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AIA Hong Kong – The Cultural Triangle

We had our first Quarterly at the Qube, PMQ, on April 14th with a cocktail reception and presentations ending in an engaging panel discussion. Our thanks to PMQ, who was our venue sponsor, and to Techoy, the construction company that built PMQ, who stepped forward to be our event sponsor. The event focused on the “Cultural Triangle” a cultural precinct that could potentially be formed with the PMQ, the Central Police Station (CPS), and the Central Market (CM). The discussion brought together for the first time the public sector, the private sector and professionals involved in designing and operating these facilities, together with local community representatives who played a principle role in each project. The evening was supported by other organizations such as the Urban Land Institute (ULI), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and many of the local professional institutes in Hong Kong such as the Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA), the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design (HKIUD) and the Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP).

The Guest of Honor, Dev. Secretary Mr. Paul Chan gave an overview of Heritage Policy and Adaptive Reuse in Hong Kong, emphasising Hong Kong’s interest in preserving its heritage. It is good to note that he not only answered some tough questions from the audience but also stayed on for almost 3 hours till all the presentations were over. Vincent Ng then shared his experiences and challenges working on the Central Oasis project with the Urban Renewal Authority on the design for the adaptive reuse of Central Market. Vincent allowed that after 6 years of design and coordination, the project is on hold again due to extensive budget increases claimed by the URA. The government is now revisiting other more commercial proposals for the site. William Tsang, the PMQ Project Architect gave a passionate presentation of its design and construction and some of the challenges faced with existing building codes and delivering the project within the tight budget. Victor Tsang spoke about the operations and management of PMQ and making it an attractive destination that is both a creative hub and financially viable. Euan Upston gave a sneak preview of CPS as a cultural destination with some interesting stories and exciting things in store for the people of Hong Kong and visitors when it opens at the end of next year. Brian Anderson discussed the importance of area-based conservation – similar to the Cultural Triangle – and some possibilities with Government Hill as a quick win that Hong Kong could look into. The panel discussion continued with Peter Cookson Smith, Katty Law, John Batten, and Amil Khan, the community representatives who led a passionate discussion on their views about the importance of community, heritage conservation and adaptive reuse in Hong Kong.  In the end, Peter Basmajian spoke up and controversially questioned if the Central Market building should be saved at such a significant investment of public funds. He pointed out the city needs more green open space and this is the ideal location for a simple park that could allow activities such as street artists and food stalls. The roads on either side of the park could be closed to vehicle traffic, making the park even larger. The Central Market building is a mediocre Bauhaus structure and its enclosed design kills the street activity. In defence of saving the building it was noted that the street level of the building could be made more open and more green space is proposed on the roof. The event ended giving everyone much food for thought.

Contributor: J Lee Rofkind, AIA