Adjacent to the old district of To Kwa Wan is the Ex-Ma Tau Kok Animal Quarantine Depot, commonly known as the Cattle Depot, the only surviving pre-war cattle slaughterhouse in Hong Kong. The front portion of the Cattle Depot has been revitalised as the Cattle Depot Artists Village and become a popular place frequented by people interested in culture and art. The rear portion of the Cattle Depot, currently undergoing revitalisation, will be developed into the Cattle Depot Art Park. The works are expected to be completed in the middle of this year. This time, I have invited a colleague from the Architectural Services Department (ArchSD), who is responsible for the project design to walk us through the highlights of the art park.
Revitalised as public open space
The Cattle Depot was constructed in 1908 and served as a cattle slaughterhouse and a quarantine base for cattle until 1999. In 2001, its front portion was renovated and converted into the “Cattle Depot Artists Village”, where a set of single-storey red-brick buildings are divided into a number of individual units for art groups and local artists to hire as workspaces. Various art activities such as exhibitions and workshops are held from time to time. The rear portion, an extension constructed between 1950s and 1980s covering an area of about 6 000 square metres, had remained unused without any concrete development proposals. In 2009, the Antiquities Advisory Board accorded a Grade 2 status to the entire Cattle Depot site.
In 2013, the Kowloon City District Council endorsed the “Revitalisation of the Rear Portion of the Cattle Depot” project. Under the project, the unused rear portion of the Cattle Depot would undergo revitalisation and conversion to offer more public open space to the local community, and facilitate the operation of the Cattle Depot Artists Village at the front portion to promote local art and cultural development. The project is close to completion and expected to open to the public in the middle of the year.
Showing visitors the rear portion of the old days
According to Senior Architect of the ArchSD, Mr. LO Chi Sing, Jacen, during the revitalisation process, in order to preserve the heritage value of the rear portion of the Cattle Depot, the construction and design teams had tried their best to preserve in-situ the key character-defining elements, such as the feeding troughs, water ponds, and metal rings that animals were tied to, so as to showcase the rear portion as it was in the old days. The project team of the ArchSD, in partnership with the Home Affairs Department, will install interpretation devices at suitable locations. For example, metal plates in the shape of cows and pigs will be put on the newly installed wire fences to indicate that different kinds of livestock had been kept at the Cattle Depot.
Mr Jacen LO especially highlights a big boulder at the rear portion, which is said to have been an important spot at the Cattle Depot, known as “The Big Boulder”. Back then, it used to be a bustling scene as cattle buyers would negotiate prices with sellers and place bids on the cattle behind the big boulder early every morning. HAD and ArchSD have verified the story with past cattle buyers and its authenticity has been confirmed.
Incorporating the design in the Cattle Depot
The sheds in the rear portion of the Cattle Depot in the past, which were simple in design, were constructed without enclosure. Their roofs were supported by red-brick or concrete columns. As a result of natural ageing, only the red brick columns are left, while some of them have tilted or fallen down due to their own structural problems. The construction and design team has used steel frames to stabilise the brick columns and built boardwalks to create the look of a relics park with distinguishing features.
The new facilities are also modelled on the architectural features of the Cattle Depot with the infusion of innovative design. For instance, the design of the new rain shelter is similar to that of the single-storey red-brick buildings with tiled roofs inside the Cattle Depot, with some space between the double layers of roof for air circulation. The reflective sun-shading sheets on the rain shelter’s ceiling are cast with laser printing to capture the effect of shadow casted by leaves on to the ground. Both functional and aesthetic, this design enables sun shading and natural light penetration.
Attaching importance to nature conservation
The Cattle Depot Art Park is nearing completion. Apart from a sitting-out area, it will also provide a lush green lawn area. After the Cattle Depot ceased operation, the plants at the rear portion have still continued to grow, with the ground covered with the intertwining roots of trees. The design team has retained the characteristic of blending building fabrics with greenery. To enhance the accessibility between the Cattle Depot and its neighbouring areas, the ArchSD has also discussed with the Highways Department to provide another entrance/exit at the new barrier-free lift on the footbridge on San Shan Road to facilitate public access to the Cattle Depot.
I appreciate the meticulous care and hard work of the ArchSD’s design team. During the revitalisation process, best efforts have been made to preserve the distinctive elements intact and in-situ, including every single brick or tile and every blade of grass or tree. Life in Hong Kong is busy and stressful. Whether you like art or not, I believe the Cattle Depot Artist Village and the Cattle Depot Art Park could be a good place for cleansing your mind and enjoying leisure time.
14 April, 2019Back