The central escalator in Hong Kong, constructed during the 1990’s, provides for a unique urban condition of pedestrian traffic nestled within the infamously compact urban form of the city. This system of escalators is punctuated by intersecting streets as it winds through and undulates above the sloping terrain. This mechanized itinerary through the city is designed for an efficiency of movement, used by tens of thousands of residents daily.
It breaks the traditional role of the static staircase in the urban plan, replacing it with a moving stair that can be reverted to “uphill” or “downhill” movement. Development has sprung up around the infrastructure and it is now seen as a model for realizing development in adjacent neighborhoods – such as the recently opened “Centre Street” Sai Ying Pun escalator as well as the debate over the urban qualities of Pound Lane and the fears that such development will destroy the parcels of tranquility that are arguably found in Sheung Wan. This case highlights an important question relative to priorities in city planning visions and pits efficiency of movement against quality and versatility of urban space.