AIA Hong Kong members experienced a slice of old Hong Kong with a twist of contemporary art on the evening of Friday, 27 June, during a private guided tour of “Oi!” – the adaptively reused Government Supplies Department located at 12 Oil Street in North Point. The tour was led by Professor Wallace Chang, Associate Professor at the School of Architecture, CUHK, and a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, Harvard University.
Once the home of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and the Government Supplies Department, the existing complex dates back to 1908 and is considered a rare example of the Arts and Crafts style in Hong Kong. The buildings within the complex were initially classified as Grade 2 historic structures by the Antiquities Advisory Board in 1995, with official confirmation of their status following in 2009. Situated on a 0.2 HA site at the intersection of Oil Street and Electric Road, the cluster of century-old red brick and stucco clad buildings consists of a main block and two ancillary buildings surrounding a small landscaped oasis of public open space dotted with mature trees. Formerly the site of the Oil Street Artists Village prior to its renovation by the Architectural Services Department (ASD), the complex opened to the public in May 2013 as an adaptively reused, flexible contemporary art space named “Oi!”
Operated by the Art Promotion Office (APO) of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), the complex now hosts a variety of indoor and outdoor art exhibits and aims to both provide a platform for emerging artists and to encourage community participation. The temporary exhibits on display during the tour — collectively entitled “Reflection!” — featured the popular outdoor installation “Bâtiment – Oi!” by Argentine artist Leandro Erlich, which consists of a replica of a building façade installed horizontally at grade, reflected by a set of 45 degree mirrors. The resulting apparition of a vertical building facade enabled members of the public lying on the ground to execute gravity-defying poses on the virtual façade for passers-by. This striking outdoor installation was complemented by multi-sensory indoor exhibits housed within the ground floor of the historic structures created by Meta4 Design Forum, documentary photographer Tse Pak-chai, and Hong Kong-based artist Kingsley Ng. These thought-provoking interior exhibits revolved around urban transformation in Hong Kong and “reflections” of our urban landscape.
Mr. Chang also described many of the issues associated with retaining and adaptively re-using historic buildings, in general, as well as the approval processes and budgetary hurdles that had to be overcome to effect the transformation of this former government space into a much needed community amenity and welcome addition to the Hong Kong art scene.
AIA members attending this tour earned 1.5 Learning Units (LUs) toward their annual AIA mandatory Continuing Education requirements.
Contributor: Tom Schmidt, AIA