Government to declare King Yin Lei and Maryknoll Convent School monuments

The Secretary for Development, in her capacity as the Antiquities Authority, intends to declare King Yin Lei, at 45 Stubbs Road, and the Maryknoll Convent School, at 130 Waterloo Road, as monuments under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.

The Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB) was consulted today (January 25) on the two declarations. Members unanimously supported the intended declarations in view of the important historical significance of the buildings.

Under section 3 of the ordinance, the Antiquities Authority, after consultation with the AAB and with the approval of the Chief Executive, and by notice in the Gazette, may declare a building which the authority considers to be of public interest by reason of its historical significance to be a monument.

A spokesman for Development Bureau said that King Yin Lei was a rare surviving example of Chinese Renaissance style that reflected the design and construction excellence in both Chinese and Western architecture of Hong Kong’s pre-World War II period. The “East-meets-West” construction methods have made the building a rarity in Hong Kong and an outstanding piece of art.

The mansion was declared a "proposed monument" on September 15, 2007, to give it temporary statutory protection from further damage as non-structural works had been carried out in the building. The declaration allowed the Antiquities Authority time to consider in a comprehensive manner whether it should be declared a monument.

A renowned expert in heritage conservation, Professor Tang Guo-hua of Guangzhou University, was commissioned by the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) to assess the heritage value of the building and to recommend how it should be restored. According to Professor Tang’s assessment, the damaged parts are mainly confined to the decorations and finishes.  Based on information on the original architectural appearance now in hand and current restoration techniques, the original appearance of King Yin Lei can be restored up to 80% while its historical significance can be maintained.

The spokesman said that the owner of King Yin Lei had agreed to carry out the repair and restoration works on the building under the supervision of the AMO at his own cost.  According to the initiative in heritage conservation policy of helping private owners to preserve historic buildings through appropriate economic incentives, the Government has reached a preliminary understanding with the owner on a possible preservation option for the mansion. Under the proposal, the owner will surrender the whole site of King Yin Lei to the Government after restoration, while, subject to the necessary town planning approval, the Government will grant an adjacent man-made slope site of a size similar to King Yin Lei to the owner for development subject to the same plot ratio of 0.5 and a height restriction of three storeys.

“We will consult the Legislative Council on this proposed land exchange to preserve King Yin Lei as well as options for revitalising the building for future public use. All the arrangements will be processed in accordance with relevant statutory requirements and established government procedures in a fair and transparent manner,” the spokesman said.

On the declaration of Maryknoll Convent School as a monument, the spokesman said the school was very supportive of the declaration. The oldest part of the campus was built in 1937. The free neo-Tudor style of the school complex reflects several different styles of architecture including Art Deco, Romanesque, Neo-Georgian and Gothic Revival.

“Its outer appearance in red brick has formed a deep impression on many people in Hong Kong. Such a combination is very rare and interesting among school architecture in Hong Kong,” the spokesman said.

The AAB meeting today also discussed and endorsed a proposal to withdraw the proposed monument declaration for Jessville, a private residence at 128 Pokfulam Road. The AAB granted Jessville Grade III status under its administrative grading system.

Jessville was declared a "proposed monument" on April 20, 2007, to protect the building from immediate threat of demolition. Since then, the AMO has carried out a detailed and comprehensive assessment of the historical significance of the building and concluded that it has not reached the high threshold of historical significance for declaration as a monument under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.  

“The Government has been actively liaising with the owner of Jessville to explore possible preservation options. We are pleased to learn that the owner has plans to pursue residential development on the site while at the same time preserving Jessville intact.  Despite the withdrawal of its 'proposed monument' status by the Antiquities Authority, the building is not under the threat of demolition,” the spokesman said.

Ends/Friday, January 25, 2008
Issued at HKT 18:39