trees improves air ventilation, mitigates the urban heat island effect, and absorbs air pollutants and rainwater (if the ground surface is porous) to reduce pollution and prevent flooding. It also provides a place for people to exercise, relax, and socialise, thereby reducing illness, stress, and feelings of loneliness. Open space facilitates interaction among people living in a neighbourhood and provides a focal point for community activities. Elderly people particularly rely on open space to meet friends and stay involved in their communities. Urban theorists also argue that open space promotes social inclusion by allowing people from different backgrounds to interact with each other. In a densely populated city like Hong Kong, it is important to ensure that we have good quality open space that maximises benefits for all our residents.
The Provision of Open Space in Hong Kong
In 2012, Hong Kong had around 1,930 hectares of countable open space, which refers to recreational grounds managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Housing Authority as well as public open space in private and large, residential developments. This means each Hong Kong person enjoys 2.7 to 2.8 square metres of open space, which is significantly lower than people in other Asian cities such as Tokyo (5.8 m²), Seoul (6.1 m²), Shanghai (7.4 m²), and Singapore (7.6 m²).
Public Opinion Survey and Report
Civic Exchange surveyed over 3,600 respondents in our open space questionnaire, interviewing 200 residents in each of the 18 districts in Hong Kong to gather information about their preference, usage, and satisfaction level with parks, sitting-out areas, and other recreational spaces provided by the government and developers.
Our researchers conducted four focus groups to examine the open space needs of children, young people, and the elderly. The discussions also explored residents’ understanding of “open space” and the different usage patterns and satisfaction levels of those living in private versus public housing.
A press conference will be held in October 2018 to launch an open space research report based on the findings of the public opinion survey.
"Covering Open Space" Journalism Project
Civic Exchange is working with 40 journalism students from Baptist University to create multimedia stories about open space issues in Hong Kong. They will gain insights into the latest research, trends, and data sourcing knowledge about open space through one-on-one mentorship and expert guidance.
Inclusive Open Space Seminar Series
Two seminars will be hosted in October to educate urban planning, design, and journalism students on why open space is important and how the community can create inclusive open space for all.
Public Space Creative Lab
More than 80 secondary school students attended the first day of a summer camp that aimed to improve their understanding of Hong Kong’s public open space on 19 May 2018. “Public Space Creative Lab,” a project organised by Civic Exchange and its partner Hong Kong Public Space Initiative, will hold two other sessions for more students in July and August.
A small group of key stakeholders from the government, property developers, the academia, professional bodies in urban planning and design, district councilors, and community groups are invited to discuss the challenges and opportunities of creating inclusive open space in Hong Kong at a workshop in June 2018.
A public forum titled “Our Open Space, Our Wellbeing” will be held on 26 October 2018 at the Graduate House Theatre at The University of Hong Kong. The morning session will highlight findings results of the 3600-respondent survey from Civic Exchange and presentations from other experts on open space research and initiatives. This will be followed by four to six interactive workshops to visit different open space in various districts in the afternoon.
Open Space Handbook
This handbook is an educational resource published by Civic Exchange in May 2018 to help journalists, journalism students, urban planners, and the public learn more about open space – its definition, benefits, and importance in Hong Kong. More information about the distribution of open space can be found in Civic Exchange’s February 2017 report, “Unopened Space: Mapping Equitable Availability of Open Space in Hong Kong”.
Carine Lai has an MSc in International Planning, a BA in Political Science, and a BFA in Studio Art. She has conducted research for Civic Exchange since 2004, and has a keen interest in urban design, public open space, walkability, planning history, land policy and political economy in Hong Kong.
Vicky Kung has an MSc in Urban Planning and a BSocSc in Journalism. She was originally trained as a trilingual journalist at TVB Pearl and RTHK English and later joined Civic Exchange in 2016. She is interested in urban planning and how public-private partnerships can enhance the wellbeing of cities and their dwellers.
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