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Old September 22nd, 2007, 09:35 AM   #61
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Wan Chai market may get reprieve as talks continue
Hong Kong Standard
Saturday, September 22, 2007

The 70-year-old Wan Chai market building may get a reprieve.

Newly appointed Urban Renewal Authority chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen said on Friday that talks with developers on the possible preservation of the historical building were still continuing.

Cheung said the authority understood the public's concern and was seeking a solution.

He said legally Chinese Estates Holdings had every right to build on the site, but this did not mean nothing more could be done.

"This project has already been delayed and both the developer and the authority want to see the issue resolved as soon as possible," he said.

The company, controlled by billionaire Joseph Lau Luen-hung, had signed an agreement with the authority in 1996 to build three luxury residential blocks.

Two towers have already been completed and the plan was for the market to be demolished to make way for the third.

On August 4, Chinese Estates executive director Lau Wai-ming revealed the company was in talks with the authority on the future of the market, raising optimism for its survival.

Cheung, who is in the pertrochemical business and has worked with the authority's predecessor, the Lands Development Authority, confirmed the talks were going well.

Constructed in 1937, the Bauhaus- styled market was rated a Grade III historical building by the Antiquities Advisory Board in 1990.

Since there is no need to compensate landowners, as is the case with other redevelopment projects, Cheung said finding a solution would be easier.

When asked if an exchange of land was feasible, Cheung was noncommittal. However, sources in the authority said this alternative is unlikely and that a financial settlement was the smoother option.

With several other issues at hand, the Wan Chai market issue is unlikely to be resolved before the end of the current fiscal year next March 31.

However, Cheung was confident that before that date, two other controversial projects - Nga Tsin Wai Village and Mong Kok "Sneakers Street" - would be announced and kicked into motion.

He said revamping Sneakers Street into a shopping mall for sports goods would bring in even more business.

After seeing the horrid living conditions in rundown districts in 1997, Cheung said he understood the public's sentiment for heritage conservation and that his job is to help people live better.

He said most residents he met in the old districts wanted to get compensation and to move out.

"I can't believe that in today's Hong Kong, tens of thousands of people are still living in such conditions. It is unacceptable," he said.

The authority, established six years ago, hopes to finish 225 projects in 20 years. To date, 193 projects remain on that list. "Not all the projects will make money. Some like Sneakers Street will lose money. But we still have to do it to renew our community," he said.

In the wake of rising heritage concerns, Cheung said any urban renewal policy revamp would be the government's call.

Development Bureau chief Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had earlier mentioned the possibility of a "compensation first" redevelopment policy.

Cheung said the authority will follow government policy.
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Old September 22nd, 2007, 09:46 AM   #62
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Yu Lok Lane tower gets nod amid opposition
Hong Kong Standard
Saturday, September 22, 2007

A 30-story residential tower is to go up on Yu Lok Lane, Sai Ying Pun, despite strong opposition from residents fighting to preserve the area's unique characteristics.

The Town Planning Board gave the green light, with support from the Planning Department, at a meeting on Friday although some members expressed concern over the loss of the lane's uniqueness and the proposed height of 145 meters for the tower, which will provide 270 flats on completion. Half of the site of about 1,180 square meters is reserved for an open public space.

The Urban Renewal Authority's redevelopment plan for Yu Lok Lane- Centre Street, covering an area of more than 1,800 sqm, calls for the promotion of efficient land use and the provision of open space of not less than 1,000 sqm for the public. Out of the 16 prewar houses on Yu Lok Lane, two will be maintained as heritage buildings.

When the project was last discussed at a board meeting in July, a height limit of 145 meters, a plot ratio of eight, and half the site to be used as public open space were suggested and added to the final plan.

Board member Ng Cho-nam noted the importance of preserving the lane, saying the stairs and white brick walls at its entrance should be maintained as well. "Preserving that is very important for keeping the lane's character, which is very unique."

Ng and fellow member David Dudgeon questioned the validity of having such a tall building there.

District planning officer Christine Tse Kin-ching argued that it is in line with the surroundings and will be built at a distance from other properties.

"But we do have public opposition which is not addressed in the plan. It's not acceptable to someone having to live next to it," Dudgeon retorted.

Another board member, Daniel To Boon-man, said the plan did not spell out how the open space and the historic buildings are to be maintained, and expressed concern that future flat owners might have to shoulder the costs.

Board chairman Raymond Young Lap-moon said the URA should be responsible for maintenance of the existing houses, and suggested that more of them be preserved.

Social worker Tam Chi-wing said most of the people who live near the site are against the presence of another high-rise tower, fearing it will block their views.

Tam suggested that the site be turned into a heritage park instead.
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Old September 23rd, 2007, 07:10 AM   #63
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Heritage, yes, but at what cost?
Hong Kong Standard
Sept. 21, 2007

Conservationists and officials are engaged in a prolonged tug-of-war that threatens to eat up the strength of both.

At the center of the latest row is King Yin Lei in the Mid-Levels, where workers were spotted defacing the old Chinese mansion. The incident was brought to light by a group of conservationists who have been watching closely the fate of hundreds of old structures in Hong Kong.

Officials have been working hard to reverse their passive stance on heritage conservation, and they wasted no time in placing the mansion on the proposed monument list to save the 71-year-old building from further damage for at least 12 months.

It it hoped the intervention will give the authorities leeway to reach a deal with the landlord acceptable to all. Nobody is able to say yet whether the example of Kam Tong Hall in Sheung Wan will be repeated in King Yin Lei. In the case of Kam Tong Hall, the government bought the historic building from a private owner and turned it into a museum.

On the surface, that sounds fine. Not so, on second thoughts.

There's no doubt the King Yin Lei mansion is a hot potato for the government. And it is not an isolated case. Officially, there are 496 graded heritage buildings, of which 83 structures have been declared monuments and accorded proper protection.

Unofficially, according to conservationists, there could be 10 times that number, or more. It would be impractical for the authorities to copy the Kam Tong Hall approach with all of them.

Lawmakers who have control over public funding will not support it. And that's not the complete picture. Take a tour of Hong Kong and it won't be difficult to find historic buildings left unused after being handed over to the government. Isn't the Lui San Chung building in Tai Kok Tsui still vacant?

It is obvious the city is in need of a more integrated policy that can handle heritage conservation and uphold private property ownership at the same time.

There's a sense of increasing urgency. As evident in the case of the old Star Ferry Pier and the Queen's Pier, sentiment in favor of preserving cultural heritage is growing. While talk of collective memory was virtually non- existent in the past, it's now one of the most discussed topics in town.

Yet it should be understood that Hong Kong is a living city that needs development.

While it would be wrong to sacrifice heritage in the pursuit of development, it would be wrong too to preserve heritage at the expense of development.

Early this year, the government launched a public consultation on cultural heritage conservation. It is expected to come up with further proposals later this year.

It's to be hoped that, by the time details of the proposals surface, the government will be able to tell the public how it is going to achieve a balance between heritage and development.

It is important that consideration be given to how to inject new life into protected heritage sites. Just saving them from the wrecker's ball is not sufficient.

Let's be practical. Hawkish language alone won't save heritage.
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Old September 24th, 2007, 02:51 PM   #64
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Use Haw Par model to solve King Yin Lei problem, urges expert
Hong Kong Standard
Monday, September 24, 2007

The government is being urged to follow the successful 2001 agreement over the preservation of Haw Par Mansion and its private garden in dealing with King Yin Lei mansion.

Greg Wong Chak-yan of the Antiquities and Monuments Board said the government must not bow to political pressure to buy the mansion on Stubbs Road as it might be a waste of time.

Describing the 2001 negotiations, where the government successfully reached a deal with the owner and developer of the Tiger Balm Garden complex to preserve the mansion and its garden, as a "win-win" solution, Wong said at a public forum yesterday the government should use that as an example to solve the King Yin Lei problem.

A free market think-tank, meanwhile, advised against using public money to buy King Yin Lei.

"To declare a place a monument suddenly is neglecting the existing property rights system," said Raymond Ho Man-kit of the Lion Rock Institute. He said the government should respect private property rights and the system should not be infringed on even though conservation of a monument is important.

Ho said the government should not use administrative means to infringe on property rights. "It will only discourage owners from dealing with the government." The government, he said, should not buy the mansion as this would not be sustainable, adding that the administration cannot buy every monument in the future.

Surveyors have estimated the mansion, which is now a "proposed monument," is worth about HK$400 million. Wong said: "If the government needs to spend about HK$400 million for the King Yin Lei mansion, it must have the Legislative Council's approval." Not all legislators will approve, Wong said.

Conservancy Association chairwoman Betty Ho Siu-fong said the owner and the government could become partners to protect the mansion.

She said the association had urged the government over the past decade to set up a "land swap" system to preserve existing monuments but received no enthusiastic response.
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Old October 11th, 2007, 07:04 PM   #65
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Revitalise Central Police Station

The Hong Kong Jockey Club announces HK$1.8 billion "gift for Hong Kong" that will conserve Central Police Station site as new cultural icon


The Hong Kong Jockey Club today (11 October) announced more details of its innovative revitalisation proposal to conserve and refurbish the historic Central Police Station compound, as outlined by Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive Donald Tsang in his Policy Address yesterday.

Through The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the Club will fund the HK$1.8 billion capital cost of renovating the disused 19th-century compound and transforming it into a heritage, arts, cultural, and tourism hub that will become a new iconic destination for Hong Kong.

Club Chairman John C C Chan said the Club was proud to present this "as a gift to the people of Hong Kong in celebration of the HKSAR's 10th Anniversary".

In order to create a landmark attraction for local residents and overseas visitors alike, the conservation plan will consist of a balanced mix of cultural, heritage and commercial elements. The buildings will be restored for adaptive re-use, commercially as well as for cultural and heritage purposes to display and interpret the site's unique history. A connection between Lan Kwai Fong and SoHo will be created to enhance pedestrian circulation, with open public spaces and landscaping forming an important part of the restoration work.

A new iconic structure will be erected on the upper platform area to create a cultural complex that will include a 500-seat auditorium, a 500-seat theatre, two art cinemas, a gallery, a multipurpose exhibition space and supporting facilities.

Conversion work is expected to begin in January 2009 and it is envisaged that the entire site will be opened to the public in mid 2012.

Welcoming the proposal to revitalise the Central Police Station compound for adaptive re-use, the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, expressed gratitude to The Hong Kong Jockey Club for donating $1.8 billion for the renovation and development cost.

“The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s proposal fully realises the spirit of the adaptive re-use scheme for historic buildings, so as to transform these buildings into local cultural icons. The proposal is also in line with the vision of the Chief Executive on heritage conservation,” Mrs Lam said.

The Government will make the site available to the Club under a lease and an agreement setting out specific terms and conditions. All restoration, conservation and development work of the historic buildings will be in line with guidelines laid down by the Antiquities & Monuments Office.

"As stated in the Vienna Memorandum on World Heritage and Contemporary Architecture, the central challenge of contemporary architecture in the historic urban landscape is to respond to development dynamics on the one hand, so as to facilitate socio-economic changes and growth, while simultaneously respecting the inherited townscape and its landscape setting on the other," Mr Chan said.

"Our planned mixture of commercial and cultural usage will ensure the vibrancy of the entire area, transforming a heritage site into a family destination for locals and visitors," Mr Chan added. "We believe such a redevelopment will successfully integrate the community's valuable heritage with contemporary architecture, creating a new cultural landmark for Hong Kong."

The Club has commissioned internationally renowned architects from Switzerland, Herzog & de Meuron, as design architects for the project.




Executive Director, Charities, William Y Yiu, said the Club would work closely with the design architects, relevant consultants and Government departments to conduct a detailed assessment, in order to ensure that the project complied with all statutory planning, traffic and environmental requirements.

"Our plan is to retain the site's historic value and extend its physical life, at the same time taking into account its cultural significance and protecting its heritage value through preservation, restoration, rehabilitation and integration. We intend to share detailed plans with the public in December through an exhibition at the Hong Kong Racing Museum, together with a series of symposiums, to gather more views from the community before the work starts," he said.

The Club has already conducted a survey in mid-2006 to gauge the public's views on how they would like to see the Central Police Station conserved and developed. It found that the majority of respondents expected the compound could offer them enough variety and potential to spend an entire day with families. The survey also found that over 90% of respondents would like to see retail and food and beverage outlets on the site, 90% were receptive to turning the compound into a cultural complex and 79% felt that the complex should become an icon of Hong Kong.

Besides bearing the HK$1.8 billion capital cost for renovation and development of the compound, the Club will fund recurrent deficits for its initial years of operation until it becomes financially self-sustaining. The Club intends to reinvest surplus cash flow from the project into other heritage conservation projects in Hong Kong.

The Club has proposed to Government that the project be managed by a limited company operating under the direction of The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and supported by a Heritage Advisory Committee.







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Old October 11th, 2007, 07:37 PM   #66
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Meanwhile, the owner of King Yin Lei has assured us that the taxpayers will not foot the bill for the building - the owner himself will pay to have it restored.

Jake van der Kamp also makes interesting points about Donald "Pour some concrete" Tsang in the Money section of the SCMP.

Unfortunately, I don't have online access to SCMP online so can't give you the whole articles, but that's the gist of it.
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Old October 12th, 2007, 08:45 AM   #67
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This one need a new thread of itself, hope it get build (you know lately all the Hong Kong project got....)
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Old October 13th, 2007, 10:26 AM   #68
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more pics

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Old October 16th, 2007, 07:46 PM   #69
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Central Police Station looks quite bold and odd. So out of the ordinary. Good that HKers are starting to accept these kinds of things.
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Old October 17th, 2007, 05:49 PM   #70
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Anyone know how this will impact the skyline? (Hint: Aboveday...)

Fantastic proposal either way!
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Old October 20th, 2007, 08:08 PM   #71
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From news.gov.hk:
Gov't to revitalise more historic buildings
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Old October 24th, 2007, 12:47 PM   #72
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Gov't Press Release:
LCQ5: King Yin Lei
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Old October 26th, 2007, 06:28 AM   #73
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Heritage policy set in Tsang address: bureau
26 October 2007
South China Morning Post

Conservationists and activists who have been eagerly awaiting the heritage policy are surprised to find it has already been released: in the chief executive's policy address.

The measures listed by Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on October 10 constituted the policy, and no more consultation was planned beyond a public forum that was attended by about 50 people on Saturday, the Development Bureau said.

Lawmakers, professionals and Antiquities Advisory Board members who had been looking forward to a policy framework being mapped out after public views were sought early this year said Mr Tsang's initiatives, while welcome, were not a policy.

The measures include revitalising historic buildings, providing financial assistance to maintain private historical buildings and conducting heritage impact assessment on graded buildings in government projects.

"An action plan cannot substitute a long-term directive policy," lawmaker Patrick Lau Sau-shing said. "From the policy document, we do not know if we are going to meet the international standards for heritage conservation."

Laurence Li Lu-jen, an Antiquities Advisory Board member, said there were still questions. "Will our urban planning system work with the new initiatives?"

Lee Ho-yin, architectural conservation programme director of the University of Hong Kong, said Mr Tsang had not said whether the board would be reformed.

The bureau elaborated on the measures in a 14-page statement given to a Legco meeting last week, which also explained why some public suggestions had not been taken. It said a heritage trust would not be established until the present proposals had been in place for about five years, but the government would start studying overseas experience.

The bureau also said the idea of transferring development rights to protect privately owned heritage sites would be considered only on a case-by-case basis, as setting up a formal mechanism would involve substantial legislative amendments and difficult issues of determining the value of sites.

A bureau spokeswoman said the government had already gauged public views on the policy at Saturday's forum and no public consultation will be held in the coming months except individual meetings with professional groups.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said yesterday the new policy was action-based to address the public demand for measures to protect heritage.
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Old November 3rd, 2007, 05:02 PM   #74
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Tsang vows to press ahead with heritage protection
15 October 2007
Hong Kong Standard

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has pledged to press ahead with a new model of heritage preservation that will not only help Hong Kong protect its historical buildings but also make the buildings ``living history'' that can add to the quality of life.

Elaborating on his ideas on heritage conservation in Radio Television Hong Kong's Letter to Hong Kong program yesterday, Tsang said it would be necessary to involve parties other than the government when it comes to heritage conservation. ``Protecting heritage should not only involve the government _ we want NGOs [nongovernment organizations], charitable organizations, individuals and the business community all to play a part,'' he said.

An example of the new approach, he said, is the Central Police Station compound.

Describing the Central Police Station project as a major revitalization work, Tsang said the Hong Kong Jockey Club's participation will turn the heritage cluster into a ``vibrant, iconic, cultural landmark.''

He added: ``The Hong Kong Jockey Club, in its usual public spirit and innovation, has come up with such a proposal with a pledged donation of HK$1.8 billion. We have accepted this in principle and will engage the public in its design over the next six months.

``I'm sure historic buildings like Mei Ho House, which is in a Hong Kong public housing estate, and Lui Seng Chun, will likely be given a new lease of life.''

According to the Jockey Club's plan unveiled last week, the Central Police Station compound will become a heritage, arts, cultural and tourism hub. Two-thirds of the restored buildings within the compound will be reused for commercial purposes while the rest will be used for museum exhibition and performance. A centerpiece of the proposal is a scaffold-like tower with a 160-meter viewing deck above the existing upper courtyard, which will also house a 500-seat theater, auditorium, two art cinemas, gallery and exhibition space.

Tsang said the government has also initially identified seven buildings for revitalization and adaptive reuse and will soon call for expression of interests from concerned bodies to participate in their restoration. ``These buildings could be transformed for use as exhibition galleries, hostels, academic institutions or community facilities.''
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Old November 10th, 2007, 08:12 PM   #75
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HK$3m cap mooted for heritage site operations
9 November 2007
South China Morning Post

The government is considering a HK$3 million cap on grants to operate projects under the historic buildings revitalisation scheme. The HK$3 million would be to cover operating costs for the first two years of running a building.

The winning proposals submitted by non-governmental organisations should also strike a good balance between delivering social benefits and attaining financial sustainability, said Janet Wong Wing-chen, deputy secretary for development (works).

Details of the newly announced scheme to revitalise seven selected government-owned historic buildings were revealed in a briefing session with NGOs yesterday. About 100 representatives from NGOs and professional bodies attended.

Ms Wong said the government's initial plan was to set a cap on how much operating costs would be subsidised in the first two years. But, she said, there would be no ceiling on the one-off grant given for a building's renovation.

"The HK$3 million is the cap that we are thinking about. But since all of these sites vary in size, if we allow such a cap to be used for the 6,700-square-metre Mei Ho House [in Sham Shui Po], the cap for those of a smaller size will be accordingly less," she said.

Profit generated from the revitalisation scheme by NGOs should be invested back into the projects, she said.

But the NGOs expressed concerns over the subsidy cap, saying it might not be sufficient to support non-profit activities such as arts and culture education or youth development.

"The amount is quite low," said Iman Fok Tin-man of the Society for Community Organisation, which is looking to turn Lai Chi Kok Hospital and Mei Ho House in Sham Shui Po into youth hostels.

"Many of these buildings are large in size and I am worried that we can't afford to participate, even if we are very keen to."

Ms Wong said the government would reconsider the amount after listening to the views of NGOs.

The Antiquities and Monuments Office is also compiling two sets of documents - one which assesses the heritage value of these buildings and one with conservation guidelines.

The government plans to receive applications from February next year. The assessment panel is to examine the applications based on four criteria starting from May and have some of these projects approved by the end of next year.

Soco director Ho Hei-wah said they planned to turn the two sites into youth hostels for overseas students and, ultimately, to create jobs.

"But the government should consider extending the subsidy period from two to three to five years. Otherwise, the NGOs may be too busy getting enough money to finance themselves and overlook their role in promoting the history of the district and other missions" to help society, he said.

Frederick Fung Kin-kee, leader of Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, said the party was keen to revitalise Lui Seng Chun in Mong Kok, but he refused to disclose how the building would be used.

"We have already found a business partner and professionals to help us," he said.
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Old November 11th, 2007, 03:14 PM   #76
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Historic police station may be preserved
11 November 2007
South China Morning Post



The historic Yau Ma Tei police station may be saved in its entirety as the government explores alternatives for the construction of the Central Kowloon Route, sources have said.

They also said the authorities were considering if the nearby Jade Market, which would be affected by the plan, could be relocated back to the Temple Street area after the road was completed.

Robert Chan Cheuk-ming, a senior government engineer responsible for the project, said they were only studying the possibilities of keeping the police station intact. He said a preferred route was expected to be unveiled in May.

The Central Kowloon Route is intended to link the West Kowloon Reclamation area and the future Kai Tak development. The original Highways Department plan was to have the road run through the staff quarters of the 85-year-old police station.

But the idea was rejected by the public works subcommittee of the Legislative Council's Finance Committee last December.

The government's intention to keep the police station was welcomed by legislators and district councillors yesterday. But they were divided over whether the police should remain in the Edwardian-style building, constructed in 1922.

Legislator Kwok Ka-ki said it was good that the whole police station would stay untouched.

He said the place should be used for other purposes if the police there decided to move to the Kowloon West Regional Headquarters.

"The historic building should house community facilities such as a library and clinic since the route construction may require the demolition of the existing library and clinic facilities," he said.

But Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Ng Po-sham said the police should stay there to keep law and order in the area.

About 70 residents, representatives of concern groups and professionals attended a public consultation forum organised by the Highways Department yesterday.

Two more such forums are due to be held next year.
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Old November 11th, 2007, 07:06 PM   #77
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Heritage calls Piecing together the past is becoming a passion
6 November 2007
South China Morning Post

Run your fingers along the red paintwork of the fireboat Alexander Grantham and you might picture it racing to put out the blaze that eventually sank the Seawise University in 1972. The vessel is now the gleaming centrepiece of a new museum of maritime firefighting history in Quarry Bay Park.

Decommissioned in 2002 after 49 years of service, the Alexander Grantham required plenty of science and elbow grease to prepare for public viewing, says Paul Harrison, a metal conservation specialist whose company oversaw the government conservation project in 2003.

"[Because] the boat often had to be painted, there are about 20 layers of paint on top of the ironworks," says Harrison. "We had to take it to a dockyard and get a big sandblaster to blow off all the paint."

Much time was also spent identifying paints that would ensure the long-term protection of the vessel, Harrison says.

The restorers finally settled for epoxy, which is durable but doesn't like sunlight, he says. "That's why polyurethane has to be painted on top of this paint, to protect it."

Harrison, who holds a master's degree in metals conservation, has worked on many historic artefacts in Hong Kong. He spent 18 months as an intern at the Hong Kong Museum of History after completing his first degree in archaeology and conservation in 1985. Later, during a seven-year stint as head of metal conservation with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department's conservation unit, his duties often involved maintenance of public objects such as the sculptures in Kowloon Park, the cannons at Admiralty station and the coaches at the Railway Museum in Tai Po.

In his first year with the department, he was sent to restore the Victoria Park statue of Queen Victoria after mainland artist Pun Singlui splashed red paint over the figure in late 1996 and broke its nose in the process.

Harrison's latest assignment is for the local Jewish community, surveying the condition of the 400 gravestones in the Jewish Cemetery in Happy Valley.

Harrison has always been drawn to museums. A chance visit to the University College London's Institute of Archaeology in his teens steered him towards conservation.

Few young Hongkongers, however, are given such insight into the world of conservation. Because there are no undergraduate degree programmes in Hong Kong, all 28 specialists in the LCSD's central conservation unit have a background in chemistry.

Conservation is a broad discipline: it requires dealing with disparate materials, from ceramics and paintings to textiles, photographs and historical documents.

Not only are conservators required to know the history and the science of archaeology, they must also understand the techniques of working in different materials and using equipment from X-ray machines to sandblasters.

Hong Kong conservators develop their skills after they have been recruited through a combination of on-the-job and overseas training. Chan Shing-wai, chief curator of the LCSD's conservation section and the government's longest-serving conservator, was one of the first Hong Kong staff sent abroad for professional training in the 1980s. A chemist by training, he became an assistant curator with the Museum of Art in 1985. Two years later he was sent to the Institute of Archaeology to study for a postgraduate diploma in archaeology conservation.

After 23 years in conservation, Chan says his interest in the science increases every day.

"The most exciting part about this field is that the problems that we tackle are never the same," says the 49-year-old. "Even though we have two fragments which may look similar, the way of conserving them can be very different."

LCSD conservators are called to major archaeological excavations such as the Sha Ha site in Sai Kung, which was discovered in 2002.

On the Sha Ha dig, the conservators collected fragments and related materials such as the surrounding soil, and sent them for sorting, cleaning and piecing together in a laboratory. It's nearly impossible to find all the broken pieces of an artefact, Chan says.

"A [piece of] pottery that is one to two feet tall could be broken into up to 200 pieces, and [may] take at least four months to piece together. The most important thing is that a conservator cannot give up [the job] halfway through, no matter how hard it is."

The pieces don't always fit, he says. "It's like getting a bag of crumbled biscuits which we have to try to piece together although they may belong to different brands," Chan says. "We have to learn to accept failures."

He relishes hands-on work such as restoring the Alexander Grantham, but concedes that such projects require the sharp eyesight and physical strength of younger colleagues.

"The prime time for conservators is when they are in their early 30s, when they have accumulated a sound knowledge of conservation and have the physical strength and sharp mind to carry out the work," Chan says.

That's why he and other veteran conservators want to pass on their knowledge to younger colleagues such as assistant curator Veronica Chan Wing-yan, who is responsible for ceramic artefacts.

Like her chief, the 30-year-old chemistry graduate had little knowledge of museums and conservation before she joined the unit. Six years later, Veronica Chan is hooked on restoration.

"When you go to an exhibition, the artefacts are usually displayed in showcases and visitors may only be able to see one side of the items - normally their most beautiful side," she says. "But every facade can be a wonder {hellip} and we can see those things that others can't see."
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Old November 12th, 2007, 05:59 AM   #78
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Time's running out
Shophouses in Hong Kong are fast disappearing, but a few gems have so far survived amid the march of development

9 November 2007
South China Morning Post

The ground floor is typically a shop or other small family-run business - often of a distinctively traditional Hong Kong nature - such as a pawn shop, Chinese medicine pharmacy, or a mahjong tiles outlet.

Two supporting pillars form a gateway into a semi-private space scented with the vaguely medicinal aromas of yesteryear, the ancestral memories of generations, and a microcosm of Hong Kong's past that has often been lovingly depicted on the screen or in print.

Hong Kong's shophouses - or tong lau - are an "endangered species". However, enough of them remain, especially in parts of Wan Chai and Sheung Wan, for the historical record of Hong Kong's most distinguished existing "vernacular architecture" to endure.

Vernacular architecture denotes buildings constructed using locally available resources to meet local needs, and also an architectural form that reflects the buildings' environmental, cultural and historical context.

Shophouse architecture took shape across Southeast Asia from the late 18th century, enjoyed ubiquity in urban Chinese communities for almost two centuries, before falling out of favour in the early post-war years.

Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the last traditional-style shophouses were built in the late 1950s, just as the novel - and in the 1960 film - The World Of Suzie Wong was inserting Hong Kong's shophouse cityscape into the world's consciousness.

These sturdy utilitarian buildings were built in a pre-globalised epoch, when the lychee never fell far from the tree and air travel was just a remote dream for most.

And so Hong Kong's shophouse architects and engineers were usually skilled neighbourhood friends moonlighting from their mercantile day-jobs, rather than today's well paid jet-setters, whose next project awaits in Shanghai, Dubai or some other locale for whose denizens the sky is never high enough.

The knowledge and methods of vernacular architecture were usually shaped by local traditions rather than worldwide trends conceived in London or New York.

Most of Hong Kong's shophouses enjoy a kind of air-conditioning that relies more on seasonal breezes than electricity and, because of these buildings' modest proportions, they also manage to take the nip out of the occasional cold snap coming from the South China Sea. Shophouses were constructed on a human scale, hence their invisible - yet intuitive - thermostats that make them environmentally friendly.

Shophouses have, over the years, provided the ground-floor premises of almost any business conceivable. Small restaurants, especially Chiu Chow outlets, local-style coffee shops, or cha chaan teng, clinics, barber shops, beauty salons, print shops, commercial garages, schools and clan associations can all be found in these distinctive and distinguished-looking buildings.

On the upper floors, the residential space depends, to a large extent, on the number of storeys.

Most Hong Kong shophouses are two- or three-storeys but, in more central areas and therefore well-heeled parts of town, higher configurations are common.

One of the most conspicuous characteristics of a shophouse is inevitably its narrow street frontage, a proportion that is often deceptive as shophouses generally extend backwards to a far greater depth than is apparent from the outside. In some cases, one can enter a shophouse and pass through to the rear street from an exit at the back.

Hong Kong's shophouses are tangible reminders of the city's heritage at a time when signs of Hong Kong's street-life of the past are increasingly under threat by those in pursuit of the development dollar.

Other regional cities have been more successful at preserving what is Southeast Asia's unique architectural style, as anyone who has recently visited Penang, Malacca, Singapore, or Macau can appreciate - although development plans for Macau's elegantly crumbling Inner Harbour area do not bode well for the hopes of the preservationists' lobby.

Hong Kong's finest examples of traditional shophouses are in Wan Chai, Sheung Wan, Sham Shui Po and other areas that maintain a measure of resistance to the wrecking ball of the property developer. One of the nicest shophouses is in Wan Chai. The exquisitely proportioned Cheong Woo pawn shop on Johnston Road is a reminder of how architecture of the past can co-exist with modern-day skyscrapers in one of the most frenetic parts of town.

Other notable shophouses are nearby at the Johnston Road-Luard Road intersection, a short tram ride away in Sheung Wan, and in the vicinity of Sham Shui Po's Pei Ho Street in Kowloon.

When the weather, lighting and mood is right, arriving in these locales is akin to enjoying a particularly visceral form of time travel. This is a point not lost on local filmmakers and other creative types in the business of distilling the atmospheric vibes of the Hong Kong of yesteryear.

Meanwhile, the city is losing its shophouses one by one - imperceptible losses that may only be fully appreciated when it is too late - and the distinctive vernacular form may one day be found in the Old Hong Kong section of some theme park.
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Old November 14th, 2007, 10:08 AM   #79
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U-turn on moving Wan Chai hawkers' bazaar praised
Hong Kong Standard
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wan Chai will continue to have its open-air hawkers' bazaar at Tai Yuen and Cross streets.
The government's decision to retain the bazaar met with overwhelming approval from lawmakers yesterday.

An earlier plan to relocate the hawkers' bazaar was aimed at easing traffic flow at Queen's Road East.

Using a simple U-turn area now may silence the long-drawn outcry against the earlier plan.

The Transport Department yesterday said the problem will be resolved by using the loading and unloading area at the new market for cars to make a U-turn.

To accommodate this arrangement, vehicles will be prohibited from entering Tai Yuen Street except for those with permits.

About 150 licensed hawkers at the bazaar will benefit from the government's change of heart.

Wan Chai, an old district with a rich treasure of heritage buildings, has lately become a conservation battleground.

Development bureau chief Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in the coming years the bureau and the Urban Renewal Authority will join forces in tackling heritage conservation and redevelopment in Wan Chai together with the district council.

Lam said the Wan Chai District Council still has to give the proposed arrangement the nod before it can be implemented.

But lawmakers said the government should review the outdated hawker policy and provide better facilities.

Liberal lawmaker Vincent Fang Kang said that the hawkers there should be given long-term licenses instead of having to renew them every month. Legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip said that the current short-term licenses offer limited prospects for hawkers and urged that this change in the line of thinking be adopted in redevelopment plans for other districts.

Lam said that there are changes ahead for the policy on hawkers. Moves are also afoot to promote the sector.

"Since we have established the value of the hawkers' presence, it means they should be promoted as well," Lam said.

The Food and Health Bureau said it is reviewing such a policy and that consultation will be completed by the middle of next year.

On the preservation of the Grade III historic Wan Chai market building, Lam said the bureau is in talks with the URA and the developer that owns the site.
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Old November 18th, 2007, 05:47 AM   #80
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Winds of change threaten Sai Ying Pun's existence
16 November 2007
South China Morning Post

Western District, one of the oldest districts in Hong Kong, has a distinctly local character.

But it is not just old buildings that are facing challenges from the extension of the MTR West Island line. The district's traditional culture and heritage also find themselves under threat.

Sai Ying Pun is renowned for its trading market with a wealth of stalls and shops selling dried seafood, medicine and salted fish, together with many workshops processing these as well as shark's fins.

Roger Ho Yao-sheng, cultural heritage conservation activist and author, is concerned that the extension of the MTR line will spell the end for the area's special character.

"Sai Ying Pun is the only area in Hong Kong that has its own distinct odour. You can smell the scent of salted fish in the street," he said.

Mr Ho says it will be more difficult for the industries that have traditionally flourished to survive once the district is transformed by the new railway.

"These industries are usually practised by the older generation," Mr Ho said. "After they retire, the younger generation will probably not be willing to take over the business. They would rather sell their shops which will be transformed into chain stores."

Since the West Island line project was approved last month, property prices in the area have surged.

Mr Ho hopes the government and property developers will preserve the local character of the district when carrying out regeneration projects and do not create another "show flat" such as the Woo Cheong pawn shop premises on Johnston Road in Wan Chai without retaining any of its original uses.

The pre-war Chinese-style building in Wan Chai has undergone a massive renovation and will be home to a slew of dining venues.
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