January 2001


Lai Chi Kok Park

Outdoor orientations

West is east and east is west. It may sound confusing, but the layout of Lai Chi Kok Park is actually clear-cut and completely user-friendly. Located to the south of Mei Foo Sun Chuen, the park is an area of open space which has been developed into a Chinese garden in the west and a western garden in the east.

According to Architectural Services Department (ArchSD) architect Athena Fung, Lai Chi Kok Park is part of a larger open area which was targeted for redevelopment in three phases. Phase 1.1a is a triangular site with a jogging trail; phase 1.1b is the site of the new park.

The existing Lai Chi Kok Park Stages I and II adjacent to Lai Wan Road were resumed by the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation for the West Rail project. The area has a number of condominiums of all types. From luxurious units complete with all the amenities and home insurance policies to simple and affordable ones. Since there was no other open space for residents nearby, the former Urban Council decided to use the area bounded by Po Lun Street in the east and Lai Wan Road in the west for a park instead.
        Ms Fung said ArchSD was prompted to design a Lingnan-style Chinese garden on the 36,173 sq m site because the department wanted to introduce this southern Chinese garden style to Hong Kong.
        "The Walled City Park is a Chinese garden after the Jiangsu style. We turned to the Lingnan style for inspiration this time because there is no example of the style in Hong Kong, and because we thought it was appropriate, since we are situated in southern China (which gave rise to the Lingnan style). Besides, the name of the district, 'Lai Chi',  is the name of a famous and popular fruit grown in the southern part of China," Ms Fung explained.
        The four gardens visited by the ArchSD team were the Ke Garden in Dongguan; the Liang Garden in Foshan; the Qinghui Garden in Shunde; and the Yuyin Shanfang in Panyu.
        The result is a park which is distinctly different from the Walled City Park. The longer eaves of the buildings, for example, reflect the wetter and warmer climate of the south which nurtured the development of the Lingnan style. And while the Jiangsu style of the Walled City Park features the sharp contrast of white walls and black tiles, the Lingnan style is characterised by more of a muted grey.
        This was noted by the architect, but while wishing to create a park reminiscent of the Lingnan style, ArchSD also wanted to introduce colours and features from other styles which would make the park more interesting. After all, the four gardens to which the architect turned for inspiration were built for private use and were therefore more intended to encourage quiet contemplation, but Lai Chi Kok Park would be a public space where more users would be involved in more activity.
        To reflect this difference, green tiles as well as tiles in an earthy red were introduced, along with wrought iron railings and coloured glass, the last a feature which was imported to China during the late Ching period. Traditional Chinese artwork as well as couplets were also introduced and installed by specialists brought in from China. The structures are a blend of the traditional and the modern, with concrete underpinning the tiled roofs and fibre-optic lighting under the eaves. Wood is used where appropriate, to add warmth and a traditional feel.
        The park's
public nature also necessitated modifications to ensure user safety. For example, the footpaths are wider, to cater to the large number of users. For the same reason a loop was created at the wide entrance to the stone boat, to facilitate entry and exit, which is quite different from the small entrance of the model the architect saw in Guangdong. The height of the railings is also higher than those in traditional gardens, to prevent people from falling into the pond.
        Consistent with Chinese garden design, Lai Chi Kok park features walls and vistas with twists and turns which allow the architect to introduce plenty of new prospects to engage the user's
        "The architectural structures of this garden are mainly built at the corners and linked together by porches and corridors. This can evoke spatial interest and provide shelter for visitors who are able to enjoy the nicely knit landscapes as they move along the corridors," explained ArchSD senior architect Tse Shun-kai.
        The east gate is the Chinese garden's
main entrance. From there the visitor enters an open courtyard marked by a phoenix mosaic on the floor and a large relief on the wall depicting a classical fairy tale. Heading north from the courtyard leads the visitor to a covered walkway with a hexagonal pavilion and rockery. Heading west would lead the visitor to an arched bridge which straddles the moon pond, so named because its open prospect makes it an ideal location for gazing at the moon and, for the literarily-inclined, composing a line of poetry or two. A landscaped trail leads southward.
        According to Ms Fung, the Chinese garden is divided into ten areas distributed along the east-west and north-south axes, with the pond in the middle serving as a focal point that occupies 2,600 sq m of space or 20 per cent of the Chinese garden's
total area. "Afloat" the pond is the stone boat, which provides a large platform for viewing the water and surrounding structures. Screens of fritted glass are engraved with landscapes to enhance the atmosphere.

        Designed largely for quiet recreation, other features include a two-level pavilion surrounded by a rockery designed to offer a panoramic view of the garden. A chess pavilion at the southwestern tip of the garden contains a chess board as well as records of famous chess games set in stone. One area where more active recreation is expected is the Ban Xuan pavilion, which lies on the north-south axis and across the water from the stone boat. The pavilion is paved with cobblestones intended to give the visitor -- excepting those in platform shoes -- a gentle foot massage as they stroll through.
        For children and youngsters, the western garden provides a play area and a tricycle area, both set in the north close to the housing estate. The play area is divided into two sections, for different age groups. In the middle of the western garden is a tensile structure set in front of an open plaza, for outdoor performances, rest and informal gatherings.
        The design of the western garden is more modern, with geometric shapes such as circles and squares distinguishing it from the Chinese garden. The use in the western garden of geometric shapes linked together by straight lines, as characterised by the sequence of connected circles which make up the children play area; contrasts with the use of rectangular structures with perpendicular turns linked together by winding footpaths in the Chinese garden.
        An earthy, reddish brown colour scheme ties the two parts into a whole. This unity is reinforced by a jogging trail which runs the length of the park in the south, linking east and west and providing a strip where the young can jog and work out at fitness stations while the old can walk and admire the landscaping. According to the architect, a large number of trees have been planted in the park, including 970 conifers, 5,800 bamboos and 40 bonsais.
        The park was constructed at a cost of HK$133 million by China Road & Bridge Corporation. It was handed over to the Leisure & Cultural Services Department recently and opened to the public in mid-November.

architect, structural engineer, m&e engineer Architectural Services Department
design consultant for Chinese theme garden CCI Guangzhou Landscape Architecture
client Leisure & Cultural Services Department
quantity surveyor Franklin + Andrews (Hong Kong ) Ltd

-- Building Journal