Previously, I took you to visit a number of the revitalised historic building projects. Recently, a facelift has been given to yet another former magistracy. The Former Fanling Magistracy is one of the projects under Batch III of the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme (Revitalisation Scheme) of the Development Bureau. With the restoration completed at the end of last year, the building has been transformed into the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG) Leadership Institute, due to officially open at the end of March. Earlier, I visited the North District and made a tour of the facilities of the institute. There, two youth cultural ambassadors doubling as docents took us through various areas to see how a solemn court building has morphed into a youth centre.
The first magistracy in the New Territories
The Former Fanling Magistracy began operation in 1961 as the first magistracy set up in the New Territories. Known as the New Territories Magistracy back then, it mainly dealt with cases in the Northern New Territories. To cope with the increasing demand for court services, new structures were erected on the adjacent site in 1983 and 1997 to provide two additional courtrooms, court support offices and an office for duty lawyers. Upon the completion of the new Fanling Law Courts Building in 2002, this former magistracy was closed and thereafter, the venue was rented out several times for the shooting of films, including Internal Affairs II (《無間道II》) in 2003. Outside the main entrance, one can still clearly see the two names, “New Territories Magistracy” and “Fanling District Court”, on the external wall.
Neo-classical architectural style
The court building is one of the representative examples of civic architecture of the period, with an emphasis on the balance in structure and proportion. The building comprises only two storeys, with its front façade characterised by a double canopy and faux stone columns that may be reminiscent of those in the classical order of temple architecture. The side façades feature corbels and moulded architraved doorways, which show a simple neo-classical architectural style that signifies the majestic nature of the building. Internally, an atrium lit by natural light from a central light well and high vertical windows preserves a grand staircase with ornamental ironwork balustrades leading to upper floor courtrooms. The building is mainly renovated with more economical finishing materials of the era, such as terrazzo tiles, mosaic tiles, artificial granite tiles and stucco painting.
Preservation of the original architectural features
Two youth cultural ambassadors of the HKFYG Leadership Institute, Mr WONG Kang-shing, James, and Ms WONG Wing-tung, Debbie, took us on a guided tour of the magistracy so that we could know more about the conservation work. Court No. 1 has now been revitalised into the Digital Debate and Speaking Chamber equipped with an electronic voting system and a simultaneous interpretation system for young people to discuss policies, and have training in debating and public speaking skills. Court No. 2, on the other hand, has been preserved with fittings such as the magistrate’s bench, prisoner's dock, public sitting area and reporters’ bench kept intact for mock court exercises in the future. While three of the four detention cells have been converted into multi-functional rooms to provide young people with more space for interaction and communication, one has its original features preserved.
The Conservation Corner in the magistracy was the place where offenders paid their fines in the past. The cultural ambassadors shared with us that the first case heard there was one about illegal opium smoking. The offender was fined $25, which at that time was a considerable sum. The shroff office was fitted with a safe, and the service of experts was required during restoration to open it. Of course, the hefty fines were no longer in the safe - traces of the bygone days are all that are left.
Revitalisation for the training of young people
The magistracy has been given a brand new look after revitalisation. At present, the HKFYG Leadership Institute comprises five schools which focus on training young people with leadership skills, enhancing their communication skills, broadening their horizons, instilling in them the value of social responsibility, etc. In addition, through guided tours, the institute introduces the architectural features of the magistracy to visitors and revisits with them the changes of the building and the New Territories.
One of the tours, specially designed by the institute, is Hong Kong's first-ever guided trail that combines innovative technology with heritage conservation. Using the technologies of mixed reality and augmented reality, the trail takes visitors back in time to see the magistracy in the old days. I also took part in this mini-game which combines technology, innovation and conservation. I turned into a detective and went back to the magistracy in the past to collect evidence at the scene. It was really interesting. Visitors may also install a mobile phone application to learn more about various conservation areas in the magistracy.
Since the launch of the Revitalisation Scheme in 2008, new life has been injected into many historic buildings through preservation, revitalisation and good utilisation, thanks to a large number of individuals and parties who dedicate themselves to the cause. Over the years, quite a number of young people have supported and participated in activities organised by the HKFYG. The institute had a soft launch in December last year and its official opening is due at the end of March. I hope this newly revitalised and conserved venue can nurture for Hong Kong more outstanding leaders of tomorrow.
3 March, 2019Back