Haw Par Mansion turned into music school
After revitalisation, the 83-year-old Haw Par Mansion has been open for public visit since April this year. As one of the projects under Batch III of the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme (Revitalisation Scheme), the Haw Par Mansion has now been revitalised into a music school called “Haw Par Music Farm”. Earlier, during my district visit, I made a point of visiting the place and had a chat with the former owner of Haw Par Mansion and founder of the Aw Boon Haw Foundation, Ms AW Sian, Sally. Aw Boon Haw Foundation is the operator of Haw Par Music Farm. In addition, I have invited the Executive Director, Project Development of Haw Par Music Farm, Mr Roger WU, to introduce to us the mansion that combines Chinese and Western architectural styles.
Situated at No. 15A Tai Hang Road, the Haw Par Mansion mainly comprises a four-storey residential mansion and a private garden. It was built by overseas Chinese tycoon, Mr AW Boon-haw, for the AW family in 1936 and named after him and his brother, Mr AW Boon-par. The mansion with its private garden was handed over to the Government in 2001 and was accorded as a Grade 1 historic building in 2009. After that, it was revitalised into the Haw Par Music Farm by the Aw Boon Haw Foundation to provide Chinese and Western music training and community outreach activities to promote music culture.
Revitalisation into a cultural landmark
On the day of the visit, I was pleased to see Ms Sally AW and thanked her for the revitalisation of the Haw Par Mansion into a cultural landmark and its opening to the public with the provision of guided tours. Ms AW said that she had lived in the mansion until the 1990s. The distinctive east-meets-west architectural style can be found in the design of the mansion and the garden. Some of the interior decorations are full of Southeast Asian influence. For example, the wall reliefs were shipped from Nanyang for installation on site.
Back to the style of the 1930s
According to the Executive Director, Project Development of Haw Par Music Farm, Mr Roger WU, during the restoration process, the internal layout of the mansion was kept intact, while its external walls, doors, some of the windows and the main building’s interior decorations were restored to their former 1930s look. Some of the rooms have now been transformed into classrooms and practice rooms with acoustic insulation. The sitting room is spacious enough to host a mini-concert for 50 to 60 people, and other areas are good for chamber music performance. The original furniture in the sitting room has been retained to give the public the ambience of the mansion at that time.
Chinese Eclectic architectural style
According to Mr Roger WU, the mansion and the garden are of Chinese Eclectic architectural style between 1920s and 1930s, i.e. adopting Western architectural design approach in their concept and layout, along with decorations of traditional Chinese architectural features, such as the Chinese-style flying eaves used as wall decorations at the sitting room, which are painted with JIANG Taigong fishing and Eight Immortals crossing the sea; and the traditional Chinese moon gates at the entrance on the northwest and southeast elevations of the sitting room. There are also decorations from different countries in the mansion, such as the magnificent stained glass windows and doors from Italy, carvings and mouldings gilded with gold, as well as sculptures and decorative silhouettes showing Indian and Burmese influence. The garden was designed with the layout and features of a French garden blended with Chinese elements.
Guided tours for the public
During the visit, I appreciated the great efforts made by the project team during the renovation process to retain the Haw Par Mansion’s original look in its entirety. For example, there are 120 Italian stained glass panels in the mansion, of which the 20 most beautiful and biggest ones took about four months to restore. In addition, the main entrance hall and sitting room are adapted as an interpretation area to showcase the AW family’s history and the architectural background of the Haw Par Mansion, as well as the details of the restoration and revitalisation of this historic building.
Currently, the sitting room, garden and main entrance hall of the Haw Par Mansion are open to the public during office hours daily. Members of the public can also join the guided tours to visit different parts of the mansion, including the master room, Buddhist temple on the roof terrace, en suite bathroom, huge safe, fireplaces, as well as the magnificent decorations and the ornaments from the Tiger Balm Garden. To join the guided tours, the public can register online in advance.
Pulling together with one heart
The Revitalisation Scheme was launched by the Development Bureau in 2008 in partnership with non-profit-making organisations to preserve, revitalise and put government-owned historic buildings into good use. So far, five batches involving a total of 19 projects have been rolled out. Our work in promoting the conservation and revitalisation of historic buildings will not stop. Through our continuous efforts in the adaptive re-use of built heritage in a creative way, we hope to give old buildings a new lease of life and allow the public to appreciate and make good use of them.
During the revitalisation process, we wish to retain the authenticity of the historic buildings, in the same way that the hardworking spirit of Hong Kong people has been passed on from generation to generation. By the way, I attended an industry gathering a few days ago and discussed the recent controversies and disputes in society with industry practitioners. I pointed out that the Chief Executive had offered a sincere apology to the public for the deficiencies in the Government’s work, while the political team had on different occasions admitted that there was room for improvement. We promised to work doubly harder to mend the rift with different sectors of the community and rise to Hong Kong’s numerous challenges on economic and livelihood issues in the future. Many industry practitioners later told me that they clearly heard the Government’s apology, and agreed that we all should put aside differences and move forward together again.
I strongly believe that we will pull together for this city to build a better future for Hong Kong.
23 June, 2019