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Old November 18th, 2007, 05:08 PM   #81
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Heritage partnership scheme a step forward
18 November 2007
South China Morning Post

A new scheme to encourage charities and other non-profit groups to help take care of historic buildings is a sign the government is taking a more proactive and innovative approach to heritage preservation. Too often, officials have failed to act until old buildings actually come under threat. This was the case with the King Yin Lei Mansion and Kam Tong Hall - now resurrected as Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum in Mid-Levels - when workers had already moved in with plans to pull them down. The new pilot scheme, announced by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in his policy speech, goes some way towards changing that passive mindset.

It has earmarked seven heritage buildings owned by the government. Services groups are invited to take charge of these buildings - and maintain and open them to the public - in return for paying practically no rent. Initial seed money of up to HK$3 million and expert advice on heritage preservation will be provided. However, preserving these buildings also requires technical skills. The Development Bureau, which runs the scheme, must make sure the successful applicants are up to the job. Teething problems are likely to arise, especially with elaborate structures such as the old North Kowloon magistrate court.

Commendable as the scheme is, the government has neglected other historic buildings it owns, which have already been rented free to NGOs. These buildings include the medical sciences museum in Mid-Levels, the former Aberdeen police station and a former hospital in Sai Yin Pun. The Warehouse Teenage Club, which has operated out of the police station for more than a decade, has to pay for maintenance and repairs out of its own pocket. This amounts to 15 per cent of its annual operating budget of HK$2.5 million.

Currently, these groups are not qualified for the new scheme. However, as it is a pilot scheme, the bureau should seriously consider expanding it to include other non-profit groups that can show they are capable of successfully maintaining such buildings. Gradually expanding this scheme will encourage more groups and people to take part in heritage preservation and education.
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Old November 28th, 2007, 10:14 AM   #82
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Architect beat restraints to erect a landmark
28 November 2007
South China Morning Post

Stringent building regulations were the motivator for the innovation and imagination that went into the refurbishment of the decrepit French Mission building, Bethanie, in Pok Fu Lam, said architect Philip Liao Yi-kang, who transformed the building into a new city landmark.

Struggling to compromise public safety requirements with retention of the historic features of the 130-year-old grade-two historic building - Mr Liao said he wished he could have retained all the building's little embellishments.

But in reality, new balustrades had to be mocked up to replace some of the originals, which also incorporated glass.

"Aesthetics is nice," Mr Liao said. "But safety should always come first." He said some of the original balustrades did not meet building standards, which require railings 1.1 metres high and openings in balustrades to be small enough to stop children falling through.

Air conditioners and smoke detectors were rendered invisible, the latter hidden under a moulded floral motif on the ceiling, the former incorporated into small holes along the hallway, part of the original airflow system. "It is intolerable to see air-conditioners hanging on the building fašade," he said.

One thing that cannot be invisible, however, is the "exit" signs, which must be highlighted in green and white.

"At some point, there is room for discretion, but where do we draw the line?" he said.

Mr Liao said the balance between accommodating historical value and achieving public safety in preserving historic building could be struck by forming a committee that was widely representative and endorsed by experts, officials and public members.

"The committee can tell us what is acceptable and what is not," he said.

Bethanie, built in 1875, was refurbished and reopened last year as the School of Film and Television for the Academy for Performing Arts. It has also become a popular venue for weddings.

But Mr Liao said: "Retaining the historic flavour comes at a cost." Government funding - HK$74.2 million - did not cover the total restoration costs, which was more than HK$80 million. The excess was raised by the academy.
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Old December 10th, 2007, 07:28 PM   #83
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URA does U-turn on conservation
Hong Kong Standard
Monday, December 10, 2007

The Urban Renewal Authority is wooing Hong Kong's oldest family businesses to return to Central and become attractions in the colossal redevelopment of the district's wet market.

Century-old shops pushed out of Central due to redevelopment are being invited back by the URA.

The aim is to create an old shops street, reviving the traditional heritage of the area alongside the URA's redevelopment of Graham and Peel streets.

An exhibition showcasing some of the businesses was held yesterday at Western Market as part of a consultation process between old businesses and the URA's conservation panel.

"This is about how we can synergize the old shops with the current to provide a better setting to bring back old memories that have been lost," panel chairman Kam Nai-wai said.

"We want to preserve and revitalize the wet market and these businesses are related to the market and have to do with livelihood."

Kam said the old shops are difficult to find in Hong Kong nowadays and that the younger generation is missing out on the city's vibrant heritage.

The URA has targeted 40 shops as part of the consultation and will be holding a similar exhibition every Sunday for the next month.

Kam said the shops face closure if they were not revived, pointing to Wong Cheung Wah herbal medicine shop, which exports most of its products from a factory in the New Territories to Southeast Asia.

"If we do not preserve these shops by giving them special arrangements such as cheaper rents, they will be lost forever," Kam said.

The eight shops on show sold pastries, Chinese cooking wine, soy sauce, medicated oil and herbal anti- flu tea.

Yuen Yee-lum, owner of herbal tea shop Yuen Kut Lam, welcomed the idea, saying that the move would boost his business because it would be in a busy location and attract locals. The store has been in Hong Kong since 1906.

He said the younger generation do not know about his special Chinese tea.

In RTHK's Letter to Hong Kong, lawmaker Choy So-yuk echoed the need to preserve Hong Kong's heritage.

"Hong Kong is changing very rapidly, physically and culturally. These changes are coming so fast that young people are beginning to feel rootless," Choy said.

The lawmaker urged the government to preserve the typical Hong Kong-style cafeteria or char chaan teng and called for new geological parks for educational and tourism purposes.
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Old December 11th, 2007, 09:36 AM   #84
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Compromise sought on landmark
Hong Kong Standard
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor appealed yesterday for compromise on the proposed bamboo-scaffolding-designed landmark for the Central Police Station compound.

Lam said the compound should be conserved in its entirety.

She made the call after the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong Jockey Club's exhibition of the HK$1.8 billion proposed model at the Happy Valley Racecourse.

The public consultation on the project, in its second month, ends in April.

"In conservation of monuments we always need to compromise ... if we want to revitalize the monument, we must build a new building with its own uniqueness," Lam said.


The proposed iconic 160-meter bamboo-scaffolding-inspired building beams are much taller than the maximum height set at 77 meters.

"One should remember that the 77-meter limit is set only for privately- cooperated building projects, which involves building or dismantling buildings," the development chief said.

"The model also clarifies an important point: the building will not create a wall effect, as it's penetrable."

Lam added that the Jockey Club's non-profit-making proposal meets Hong Kong's tradition of building against the hills. She expressed hope the project could be developed as soon as possible.

Vincent Ng Wing-shun, former vice president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, said the upper portions above the 130-meter viewing deck are too tall.

Town Planning Board member Ng Cho-nam agreed the proposal would obstruct the views of the occupants of nearby commercial buildings.

"The Central Police Station is a landmark in itself. When you look at development and conservation, you need to oversee the entire district," Ng said. "Given the density of that area is already very high, we don't need another high-rise which will make it look like bamboo shoots shooting off the ground."

The exhibition on the second floor of the Happy Valley Stand is open to the public until May 4. The public can express views on the proposal either through its official website (www. centralpolicestation.org.hk) or by filling out a questionnaire available at the exhibition hall.

The project was designed by world- renowned architects Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Ascan Mergenthaler, whose other works include the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games, and London's Tate Modern Museum.

Under the existing proposal, a tower with a 160-meter viewing deck at the existing upper courtyard will be built, housing a 500-seat theater, auditorium, two art cinemas, gallery, exhibition space and restaurants.
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Old December 20th, 2007, 04:59 AM   #85
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NGOs may get HK$2m more for historic sites
19 December 2007
South China Morning Post

The government may raise the cap on a one-off grant to revitalise historic buildings from HK$3 million to HK$5 million in response to public opinion.

The money will be granted under a pilot scheme to help non-profit organisations maintain and operate the buildings. The government also suggested a specific tenancy of at least three to six years to minimise uncertainties encountered by organisations that reused the buildings.

The proposals were made after the government consulted NGOs on the scheme last month. The idea of collaborating with NGOs was initiated in the October policy address as part of a conservation policy to revitalise government-owned historic buildings that will cost HK$100 million in its first five years.

Nine buildings will be available for application in February, including Dragon Garden in Tsing Lung Tau and the Blue House in Wan Chai.

The government had originally planned to grant the NGOs up to HK$3 million for the first two years.

But some organisations voiced concerns that HK$3 million might not be sufficient for social enterprises operating in larger buildings, the Development Bureau said in a paper submitted to the Legislative Council.

Some were worried that the tenancy would not be long enough to make the operation viable, it said.

The bureau then proposed raising the financial ceiling per building to HK$5 million to cater for large, structurally complex premises. To allay worries, the tenancy would generally last three to six years. The bureau said longer tenancies could be negotiated for good reason.

The enterprises would also get technical guidance on maintaining and repairing historic buildings, the paper said, particularly on architectural features of significance such as mosaic tiles on an internal wall.

NGOs welcomed the government response yesterday but called for more flexibility in approving the funding and tenancy. "It will be even better if the funding can be extended for operations in the first three years," Iman Fok Tin-man of the Society for Community Organisation said.
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Old December 20th, 2007, 04:59 AM   #86
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Blueprints to revitalise oldest estate
18 December 2007
South China Morning Post

A Chinese arts complex, a hotel where guests would live like public-housing tenants in the 1950s, and a garden showcasing old Hong Kong are among the winning entries in a competition to come up with new uses for a preserved block on the city's oldest public-housing estate.

The competition sought proposals for the transformation of Mei Ho House on the Shek Kip Mei Estate, a Grade I historic building dating from 1954.

Judges selected five winners from the 46 entries. Edward Ho Sing-tin, the chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, who chaired the competition jury, said the judges assessed entries for their creativity, conservation of heritage characteristics and how they fitted the neighbourhood.

They chose two winners from the professional category and three from the open category.

One of the professional winners, Fung Chi-ho, envisages changing the building into a complex to showcase traditional Chinese arts and crafts. It features a landscaped yard and a performance venue for Cantonese opera, and makes extensive use of bamboo.

"Bamboo is the characteristic of the design, as I think it represents the Chinese style of building," Mr Fung said. "And bamboo is environmentally friendly, too. It can grow as much as 6 inches [15cm] a day and can be reused in many ways."

The jury said Mr Fung's design created pleasing architectural forms using materials with local character.

The other winner in the professional group proposes traditional shops, food stalls and a museum of public-housing development.

It would feature large open spaces, including a lotus pond and a maze.

Sam Cheung Kuo-yue, one of the four people behind the entry, "A Garden of Memories", said the emphasis on greenery was inspired by the Housing Authority's recent concern for environmental issues.

One of the winners in the open category is Enzo Chiu Kwun-yu, a student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

He wants to convert Mei Ho House into a "cultural hotel" where guests would live under conditions similar to those of public estate households in the 1950s - even down to cooking in the corridors.

The competition was sponsored by the Housing Authority, which is expected to incorporate elements of one or more of the winning entries in its blueprint for the block.
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Old December 22nd, 2007, 04:56 AM   #87
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Wan Chai facelift to save historic market
Hong Kong Standard
Friday, December 21, 2007

A HK$300 million facelift aimed at revitalizing Wan Chai was unveiled yesterday, saving the 70-year-old Wan Chai market and redesigning the former Wedding Card Street into a "Wedding City."

In addition, nine prewar buildings including the famed "Blue House" will house social enterprises while current residents who wish to stay will be allowed to do so.

The Grade III Historic Wan Chai market building has been the center of a heated conservation battle.

It has been part of the redevelopment joint venture between the Urban Renewal Authority and the developer, Chinese Estates, dating back to 1996 and was scheduled to be demolished early next year to make way for a luxury residential complex.

In a joint announcement with the Development Bureau, the authority said the building would now be saved from the wrecker's ball. Instead, a 148-meter residential tower will sit atop the 12-meter market, its facade preserved along with its curved wall surfaces, cantilevering sun-shading fins and symmetrical elevation.

The front of the building will become a 929-square-meter shopping arcade and a parking lot and lift shafts will stand at the back where its eight supporting pillars stand.

The 70 hawkers stalls operating in the market will be allocated to a new market complex nearby, the authority confirmed.

Authority chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen called it an "innovation" in heritage conservation rarely seen in Hong Kong, though the merging of old and new buildings is not unusual in foreign countries.

The change was a balancing act between a rising call for the building's conservation and respect for the contractual spirit, the authority said.

The authority said it drew conservation examples from other places, such as the Hearst Tower in New York City and the Peninsula Hotel extension in Hong Kong.

Lee Tung Street, once the vibrant "Wedding Card Street," had became a conservation battleground since it was vacated for redevelopment a few years ago.

The block will now become a "Wedding City," a hub for wedding-related businesses, such as wedding gowns, flowers, cakes and photo studios.

Also, a wedding traditions and culture gallery will be housed in one of the three conserved prewar Canton verandah-style buildings.

Cheung said the 27 wedding card shops previously operating there will be given priority to return. They may also be given free rent for a period of time as an added incentive.

The proposed wedding hub is similar to the vibrant Bridal Gown Street which occupied a chunk of Shanghai Street and was demolished in the 1990s for the development of the Langham Place complex.

Residents of the 34 households in nine prewar buildings, including the 70-year-old Grade I historic building "Blue House," will be allowed to stay if they so choose.

Non-government groups can apply to re-use these buildings for social enterprises, with the provision that residents can live alongside these enterprises.

Development chief Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said although the arrangement could be complicated, residents will at least be given a choice, a vast contrast to previous practices.

The total cost of the facelift will amount to HK$300 million.

Lee Ho-yin, director of Hong Kong University's architectural conservation program, said the plan may set new standards of conservation in Hong Kong.

Activist Sin Wai-fong said the authority had failed to lay out concrete details for former owners of the Lee Tung Street shops.
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Old December 23rd, 2007, 04:01 PM   #88
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i a not saying you shouldn't complain,but do you know how many historical buildings had been torn down in mainland china through out all these years???now the people in high places seem to have realised the true value of the old buildings which are lucky enough to have survived the ongoing wild urban reconstruction,the government has made some "preservation plans",as if merely painting the outside of a 100 years old house and leaving the inside the way it has been counts as "preservation".and when those real estate tycoons come up with some kinda crazy new idea,the corrupt officals always choose to stand along with them,and give them whatever approval they need.in my city,a whole street of paramount historical value had been replaced by a normal mall,could it have been more ridiculous?worse still,we have no right to complain here in the mainland of china,protest like that at the Queen's pier as you showed us in this thread,is inconcievable in the mainland,not to mention actually carry out one
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Old December 25th, 2007, 06:19 AM   #89
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Well, HK's historic preservation movement seemed to have arrived too late. We lost a lot of very good architecture over the years and there isn't much left in the core. In fact, a lot of these projects that are seeing all sorts of protests these days may have been torn down without question just 5 years ago.

As society develops and people look beyond just making money for a living, the time will come when people start questioning our cultural heritage and how to preserve and showcase it.
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Old January 7th, 2008, 06:41 PM   #90
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Charity sets out new plan for Blue House
6 January 2008
South China Morning Post

A charitable organisation hopes to engage residents who want to remain in Wan Chai's Stone Nullah Lane buildings - including the Blue House - in its attempt to revitalise the cluster of historic buildings.

St James' Settlement is devising a plan that will allow the residents to keep renting their homes at affordable prices, and at the same time balance the need for financial self-sustainability.

"It is, of course, much easier to revitalise a building when it is empty," a senior officer with the charity, Laurence Lam Kwok-wai, said.

"But the concept of people is important in the passing on a community's heritage."

The government, which plans to redevelop the area, earlier announced that the 80-year-old Blue House and the nearby Orange and Yellow Houses would be included in a revitalisation scheme spearheaded by the Development Bureau. The buildings are so far the only sites in the scheme where residents are allowed to stay.

Previously, the Housing Society and the Urban Renewal Authority had intended to transform the Blue House into a tourist attraction with a theme of tea and Chinese medicine - a scheme under which residents would not be permitted to remain.

Mr Lam said St James' Settlement would co-apply for the right to revitalise the buildings with the residents' association, which it hoped would give its input on the scheme.

He said the preliminary idea was to turn the buildings into a base for local artists to promote community art and cultural tourism in Wan Chai.

"We hope to link the Blue House with the characteristics of the Wan Chai community," he said.

"Preserving and revitalising historic buildings is not just for nostalgia's sake, but to use the place as a focal point to build up the community."

The group now runs a heritage museum in the Blue House, supported by the sustainable development fund.

Mr Lam said the Blue House example was a "healthy" precedent undertaken by the government, reflecting a shift of mindset that heritage protection was not just about keeping the "hardware".

About a dozen of the present 40 households in the buildings are expected to stay behind. Most of the residents are either old people or have lived there with their families for many years.

Under the government's revitalisation scheme, non-government organisations are invited to submit proposals on revitalising selected historic sites.

A Development Bureau spokesman said the Blue House cluster would not be included in the first batch of the seven historic buildings open to applications starting next month due to time constraints. But it would work hard to include the site as soon as possible.
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Old January 7th, 2008, 08:00 PM   #91
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very good news
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Old January 8th, 2008, 02:49 PM   #92
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Heritage policy fails to make the grade
3 January 2008
Hong Kong Standard

Disappointed lawmakers yesterday described the proposed heritage conservation policy as lacking in substance, "with no solid timetable or financial resources".

Under the Development Bureau's proposed policy, incentives such as land exchange and transfer of development rights are considered to be needed in facilitating conservation of privately owned heritage buildings.

Two proposed monuments under such consideration are the partially demolished King Yin Lei mansion on Stubbs Road and Jessville on 128 Pok Fu Lam Road.

The proposal also suggested the government expand repair and restoration assistance to include graded historic buildings, on top of declared monuments.

But the Legislative Council's home panel legislators were not impressed _ as far as they are concerned the proposed policy lacks milestones. Lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip said the proposal failed to mention any law changes to better protect heritage buildings from the threat of urban development, and also did not mention financial resources.

"There is no free lunch _ heritage conservation costs money. With a surplus of HK$50 billion, the government should set up a trust for that purpose," Chan said. "Without investment, talking about conservation is just lip service."

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said heritage conservation has to strike a balance among the different groups, with respect to both private ownership and the government's financial concerns.

With 1,440 buildings having waited in line for years to be graded, legislator Patrick Lau Sau- shing, who represents the architecture, planning and surveying sector, complained the grading committee has been dragging its feet.

The bureau said it has set a target of finishing evaluation within this year, with experts examining about 100 buildings every month.

"King Yin Lei mansion was lucky [to be saved] because people found out early about the proposed demolition," legislator Albert Ho Chun- yan asked. "Other than declaring the qualified buildings as monuments, what tools do we have to protect heritage buildings effectively?"

Lam said the development of the 1,440 buildings still waiting for heritage listing cannot be stopped indefinitely as many of them are privately owned. She said the current system was adequate in alerting the bureau if any demolition work was about to start.

Some parts of the proposal did find favor with lawmakers, such as the setting up of a commissioner for heritage office. The bureau is also studying overseas examples and considering developing a heritage trust.

Legislators also backed the use of seven government-owned heritage buildings for social enterprises to use as was announced in last October's policy address. Proposals from non- government groups are expected next month.

The bureau will ask Legco for HK$100 million to cover five years of operation costs for the seven buildings.
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Old January 12th, 2008, 05:39 AM   #93
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Vanishing Asia: Saving Hong Kong --- The city's heritage wars
11 January 2008
The Wall Street Journal Asia

Hong Kong -- For more than a century, this city has continually razed and rebuilt itself, evolving from trading post to industrial hub to global financial center. These days, though, the impulse toward redevelopment faces increasing challenges from residents hoping to save the few tangible remains of the city's rich history.

Plans to redevelop a sprawling old police and prison complex in the heart of Hong Kong has touched off the latest historical preservation debate. The battle over the landmark pits some of the former British colony's most powerful interests against its residents, including one of Hong Kong's oldest families.

Commerce has long ruled in land-scarce Hong Kong and preservation has usually given way to a tide of urban development. Few of the British expatriates and Chinese immigrants who came to the city with the moniker "borrowed place, borrowed time" saw it as a permanent home. However, since the territory was returned to Chinese rule from Britain in 1997, its local identity has come to the forefront and heritage conservation has taken on the overtones of a populist struggle.

One of its most famous, and shrinking, landmarks -- Victoria Harbor -- has become a flashpoint for conservationists. Since the British took possession of its waters and the surrounding hilly terrain in the mid-1800s, the harbor has been filled in successive stages. Today it is about half its original size.

The most recent reclamation plan, which would have added 45 hectares of prime waterfront real estate, was too much for some residents, who resorted to protests, legal challenges and grassroots campaigns to save the harbor's core from further encroachment. It also spurred demonstrations over two 1950s ferry terminals -- the storied Star Ferry pier and nearby Queen's Pier. Both were demolished to make room for development related to the reclamation plan, which has since been scaled back.

"These recent heritage battles represent a desperate search for a cultural anchor," says Lee Ho Yin, director of the architectural conservation program at the University of Hong Kong. "It's part of Hong Kong people seeking their own identity and roots."

The Central Police Station and Victoria Prison, built between the 1860s and the 1930s, were part of the British colony's attempts at imposing law and order on a population that included pirates and triads, as some criminal secret societies are known. The walled compound was a one-stop shop for the colonial penal authority, housing a police station, a prison, barracks for single officers, a courthouse and, until 1894, an execution ground.

Since the police department moved to new headquarters in 2004, these buildings and spacious courtyards, covering about five acres in a prime location near the city's central business district, have mostly lain empty, closed to the public except during art exhibits or tours arranged a few times a year. The maze of former prison buildings is still ringed by coils of barbed wire.

The Hong Kong government planned to put the site up for public auction. But in 2004, five philanthropic families, led by the wealthy Hotung family, submitted a plan to conserve and redevelop the existing buildings into a visual-arts academy, to be run in collaboration with the University of Hong Kong. They offered $64 million to refurbish and maintain the site on the condition that the government accept a symbolic one Hong Kong dollar for a 50-year lease.

The government passed on the offer, sparking an outcry from conservation groups, architects, and residents. For years the land remained in limbo, until October, when the Hong Kong Jockey Club, a nonprofit organization that holds a monopoly on Hong Kong's legal betting market, stepped in with a $230 million proposal that would be funded by the club's charitable trust.

It proposed preserving most of the existing buildings but also added a new element -- a jagged 152-meter glass tower designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the Swiss Pritzker Prize-winning architects responsible for the "bird's nest" Olympic stadium in Beijing and London's Tate Modern Museum. The Jockey Club would put up costs of capital improvement and manage the operation, while the land and buildings would stay under government ownership. The government accepted the plan in principle, once again stoking opposition.

"In Hong Kong we already have a lot of that kind of building. It's a bit ugly. I think they should maintain the site as it is and just renovate the existing buildings to make them look better," says Mary Angela Tam, an owner of Great Wall Leather Goods Co., a small luggage store behind the police station compound.

"I don't think it is appropriate for the neighborhood," contends Thomas Schmidt, managing director of the Hong Kong firm Sepia Design Consultants, who won a 2005 competition sponsored by architecture and conservancy groups seeking ideas for the redevelopment of the complex.

Aside from practical concerns about increased traffic congestion and blocked views, any redevelopment will have to contend with the site's "collective memory" -- a loosely defined term that has become the battle cry of the recent preservation struggles, invoked over projects from the doomed piers on the waterfront, to the partial demolition of a 1937 Chinese mansion, to plans to tear down old shops and street markets.

The Jockey Club says the tower -- with a design that architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron describe as inspired by the bamboo scaffolding used in construction sites around Hong Kong -- would house museums, galleries, restaurants and theaters on the lower levels. The upper portions would feature "sky gardens" and an observation deck.

"We want more arts and cultural facilities that you can't put into the existing buildings, so in order to do that you need a new building," says William Yiu, executive director for charities at the Jockey Club. He says that to subsidize the operation, around two-thirds of the older buildings would be rented out for shops and restaurants. Only a small portion of the tower would be leased commercially, mainly to restaurants, and it wouldn't become a office building, Mr. Yiu says. "The only thing I can say is, 'Trust us.'"

Robert Ho, a member of the Hotung family, disagrees. "The revitalization plan proposed by the Jockey Club is too slanted towards commercial uses, with large-scale food and beverage and retail outlets that would overwhelm the historical and cultural flavor," he said in a statement in October. Through a spokeswoman, he declined to comment further.

Activists feel local residents have been ignored. "Community engagement should have happened before they went to the drawing board, but what has happened now is totally the opposite, and the design is quite shocking," says lawyer Helena Yuen.

Hong Kong's government recently acknowledged the public demand for greater preservation of the city's historic buildings, in July creating a Development Bureau that will include a yet-to-be-appointed heritage commissioner.

The move is intended to bridge the gap between development and conservation by placing both under the same department. Previously, historic buildings and monuments were treated as part of the city's cultural affairs, and development needs often took precedence, such as when the Victorian-era Hong Kong Club building in the city's central business district was demolished in 1981, despite having been declared a monument. It was replaced with a modern high rise that still houses the club.

Of the police station and prison development, "we have been searching our souls on how to do this project," says Carrie Lam, who heads the new bureau as Secretary for Development. The Hotung proposal didn't provide enough access and facilities for the general public, she says. "Hong Kong people and tourists want activities and action, and they want something that could occupy their time, not just museums."

The Jockey Club's plan is preferable to auctioning off the site to private developers who would focus on maximizing profit, Ms. Lam says. "At the end of the day, if there is a strong body of opinion that the design architecture should be modified, then I'm sure we could find a way to meet the needs of most people," she says. "But you can't just ask around and get everybody nodding with something you believe is in the interest of Hong Kong."

Mr. Yiu of the Jockey Club says he has received requests to save items such as the bunk beds in the prison cells and worn carpeting on office floors. "Someone actually argued that there aren't many iron-roof sheds for parking cars anymore, so we should keep that," he says.

Still, given Hong Kong's recent history of battling over ever smaller scraps of heritage, any demolition on the site would be seen by some as a provocation.

"From the civil society point of view, we need to preserve all of the buildings," says Jeffrey Au, a founder of Heritage Watch, an umbrella organization for conservation groups. "They already cleared out the furniture and fixtures, so it's empty. How can we understand the history of the place?"
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Old January 15th, 2008, 06:41 PM   #94
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Government launches campaign to promote heritage conservation
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Government Press Release

The Government is committed to pressing ahead with heritage conservation work by introducing a range of policy initiatives and building partnerships with non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, made these remarks at the Heritage Discovery Centre, Tsim Sha Tsui, today (January 15) at the launching ceremony of the heritage conservation publicity campaign.

These policy initiatives include conducting heritage impact assessment for new capital works projects; partnering with NGOs to revitalise Government-owned historic buildings; using economic incentives to encourage owners of privately-owned historic buildings to preserve those buildings; and setting up a Commissioner for Heritage's Office.

Mrs Lam said that these Government efforts would only succeed with public support. "After all, the care which Hong Kong people have expressed for heritage originated from our passion for our culture and lifestyle and is something we all should cherish," Mrs Lam added.

Mrs Lam shared with guests attending the ceremony progress made on those heritage conservation initiatives since their announcement in the Chief Executive Policy Address last October. She said she was much encouraged by the positive response especially towards the "Revitalising Historic Buildings through Partnership Scheme". The Scheme would be formally launched after obtaining Legislative Council funding approval in February. Eligible NGOs would then be invited to submit revitalisation proposals.

The Development Bureau was launching a public awareness campaign on heritage conservation over the next three months, inviting members of the public to take part in exhibitions, seminars and guided tours to enhance their awareness and appreciation of Hong Kong's heritage. Highlights of the programme included a guided tour of the Yuen Long Ping Shan local heritage conducted by the renowned local designer Mr William Tang, himself an indigenous villager of the Yuen Long Tang Clan; a photo competition to capture the charm and uniqueness of Hong Kong's historic buildings; and roving exhibitions in seven shopping centres throughout Hong Kong.

Mrs Lam also paid tribute to organisations taking part in the exhibition showcasing their respective efforts in heritage conservation. They included the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Urban Renewal Authority, The University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Maryknoll Convent School, the Hong Kong Miniature Arts Society and Queen's College Old Boys' Association.

The Development Bureau has also set up a new webpage on heritage conservation (www.heritage.gov.hk) to enhance dissemination of heritage conservation information and to promote exchanges of views.

"We hope that through this campaign, the public will have a deeper understanding of the importance of heritage conservation, be inspired to contribute their views and ideas, and share our vision for heritage conservation," Mrs Lam said.

At today's launching ceremony, the Regional Advisor for Culture in Asia and the Pacific of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Dr Richard Engelhardt, presented the 2007 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards Jury Commendation for Innovation to the Architectural Services Department for its innovative conservation and adaptation work for the former Whitfield Barracks, now the Heritage Discovery Centre. The barracks, built in 1910, has been successfully transformed with the addition of a new building structure and re-used as a multi-purpose cultural exhibition and education centre after careful and prudent conservation work.

Also officiating at today's ceremony are Chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, Mr Edward Ho, and Chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority Board, Mr Barry Cheung.

A major focus of the public awareness campaign is a heritage conservation exhibition at the Heritage Discovery Centre from today to March. The exhibition features various heritage conservation measures and works and introduces successful examples of revitalised historic buildings. Models of beautiful historic buildings will be on display. Bookmarks featuring four such buildings will also be distributed as souvenirs. People can get details of the activities from the webpage on heritage conservation (www.heritage.gov.hk).
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 06:53 PM   #95
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Open-door policy
A former prison is the venue for a major exhibition that explores the city's architectural future

18 January 2008
South China Morning Post

The cells are small, the metal grilles rusted and the tiny snatches of sky are depressingly blurred, yet these once-feared spaces in the former Central Police Station compound are now being redeemed as the home of an exhibition that explores the architectural future of the city and beyond.

Hong Kong's first architecture biennale will be in residence in this heritage landmark until March 15, featuring installations, workshops, and exhibitions. Admission is free and visitors can wander through the building's colonial interior, while learning about the built future from the likes of Hong Kong's Rocco Yim (the architect behind the Tamar site's The Door design), and top international names such as Steven Holl Architects, Atelier Bow-Wow and Herzog & de Meuron.

Although few obvious changes have been made, preparing the station proved challenging. "It was tough because it had been left deserted for almost two years," says architect and co-curator Martin Fung, who helped direct funds from the Hong Kong Jockey Club. "We had to convert it from the infrastructural side - water supplies and electricity - to the condition of the exhibition spaces, all to accommodate an event with some of the top architectural designers in the world."

The effort should prove worthwhile because the event is especially timely. The past few years have seen unprecedented interest from the public in the way that Hong Kong's architectural landscape is developing. Protests at the former Star Ferry and Queen's Pier may not have moved the government to reconsider its plans but had the positive effect of galvanising residents to become more concerned about preserving historical buildings and districts.

Local architects are also getting more involved. "In New York architects make social, political and artistic commentary. Hong Kong has limited venues for architects to express themselves publicly," says Jonathan Solomon, an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Hong Kong involved with an exhibit on the Hong Kong, Zuhai, Macau bridge project.

"Now there's more of a dialogue about the space of the city and people are looking around and saying, 'Why is it like this?' It's what happens when people feel they have a stake in their own city."

The event encompasses work from community groups, artists and governing bodies such as the Urban Renewal Authority. In one barrack building, urban planning comes into focus. REaD Beijing by Wang Lu and Shan Jun looks at how the capital is changing and offers abstract ideas for its development, while a Chinese University project shows how Kennedy Town has evolved.

There is room for more avant-garde designs - Vanke Crystal City in Tianjin shows a sports facility built inside the concrete foundations of an old factory, a modern venue in glass and aluminium that has a visible memory of the past.

"People are fixated on architecture as simply building buildings, so the conceptual, arty pieces here are great," says architect Kenneth Yeung. "This kind of thing is lacking in the profession, locally."

The key theme is "Refabricating the city", which considers the idea that cities must be regularly reworked in line with shifting trends and new technology. The topic has plenty of room for debate. Do cities have a sell-by date? How much of the past should be preserved for the future?

Some of the more interesting answers come from visionary architects such as Ma Yansong, who last year famously proposed to make a forest of Tiananmen Square.

The biennale may fly below the radar (publicity has been thin) but it's a positive sign for a city entering a new era of public interest in the way the city is shaped. It's a great way to see a historical building - even though there are questions about who the audience is.

"I do wonder who it's for exactly - for architects or for the public," says Tobias Berger, curator of Para/Site gallery. "Creatively, it's a start."

Hong Kong-Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture, daily, 10am to 6pm (closed Feb 6-8), Central Police Station Compound, 10 Hollywood Road, Central. Free admission. Ends Mar 15
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Old January 24th, 2008, 05:10 PM   #96
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Nurses win heritage appraisal for threatened quarters at Queen Mary
Hong Kong Standard
Thursday, January 24, 2008

A heritage assessment will be conducted on a 70-year-old hospital building after conservationists and nurses raised concerns over its proposed demolition.

The Hospital Authority is planning to knock down the nurses' quarters at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam this year to make way for an accident and emergency and acute trauma and cardiac care center.

Answering a question by medical-sector lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki yesterday, Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok said the quarters is not listed as a graded building.

In reply, Kwok said:"Quite a number of staff from the hospital and conservationists believe the building should be preserved."

Conservancy Association chairwoman Betty Ho Siu-fong welcomed the assessment, saying the value of the building must be determined before it can be demolished. Chow defended the hospital's plans saying they would provide expanded state-of-the- art facilities, which would meet strong public demand for specialized tertiary services.

"We will carry out a heritage impact assessment and then review and consider the feasibility of the works project," Chow said.

In his policy address last year, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said all public works projects involving historic buildings would have to undergo such assessments so that their conservation could be considered during the project-planning stage.

Tsang's pledge was part of a package of government initiatives on heritage conservation following a number of high- profile disputes between conservationists and the government.
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Old January 25th, 2008, 10:58 PM   #97
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This is going to hinder so many things. I hope they take all this conservation stuff with a grain of salt, and not devolve into the USA.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 06:41 PM   #98
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gladisimo View Post
This is going to hinder so many things. I hope they take all this conservation stuff with a grain of salt, and not devolve into the USA.
Don't think we're going in that direction, but we should seriously consider how these revitalizations don't turn into commercializations, and degrade the historic value of our very few remaining relics in the city centre.
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Old January 28th, 2008, 05:19 PM   #99
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Heritage sites recognised but remain ungraded
List of landmarks helps raise public awareness

28 January 2008
South China Morning Post

A list of government-owned historic sites, including the oldest surviving example of colonial architecture, has been compiled to recognise their heritage status.

None of the 34 sites has been graded by the Antiquities Advisory Board or declared a monument. They include the Cenotaph in Central, the boundary stones for the old city of Victoria, the chapel in the Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy Valley, the old KCRC Beacon Hill tunnel, and the Sung Wong Toi inscription rock in Kowloon City.

The list of sites was posted on the website of the Antiquities and Monuments Office this month under "Heritage Impact Assessment".

Lee Ho-yin, director of the architectural conservation programme at the University of Hong Kong, said some of the sites were important landmarks that were part of the city's collective memory.

"Items that recall experiences of the war can usually evoke the collective memory of a nation," he said.

"The same effect is achieved with the standing of the Cenotaph. It can reflect the collective memory of Hongkongers across generations as it commemorates the hardship and victory experienced by the people as a whole during the second world war."

The selection of the Beacon Hill tunnel was a groundbreaking step, as it revealed the government's gradual recognition of Hong Kong's industrial heritage, Dr Lee said. Boring the tunnel was regarded as the greatest engineering project in Asia at the time of its completion in 1910.

Dr Lee said the chapel in the Hong Kong Cemetery, built in 1845, was the oldest surviving piece of architecture in colonial style.

Lau Chi-pang, professor of history at Lingnan University and a member of the Antiquities Advisory Board, said City Hall and the six boundary stones were remarkable sites that deserved protection.

The boundary stones were erected by the colonial government in 1903 to mark the limits of the city of Victoria, which was one of the first urban settlements in Hong Kong after it became a British colony in 1842.

A spokeswoman for the Antiquities and Monuments Office said the list was released to facilitate the launch of the heritage impact assessment programme. Under the government's initiative, heritage impact assessments must be carried out if any public works project might affect the selected 35 sites, graded buildings or monuments. The requirement does not apply to privately funded projects.

Dr Lee and Dr Lau agreed the disclosure of the list was a good step forward in raising public awareness about ungraded heritage sites in Hong Kong, many of which are not commonly known. But Dr Lee said the government should step up its grading work, especially on well-known historic sites.

"I am amazed to find that the Sung Wong Toi inscription rock in Kowloon City - such an important and famous historic site - has not been graded or declared a monument yet," he said.

The rock is believed to have been constructed out of a boulder by followers of the last two boy emperors of the Southern Sung dynasty (1127-1279), who lived in Hong Kong from 1277 to 1279 after fleeing political turmoil.

The boulder was dislodged during the Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945 for the extension of Kai Tak airport. But a part inscribed with the three characters Sung Wong Toi - "Terrace of the Sung Kings" - survived the blasting operation and was salvaged after the war.
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Old January 28th, 2008, 05:20 PM   #100
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Strategy needed on heritage conservation
28 January 2008
South China Morning Post

Green belts preserve a delicate balance between our built environment and what remains of the natural environment. Given the density of urban development and the stresses it imposes on quality of life, they form a precious buffer that is not to be given up lightly.

But the Town Planning Board can grant exceptions. One that came to light last week was a proposal that would pave the way for declaring the historic King Yin Lei mansion an official monument and saving it from demolition. It is a swap of an adjacent green-belt site for residential development by the mansion's owner, agreed between the government and the Antiquities Advisory Board.

The government claims this will not disturb the natural or visual environment. The head of a conservation group has described it as a "win-win" solution to a conflict between the rights of the owner and heritage preservation. It remains to be seen how much of the mansion's original appearance, defaced by demolition works, can be restored. Significantly, the proposal is a milestone in meeting community expectations that future development is balanced with preservation of the city's remaining heritage.

In principle it is the right way forward. But we need to ensure such swaps are appropriate and reasonable. Balancing conservation and development, property rights and heritage protection is a complex issue that remains to be resolved. While in this case a way that seems to have pleased every stakeholder has been found, the city still needs a conservation strategy implemented by a body with the power and resources to protect and preserve our history. Where a heritage issue is financially or environmentally controversial, the strategy should provide for the public to be consulted.

Meanwhile, the government has released a list of 34 historic sites it owns that are neither official monuments nor graded by the Antiquities Advisory Board. This is to pave the way for a heritage assessment programme for public works. The initiative is welcome, as it will help raise public awareness of such potentially vulnerable heritage. But it is even more
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