The Central and Sheung Wan areas have been buzzing with activities recently. After the scheduled opening of the Central Police Station Compound (Tai Kwun) at the end of May, another revitalised historic building, the Hong Kong News-Expo (HKNE), is also due to open by the end of this year. This time, I had invited veteran journalist and HKNE’s Vice-chairperson, Ms CHAN Suk-mei, May, to walk us through the highlights of the HKNE. We even had a glimpse of a rare edition, published in 1878, of the Universal Circulating Herald (《循環日報》), which was the first Chinese-language newspaper ever run and funded by Chinese in Hong Kong.
Located at No. 2 Bridges Street in Central, the HKNE was formerly the Bridges Street Market, which was built after the Second World War as initiated by the then Urban Council. Commencing operation in 1953, the market was the first of its kind in the urban areas of Hong Kong back then. The Antiquities Advisory Board accorded a Grade 3 status to the historic building in 2011. Subsequently in 2013, it was included in Batch III of the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme to be revitalised into the first exhibition and education centre in Asia dedicated to journalism. Its opening is eagerly awaited by all!
The 20th-century modernist architectural style
Occupying a gross floor area of about 10 000 square feet, the Bridges Street Market is a three-storey, cubic-shaped building of reinforced concrete construction. Designed with functionality in mind, its main characteristics were smooth, flat, plain and undecorated surfaces painted white with the complete lack of ornament, flat roofs and long horizontal streamlined bands of windows. According to the Architectural Consultant of the HKNE, Prof LIM Wan-fung, Bernard Vincent, the building was constructed in the 20th-century modernist architectural style, just like the Central Market and Wan Chai Market. The horizontal clean lines on its exterior were inspired by cruise liners.
Promoting public understanding of journalism
Looking up at the main entrance of the HKNE, May particularly drew my attention to the sign inscribed by the master sinologist Prof JAO Tsung-i. Visitors are greeted by a reception area once setting foot in the concourse. Big television screens will be mounted on the wall to broadcast news from various TV channels and play video clips regularly made by the HKNE. The ground and first floors will be open to the public with different thematic exhibitions, a news experimental studio, a multi-purpose activity room, etc. The ground floor will showcase the development history of Hong Kong’s newspapers, radio and television broadcasters, as well as major politico-economic or livelihood issues since the founding of our city.
May said that the HKNE belongs to Hong Kong people and will, therefore, be open to the public free of charge in future. Visitors can get a taste of being news reporters and anchors in the studio set up in the HKNE and have a better understanding of the work of journalism. In addition, as the market partly falls on the old site of the American Congregational Mission Preaching Hall (now known as the China Congregational Church), where Dr SUN Yat-sen lived and received baptism, news or events associated with Dr SUN will also be showcased as well.
Preserving remnants of the old market
May also took me to see the original poultry slaughter room preserved in-situ in the HKNE. The room will feature news of Hong Kong’s previous efforts in fighting infectious diseases, such as the major news events related to the plague, avian influenza and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). As described by May, journalists always risk their lives in covering news so as to deliver first-hand information to the public. By ensuring the free flow of information, they can also help raise public awareness on health protection during an outbreak. Needless to say, none of us would like to hear similar bad news in Hong Kong again. As the saying goes, “No news is good news”.
Around the corner of the stairs, we can see the words “MEAT & VEGETABLE SECTIONS-1 ST. FL.” on the wall. Chief Executive Officer of the HKNE, Ms CHAN Siu-ping, said that the HKNE deliberately preserves remnants of the old market, for example, the main entrance gate, market stalls, old tiles on the walls, a warning sign that reads “WET FLOOR” and a hopscotch in the indoor playground. All these carry some emotional significance to the old residents, and we played hopscotch there during the visit. That place will be used as a multi-purpose room where students can attend workshops to learn about the development history of Hong Kong and its media.
Donation of rare collections welcomed
Difficulties are bound to arise in the process of revitalising historic buildings, and the joint efforts of architects and contractors are needed to resolving them. Also, to enrich the contents of an exposition, we will bank on the support of the industry and all those interested. May showed us a rare item on display in the HKNE – a newspaper published in 1878, four years after the establishment of the Universal Circulating Herald. It is really interesting to read news stories about shipping and trading that took place 140 years ago. Due to the lack of technological know-how back then, many original copies of the old news stories published by different media are no longer with us. Therefore, those who are interested may consider donating rare old items to the HKNE to enrich its collections for display.
The revitalisation works are close to completion, and an Occupation Permit from the Buildings Department, a Fire Services Certificate from the Fire Services Department and a Use Permit for Putting a Lift into Use and Operation from the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department have all been issued recently. The HKNE will undergo interior renovation and have its computer systems tested in mid-May, which is scheduled to be completed in October for a soft opening. It will come into operation officially in December.
As the former Director of Information Services, I truly appreciate the professionalism and passion of journalists. The news industry plays a critical role in the history and future development of Hong Kong. I have great expectations for the HKNE and hope that it will, through a wide range of activities, give public a better understanding of the work and development of the news industry.
13 May, 2018Back