Design with the city - Creating a Micro Park on a Hong Kong Stairway

Hong Kong residents are particularly skilled at maximizing the use of the city’s existing structures and spaces.

Morning Tai Chi sessions are held on cement forecourts of large office buildings. Street traders set up shop on sidewalks with specially crafted tables and stands that attach to public fences and posts. Alleyways contain pop-up barber shops. A public stairway contains a micro park…

The extreme density of the city gives its physical landscape an almost malleable quality, the extra potential of everything element in the city utilized for maximum use. Amidst the many multi-functioning elements of the city, a stairway in the central business district presents itself as an icon of maximizing extra potential.

Designed by local firm Edge Design Institute, The Cascade layers new functionality on top of one of the city’s countless stairways. Located next to The Centrium complex in the central business district, The Cascade is a micro park with public seating designed to be installed on top of an existing stairway, offering shoppers and businesspeople a moment of rest and relaxation.

Complete with Bauhinia trees, individual and group seating areas and a lighting scheme that changes with the area’s nighttime atmosphere, The Cascade provides a variety of private and public moments in the otherwise utilitarian commercial area.

Creating a Micro Park on a Hong Kong Stairway
Transforming a central stairway into a space for leisure and relaxation. The Cascade, Hong Kong.

“The Cascade,” says Edge Design Institute, “is an artificial landscape that responds to the unique topography of the site: a cascade of steps that creates a public thoroughfare and generates potential for a delicately-scaled public space that has often been overlooked.”

The Cascade sits quietly – no signage or directions leading to it, the delight of chancing upon it is part of its charm. For local business workers and shoppers, it is part of their personal story of the city, there for relaxation or social moments when needed. It also offers something larger for other dense cities to learn from. Stairways allow people to transition from one elevation to the next, but The Cascade shows they contain surplus capacity – the ability to do something else at the same time as their original functionality.

This project and dozens of others are featured in the Reprogramming the City Book!

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