On February 28, a small group of AIA members was given a rare opportunity to don hardhats and prowl around behind the scenes of one of the most anticipated heritage renovation projects in Hong Kong – the revitalization of the historic Central Police Station and Victoria Prison. The project is a partnership between The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and the HKSAR Government. Representatives from the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the prime contractor, Gammon, jointly led a guided tour of a the 3.37 acre site. With a collective history dating back to the 1840s, the low-rise terraced site contains three declared monuments: the former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison. Three local and international architectural firms were commissioned for the refurbishment and repair works of 16 buildings of historical or architectural significance, as well as several open spaces in the compound. In addition to the restoration of historically significant buildings, the central parade ground was excavated to accommodate concealed underground plant rooms, and two new geometric aluminum-clad buildings are also being constructed in order to add new space for commercial use. The new buildings will feature a custom cladding created from recycled materials, and will provide a thought-provoking juxtaposition between the old and the new.
Once a cluster of law-and-order institutions closed to the public, the site is being transformed into a cultural destination where heritage, contemporary art and leisure elements will be creatively integrated for all to enjoy. The scheme is consistent with the award-winning entry submitted by AIA Hong Kong member Thomas Schmidt, AIA, in a 2005 “Ideas Competition” held by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects and Central & Western District Council, prior to the HKSAR government’s decision for the best use of the then soon-to-be decommissioned site. Currently under construction, the opening is tentatively scheduled for the second half of 2016.
Contributor: Tom Schmidt, AIA