Tai Kwun – a new attraction in the Central and Western District
The revitalisation and adaptive re-use of historic buildings is always something to look forward to. I earlier visited the Central Police Station (CPS) Compound, also known as “Tai Kwun” (or Big Station in the literal sense), on Hollywood Road in Central to see the works progress. I learned that the Government has been maintaining a strong partnership with the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) to take forward this revitalisation project. I am pleased to see that the project is progressing well and hope that the HKJC will be able to open part of the CPS Compound by mid-2018, and provide the public with a quality cultural space blending elements of built heritage, contemporary art and leisure. Also, it will provide a new hub for the public to gather, unwind and enjoy life at a slower pace and improve their quality of life.
The CPS Compound comprises three groups of declared monuments, namely the former CPS, the Central Magistracy and the Victoria Prison. The former CPS was originally built in 1864, and the Headquarters Block facing Hollywood Road was built in 1919 in Neo-classical style featuring distinctive red brick walls, granite carvings and huge columns. The former Central Magistracy was built in 1914. The building has a solemn and magnificent air with its imposing stone pillars and retaining walls built with granite blocks. The existing Victoria Prison was first built in the 1850s. Part of the building was bombed and seriously damaged during World War II. The building was restored and then commenced operation again in 1946. After revitalisation, the historic buildings in the compound will still retain most of their original looks.
Currently, apart from the partially collapsed Block 4, i.e. the former Married Inspectors’ Quarters, which is still pending discussion on the way of reconstruction or restoration, works have resumed on the other 15 historic buildings in the compound, the new gallery and auditorium buildings, the Parade Ground, the Prison Yard and the footbridge. Among them, the gallery and auditorium buildings are near completion, both of which have a chic and stylish look.
Upon completion, the buildings and their vast outdoor spaces will in future offer a number of multi-purpose venues for various organisations and artists-in-residence to jointly organise a rich array of activities, exhibitions, events, etc. By then, Tai Kwun will accommodate a mix of cultural, art, food and beverage and leisure facilities, where the public can eat or rest in alfresco dining areas or restaurants, learn about the compound’s history and stories, enjoy a diverse range of performances or art exhibitions, or even do morning exercises in the square as they wish. It is absolutely a marvelous place to go.
Creating a hub for international contemporary art
I believe that many of you must have noticed the two brand new, chic and stylish buildings, namely the Old Bailey Galleries (OBG) and the Arbuthnot Auditorium (AA), when going past in the vicinity of the CPS Compound. I know that their designs are inspired by the granite brick walls of the old buildings and blend in well with the surrounding monuments and heritage.
The OBG is a non-profit art space for hosting contemporary art exhibitions and programmes. Its vision is to become one of the major international contemporary art hubs in Asia, presenting a host of programmes for public appreciation or participation. The OBG is actively working with local and international art institutes, and it is estimated that six to eight exhibition events will be organised each year. As regards the AA, there will be a multi-purpose hall to hold film screenings, conferences, seminars, educational activities, etc. so as to alleviate the shortage of cultural and entertainment venues in the area.
Enhancing accessibility and connectivity
To enhance public access to Tai Kwun, we have considered ways to enhance connectivity and accessibility. A new footbridge connecting the Central to Mid-levels Escalator and Walkway System with the CPS Compound is one part of the revitalisation project. Upon completion, it will help enhance the accessibility and pedestrian safety in the community. The foundation works for the footbridge have been completed. The footbridge columns and deck are now under construction, and the construction works are expected to complete in the first half of 2018. We regret for any inconvenience caused to the public and drivers during construction.
Placing equal emphasis on development and conservation has always been our policy objective. We will continue to bring suitable historic buildings into the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme so as to give these unique historic buildings a new lease of life for public use. Although Central is the heart of Hong Kong today, many old and distinctive buildings there have been preserved. The “Conserving Central” initiative alone comprises eight projects. Apart from the CPS Compound, there is also the PMQ transformed from the former Police Married Quarters on Hollywood Road, which has become a popular place frequented by many for leisure and recreation. There is also the former French Mission Building, which housed the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal between 1997 and 2015, and will provide spaces to be used by legal services and dispute resolution institutions after conversion. All these demonstrate the Government’s commitment to the conservation of built heritage in Hong Kong. We welcome more non-profit-making organisations to join our conservation efforts.
10 September, 2017