The Public Realm

One of the things that struck me most about Hong Kong is just how active and vibrant the public realm was.  Everywhere you went, there were people out and about.  Meals were eaten in open air cafes, business was conducted in the streets, commercial activity spilled out of shop fronts onto sidewalks and streets, and all of this contributed to a feeling of vibrancy that is all too often absent from U.S. city streets.

It seems like the public realm is where most people in Hong Kong spend the majority of their time.   Not just using the public realm to move from point A to point B, but being in the public realm. Unlike in the States, where we more often than not use the public realm to move between destinations, in Hong Kong, the public realm seemed to be the destination. 

Maybe that’s simply a result of people not having as much individual or personal space as we do in the west, or maybe there’s a deeper cultural meaning associated with valuing the collective over the individual.  Whatever the reason, it sure makes for a wonderful urban experience…….one that leaves me feeling that the streets of Seattle are pretty boring by comparison. 

That being said, amidst the bustling often-chaotic city life, there are also beautiful, unassuming moments of quiet and serenity.  Evidence of people carving out a bit of the private in the public realm.  My favorite is this picture of someone looking for – and presumably finding – a bit of respite in one of the congested utility-filled back alleys of Wan Chai:

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About Scott Wolf

Scott Wolf is a partner at the Miller Hull Partnership, an award-winning architectural design firm located in Seattle, specializing in public works buildings that actively engage their communities. Scott is a sustainable design leader and has been responsible for many of the firm's most complex and highest profile projects, including the firm’s two AIA National Honor Award winners: Olympic College Shelton and the Point Roberts Border Station. His most recent project, on target for LEED Platinum certification, is LOTT Clean Water Alliance’s new Regional Services Center in Olympia, Washington. Scott is passionate about the role water plays in the built environment, and recently served as chair of the American Institute of Architects Seattle Water Forum, which brought together architects and engineers with regulatory agencies and other industry professionals to discuss the challenges of sustainable water, wastewater and stormwater systems. He has lectured about water-related issues to various design-related audiences across the country. Scott has served on the board of Water 1st International since 2010 and recently had the opportunity to visit Ethiopia and experience first-hand the amazing work of the organization. Scott is a graduate of North Carolina State University and earned his Masters of Architecture from the University of Oregon.
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One Response to The Public Realm

  1. Julia says:

    Scott, I love this post. I remember seeing this chair in the alleyway near the Blue House — I’m so glad you captured it!

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