ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Architecture

OASES IN THE CULTURAL DESERT, Hong Kong Arts Centre (香港藝術中心) & Academy of Performing Arts (香港演藝學院), Wan Chai (灣仔), Hong Kong

When I was a kid, my parents used to take me to the children art workshops at Hong Kong Arts Centre (香港藝術中心) in Wanchai. I don’t remember much about my earliest ”artworks”, but I do remember bits and pieces about the Arts Centre building in the 1980’s: ceiling consisted of small triangles, exposed yellow air ducts, staircase with yellow handrails spiraling up the atrium which took me forever to climb. Today, after series of renovations, the iconic yellow ductwork and stair handrails are gone, but the Arts Centre remains as a prominent non-government institution for art exhibitions, theatre shows, film screenings, and children workshops. As a competitive commercial city where people spent most of their time working to earn a living, Hong Kong is reputed for being a cultural desert. In the 1970’s, some Hongkongers tried to do something to advocate the development of art and culture, including the late architect Tao Ho (何弢). Graduated from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Ho studied and worked under Walter Gropius, the master of Modernist architecture and founder of the Bauhaus School in prewar Germany. Tao Ho returned to Hong Kong and established TaoHo Design Architects in 1968. In 1971, Tao Ho, Bill Bailey and King-man Lo came together to form the organization Hong Kong Arts Centre. After negotiations with the government and series of fundraising campaigns, construction of the building began in 1975 and completed in 1977. As chief architect, Tao Ho’s challenge was enormous. In a 10,000sf triangular site, Ho needed to incorporate galleries, theatre, rehearsal rooms, auditoriums, classrooms, restaurants, offices, and a four-storey atrium plus disabled facilities (first in Hong Kong) within a 16-storey building, all under a limited budget from donors. A triangular system was adopted from spatial planning, structural modules to facade treatment. From the use of functional forms, simple colour scheme, industrial materials, holistic design language, to incorporating geometric shapes into architecture, the spirit of Bauhaus is clearly shown. Since opening, Hong Kong Arts Centre has become a cultural icon in the city, exhibiting works by masters like Paul Klee and Zao Wou Ki as well as supporting the local art scenes. Before his death in 2019, Tao Ho was also responsible for a number of design projects in Hong Kong and China, including Hong Kong Pavilion for the 1986 World Expo in Vancouver, Tsuen Wan MTR Station, renovation of Hong Kong Governor House, Panda Pavilion in Ocean Park, Wing Kwong Pentecostal church, the Bauhinia emblem and the Hong Kong flag, etc.

In 2019, we finally got a chance to visit Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts (HKAPA-香港演藝學院) to watch 887, a solo play by renowned playwright, actor and stage director Robert Lepage from Quebec. Before the show, we wandered a little bit in the atrium hall, where a model of the building complex was on display, showing the two triangular blocks: the academy and theatre blocks separated by a driveway. Serving as both the main campus for performing arts education and a venue for theatre performances, the HKAPA has been a prominent establishment in Hong Kong since 1985. It was founded as the city’s only place that offers professional education on music, dance, drama, technical arts, film and television. Equipped with state of the art acoustics and stage equipment, its Lyric Theatre and other performance halls have served the audience well throughout the last three decades. Like the Arts Centre across the street, HKAPA was conceptualized during the reformative decade of Governor Murray MacLehose (麥理浩), who dramatically improved the social welfare of Hongkongers by introducing new ordinances and policies, and boldly transformed the city into a diverse metropolis with a wide range of public projects, from the metro system to satellite towns, country parks to the Ocean Park (amusement park), Jubilee Sport Centre to the HKAPA. In 1981, architect Simon Kwan (關善明) won the design competition for HKAPA. Restricted by underground utilities, Kwan uses a driveway to break the complex into two triangular volumes, academy and administrative block on one side and theatre block on the other.

The bold geometry, prominent outlines, functional planning, industrial materials, and modular structure of the Arts Centre can be traced back to the Bauhaus. [2022]
After 45 years, Hong Kong Arts Centre remains as a non-government establishment that promotes arts in the city. [2021]
Architect Tao Ho stacked a wide range of spaces including theatre, classrooms and galleries into a 16 storey building. [2021]
Despite the yellow vertical ductwork and handrails are long gone, the 4-storey atrium remains as the prominent point of arrival. [2021]
The atrium stair of the Arts Centre also serves as an exhibition space. [2021]
Many choose to climb the stairs over taking the lifts at the Arts Centre. [2021]
The triangular waffle slabs and light fixtures are pretty unique in Hong Kong. [2021]
Despite land reclamation in recent years, the Arts Centre still enjoys fine views of Victoria Harbour. [2021]
Comparing to the government managed Hong Kong Museum of Art, exhibitions at the Arts Centre are more catered for art lovers, instead of families or couples looking for selfie opportunities. [2021]
The Arts Centre building is like an artwork of architect Tao Ho, where visitors are free to explore spatially. [2021]

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Along Gloucester Road, windows of the teaching rooms and structural bracing of the Academy Block create a geometric presence to the urban scenery of Wan Chai. [2022]
At the age of curtain walls, the simple, solid and geometric beauty of HKAPA stands as a unique example of Late Modernist architecture in Hong Kong. [2022]
Bamboos go well with the verticality of the wall cladding of HKAPA. [2022]
Bold lines on the facade and soft tree shadows form the basic aesthetics for the building elevation. [2022]
Since 1980’s, HKAPA becomes a humble beginning for many successful actors, directors, playwrights and all kinds of theatre professionals in the city. [2022]
Interlocking triangular volumes form the basis of the architectural massing of HKAPA. [2022]
A grand atrium provides a sense of arrival in the theatre block of HKAPA. [2021]
Most theatre visitors would take the escalators up to the performance halls. [2019]
At the atrium, a stone plaque says “The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts was funded and built by the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club on land granted by the Hong Kong Government.” [2021]
Three glass elevators stand as the focal point in the atrium of the theatre block. [2021]

RUNNING BELOW THE SKYLINE, Central (中環) – Wan Chai (灣仔) Promenade, Hong Kong

In 1997, the first Standard Charter Hong Kong Marathon attracted 1,000 runners. As love for the sport grows universally, the annual event in Hong Kong has gained popularity and attracted about 70,000 runners (pre-pandemic) from around the globe, defying the humid conditions to run in the subtropical heat. Despite the dominance of East African runners in the race, local participants have increased in both numbers and results in recent years. In fact, the sport has become so popular in Hong Kong that more and more running related shows are broadcasted on television, and more and more sports equipment shops have popped up in busy commercial neighbourhoods in recent years. Runners are everywhere: on sidewalks and waterfront promenades, or in parks and on trails in the countryside.

Some run for health benefits, while some run just to loosen up their minds after a long day of stress. For people who have had enough time sitting in air conditioned offices, doing an evening run is a decent alternative for going to the gym. For a city as dense as Hong Kong, it might be surprising to find that pleasant running routes are never far away. For residents on the Island side, many choose Bowen Road in Wan Chai, or Lugard Road at Victoria Peak, while on the Kowloon side, West Kowloon Art Park or Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade are the obvious choices. In recent years, the government put efforts to transform the once out of limits harbourfront areas on the north shore of Hong Kong Island into public promenades. These promenades have become instant hits for local runners. Harbourfront scenery is particularly pleasant between Central Piers and the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai when the urban skyline lit up after dusk. With such amazing backdrop, there should be no excuse for anyone not to put on their running shoes and headphones, take in the lovely views and seaside breezes, and burn some calories.

The iconic skyline of the northern shore of Hong Kong Island forms the backdrop of the waterfront promenade between Central and Wan Chai. [2020]
From Central Piers, the curvilinear Convention Centre at Wan Chai waterfront is just 1.5km away. [2020]
In recent decades, the business district has extended from Central all the way to Wan Chai. [2020]
From Central Piers, the waterfront promenade passes by the Harbourfront Event Space to Admiralty (金鐘), the commercial neighbourhood between Central and Wan Chai. [2020]
Leaving Central Piers and the setting sun behind, the promenade heads east along Victoria Harbour. [2020]
The towering Two International Finance Centre (2IFC) dominates the skyline. [2020]
In front of the government’s headquarters in Admiralty, construction work was underway to provide pockets of recreational spaces for children and families. [2020]
A runner passed by the neon light artwork on the construction hoarding in Admiralty. [2020]
In 2021, the recreational areas in front of the government headquarters opened to the public. [2021]
All these recreational spaces enjoy views of Victoria Harbour and the distant skyline of Kowloon. [2021]
Leaving Admiralty behind, the promenade arrives at the public spaces adjacent to the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. [2020]
In a clear day, the Convention and Exhibition Centre offers fantastic views of the skyline of Central and Admiralty. [2020]
There are plenty of spaces to chill out near the Convention and Exhibition Centre. [2021]
Many runners would take a break at Convention Centre to watch the sunset. [2020]
Red skies would appear occasionally over Victoria Harbour. [2020]
From Wan Chai, spectators may notice just how narrow Victoria Harbour has become (Central of Hong Kong Island at left and West Kowloon Art District at right). [2020]
The magical moment would appear just after sunset when the skyline of Central and Admiralty begin to lit up. [2020]
The view of sunset and urban skyline from Convention Centre is breathtaking. [2020]
A few would test their luck on fishing during sunset. [2020]
Many come to photograph the sunset and Central skyline at Wan Chai Promenade. [2021]
The Convention and Exhibition Centre (香港會議展覽中心) New Wing was completed in 1997 and hosted the Hong Kong handover ceremony. [2021]
The sculpture at Golden Bauhinia Square (金紫荊廣場) adjacent to the Convention and Exhibition Centre was a gift from China for the handover ceremony in 1997. [2021]
Responsible for search and rescue, the Government Flying Service has one of their helipad outside of the Convention and Exhibition Centre. [2021]
In 2021, the Wan Chai Promenade extends eastwards to Causeway Bay. [2021]
On the newly reclaimed land, temporary public spaces have been constructed along the Harbourfront of Wan Chai. [2021]

SIX ARCHITECTS, SIX ICONS OF CENTRAL (中環), Hong Kong

For Hong Kong, skyscrapers in Central have always played bigger roles than just making money. The combined efforts of developers and architects redefine the city’s skyline for each era. [Photo: View of Central taken in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
Buildings in Central have been going through cycles of urban redevelopment since the 19th century. [Photo: China Building 華人行 (top), Entertainment Building 娛樂行 (right), Central Tower 中匯大廈 (middle), Edinburgh Tower and Gloucester Tower of The Landmark 置地廣塲 (left), 2020]

Ever since the British set foot on the Island and found the City of Victoria, Central (中環) has always been the centre stage of commercial development in Hong Kong. Since 1841, the business district has never ceased evolving and expanding. In cycles of urban reincarnation, company headquarters keep on reinventing themselves every few decades. Every time a commercial building is torn down and redeveloped, company owners and commissioned architects would find an opportunity to consolidate their corporate identity and design visions, creating architecture with a certain style and building technologies that defines the zeitgeist of an era.

Apart from a few preserved colonial buildings, the current skyline of Central is pretty much defined by Modernist and curtain wall structures erected since the Central Redevelopment Scheme of 1970’s. The completion of Jardine House in 1972 as the tallest structure in Asia manifested the arrival of city’s golden period. Then came 1980’s when different design styles flourished in Central, from the geometric beauty of Exchange Square, stunning high-tech HSBC Main Building, to the complex interlocking twin towers of Lippo Centre. 1990’s and 2000’s saw the Hong Kong handover and the city’s maintaining its status as the financial hub of Far East, with Bank of China Tower and Two International Financial Centre (2IFC) challenging the height limits of the sky. From Jardine House to the IFC, six architects were responsible for contributing a small piece of his design vision to the architectural scene of Hong Kong. Their works have defied the test of time and remain as the urban icons of Hong Kong.

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JAMES HAJIME KINOSHITA (木下一) OF PALMER & TURNER (P&T): Jardine House 怡和大廈 (Formerly Connaught Centre 康樂大廈)

Completion Date: 1972, Height: 178.5m (52 floors)

From the Japanese internment camp at Slocan of British Columbia during WWII to the architectural office Palmer & Turner (P&T) in Hong Kong in 1960’s, Canadian Architect James Kinoshita has come a long way to find his destiny. Intended to come for a short visit of his girlfriend (now his wife) in 1960, Kinoshita ended up staying in Hong Kong ever since. During his 28 years at P&T, Kinoshita brought a wave of Modernist architecture to the city when colonial buildings still dominated the skyline of Central. Apart from Modernist buildings such as Hilton Hotel, AIA Building, The Landmark, Electric Headquarter and Sui Wo Court, Kinoshita’s most well known work is probably Jardine House, the 52-storey office tower with the iconic round windows. When opened 50 years ago, Jardine House was the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia. The project opened up the contemporary era that completely transformed Central. Half a century later, Jardine House remains as an integral part of the city’s skyline.

Architect Kinoshita credits his wife Lana as the source of inspiration for the circular windows of Jardine House. [2020]
Jardine House was the pioneer project that initiated the network of Central Elevated Walkways. [2020]

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REMO RIVA (李華武) OF PALMER & TURNER (P&T): Exchange Square 交易廣塲

Completion Date: 1988, Height: 188m (Tower 1 – 52 floors – Tower 2 – 51 floors)

In the East Galleries of M+ Modern Art Museum, the axonometric drawing of the Exchange Square twin towers by Remo Riva is prominently on display. Remo’s drawing of the embracing geometries is part of Things, Spaces, Interactions, an exhibition that presents design objects with profound influence in Asia over the last 70 years. Similar to James Kinoshita, Swiss architect Remo Riva came to Hong Kong during the city’s blooming years and joined Palmer & Turner (P&T) in 1972. Responsible for 15 building projects in Central, such as Standard Chartered Bank Building, Entertainment Tower, the Landmark, and the Exchange Square, almost every visitor in Central would come across Remo’s works. Fully utilizing the advantages of the Central Elevated Walkways, Exchange Square opens its entrance and forecourt at the raised pedestrian network, leaving the ground floor for a transportation interchange. Apart from international banks, law firms, and foreign consulate offices, the most well known tenant in Exchange Square was the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

West of Jardine House stands the towers of Exchange Square. [Photo: Lung Wo Road, 2020]
Adjacent to the Exchange Square and Jardine House, the empty site and temporary footbridge of the Central Reclamation Phase 3 will soon be developed into a commercial complex. [Photo: Man Yiu Street, 2020]
From Connaught Road Central, entrance plaza of the Exchange Square is connected to the Central Elevated Walkways. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2022]

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NORMAN FOSTER: HSBC Main Building 香港上海滙豐銀行總行大廈

Completion Date: 1985, Height: 178.8m (44 floors)

A client briefing of creating “the best bank headquarters in the world” summed it all up. Norman Foster won the commission of the HSBC project in 1979, which was his first project outside the UK, and also his first over three stories tall. Billed as the world’s most expensive architecture at its time and a showcase of expressive steel structure and innovative building technologies, it is no surprise that the HSBC Main Building is one of the world’s most recognizable examples of high-tech architecture, along with Centre Pompidou in Paris and Lloyd’s Building in London. The current bank building is the fourth generation headquarters of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in the city. Famous for its steel suspended structure, column free interior, high level of access to natural lighting, giant mirrors that reflect sunlight into the building, a 40m atrium, lightweight movable floor panels, and prefabricated components from all over the world (such as the five steel modules prefabricated by Scott Lithgow Shipbuilders in Scotland, glass, aluminium cladding and flooring from United States, and service modules from Japan), the HSBC will remain as a historical milestone for Foster and one of Hong Kong’s most iconic buildings for many years to come.

With a building cost of roughly US$668 million, HSBC Main Building was the world’s most expensive building at its time. [2021]
After 37 years, HSBC Main Building remains as a great example to exemplify innovative solutions of building technologies. [2020]
Eight steel masts and five double-storey trusses hold up a steel suspension structure to carry the load of the building, allowing a column free spaces in the middle. [2020]
The ground floor of HSBC Main Building serves as a covered plaza where pedestrians can freely walk from Des Voeux Road Central to Queen’s Road Central. [2020]
With the mega steel suspension structure, the heart of HSBC Main Building is free of columns. [2020]
Commissioned in 1935 from Shanghai based British sculptor WW Wagstaff, the two bronze lions at Des Voeux Road Central have been the guardians of the bank tower since the third generation of the HSBC Building. Near the end of WWII, the lions were shipped to Japan to be melted down. Before the lions’ planned demise, the war ended. The statues were saved by an American sailor at the dock of Osaka and eventually returned to Hong Kong. [2020]
In the past, a large Christmas tree used to be erected at Statue Square outside HSBC Main Building.

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PAUL RUDOLPH: Lippo Centre 力寶中心 (Formerly Bond Centre 奔達中心)

Completion Date: 1988, Height: Tower 1 – 172m (44 floors), Tower 2 – 186m (48 floors)

Hongkongers are fortunate to have at least one prominent work of late Modernist master Paul Rudolph. There were originally three architectural proposals by Rudolph for Hong Kong, but only Lippo Centre was realized. Studied under Walter Gropius with classmates I.M. Pei and Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph was widely considered to be a master of Modernist and Brutalist architecture. After leaving Yale where he chaired the Department of Architecture for six years (with students such as Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Robert Stern, Muzharul Islam, etc.) and erected some of his famous Brutalist buildings, Rudolph shifted his focus to international projects in Asia in his latter career. Lippo Centre was one of his final realized projects. Rudolph wrote: “The aesthetic intent is to…give the building ‘presence’ when seen at a great distance, from the middle distance, and from close distance, and from close hand. At the same time, it is intended that the building inhabit the sky, and become dematerialized by reflecting the ever changing light.” Unlike Rudolph’s concrete buildings from his earlier years, Lippo Centre is highly reflective, perhaps to suit the taste of commercial clients in Asia. To some people, the interlocking massing of the hexagonal twin towers resemble koalas climbing a tree. The playful tower design has created 58 different office plans and many corner windows, and expressed the aesthetics of complexity and layering that still impress spectators of today.

Lippo Centre presents the complex planning and rich spatial qualities of Rudolph’s projects. [Photo: Queensway, Admiralty, 2020]
The scene of Lippo Centre’s giant pillars and stacked massing have become an iconic feature in Admiralty. [2022]
Some see the facade of Lippo Centre resembling koalas climbing up a tree. [Photo: Garden Road, 2020]

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I.M. PEI (貝聿銘): Bank of China Tower 中銀大廈

Completion Date: 1990, Height: 367.4m including roof feature (72 floors)

From JFK Presidenial Library, Le Grande Louvre to Miho and Suzhou Museum, Chinese American I.M. Pei was one of the most well known Modernist architect of his era. As Aaron Betsky writes in 2019, “with I.M. Pei’s death, the last of the modern monument makers has passed.” Pei was certainly a man who made monuments. In 1982, Pei received an offer from the Chinese government to design the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, the city where Pei spent the first decade of his childhood. Designated as the signature project to showcase China’s modernity, economic strength, and open engagement with the world, the project was more than just making a pretty bank tower, especially during the time when the British colony was preparing for its Chinese handover in 1997. When completed in 1990, It was the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia, and the first supertall skyscraper (300m+) outside United States. Structurally, the tower was also the first composite space frame highrise with triangular frames transferring the load to the four corner columns. The powerful geometry and structural framing bring out a timeless design language that expresses the aesthetics of purity and elegance. Nothing fancy. Not a single line is unneeded. It stands as an urban monument overlooking the bustling activities of Central and Admiralty over the past three decades.

Viewing from Central, the cross framing of Bank of China Tower still looks smart and elegant after three decades of time. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2020]
No matter from which direction, Bank of China Tower will stand out from the background instantly. [Photo: The Cenotaph, 2020]
The bracing structure of Bank of China has become an icon that all Hongkongers can recognize. [Photo: Hong Kong Park, 2020]
From the street, the stone motifs near the base reveal a sense of tradition and solemnity in the design. [2022]
The design has successfully incorporated traditional motifs into the building. [2022]
Traditional Chinese gardens were used by Pei to create a green buffer from the adjacent traffic. [2022]
From Victoria Harbour, the structural frame of Bank of China Tower has stood out in Hong Kong’s skyline since 30 years ago. [2020]

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CESAR PELLI: Two International Finance Centre (2IFC) 國際金融中心二期

Completion Date: 2003, Height: 415m including roof feature (88 floors)

As property prices and rents in Hong Kong skyrocketed in 1990’s and 2000’s, office architecture has tilted even more towards maximizing the lettable square footage than making a design statement. Notable for designing the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, World Financial Center (now Brookfield Place) in New York, One Canada Square Tower at Canary Wharf in London, Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, Wells Fargo Tower in Minneapolis, UniCredit Tower in Milan, Torre Banco Macro in Buenos Aires, and the list just goes on and on, Argentine-American architect César Pelli seemed to be the perfect fit for designing another iconic skyscraper in Hong Kong after the millennium. Before the completion of International Commerce Centre (ICC) in 2011, Pelli’s Tower Two of the International Finance Centre (2IFC) was the city’s tallest building and remains as the most notable element in today’s skyline. Apart from attracting institutions such as Hong Kong Monetary Authority or companies like Ernst & Young, Financial Times and Henderson Land Development, 2IFC is also a popular movie shooting spot, where both Lara Croft in Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003) and Batman in The Dark Knight (2008) chose to jump off from the very top. Apart from its height, the skyscraper is specialized for housing financial institutions, with 22 trading floors, advanced IT equipment, raised floor facilities and column-free spaces.

2IFC under final stages of construction back in 2003. [Photo: Cheung Kong Centre, 2003]
Three former tallest buildings in Hong Kong from left to right: Mandarin Oriental Hotel – 26 storeys, 1963-66; Jardine House – 52 storeys, 1972-80; 2IFC – 88 storeys, 2003-10
2IFC can house up to 15,000 people at work, and is equipped with double-deck elevators. [2020]
2IFC is home to some of the city’s most prestige financial institutions and businesses. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2020]
Due to its height, 2IFC is prominently visible from many places in Hong Kong, including the Mid Levels on the slope of Victoria Peak. [Photo: Hornsey Road, Mid Levels, 2020]
The roof feature and uplights of 2IFC serves like a beacon for the city’s skyline. [Photo: Connaught Road West, Sheung Wan, 2020]

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Across the street from I. M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower, construction of a new 36 storey office tower had begun. World renowned design firm Zaha Hadid Architects aims to create a glassy urban oasis at this prominent location. Would this be the next generation of architectural icons in Central? [Photo: Queensway of Admiralty, 2022]

MORE THAN JUST A DOCK: Central Piers (中環碼頭), Central (中環) Hong Kong

At midnight 12th of November 2006, Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier (also known as Star Ferry Pier 天星碼頭) Clock Tower played its last chimes of its 48-years service, before being decommissioned and demolished along with the third generation Star Ferry Pier. Manufactured by Dent (London clock maker who was responsible for the clock of the Big Ben), the clock had told the time and chimed every 15 minutes since 1958. Although the timepiece mechanism was eventually preserved, the clock tower was discreetly toppled in early morning on 16th December 2006 amid public outcries and activist protests. Then four months later, just a stone throw from the toppled clock tower, Queen’s Pier (皇后碼頭) became the next harbourfront icon to fall victim for the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project. Named after Queen Victoria, Queen’s Pier was the main arrival and departure point for all colonial governors since 1925, and the landing spot for British royal visits (Queen Elizabeth II in 1975, and Prince and Princess of Wales in 1989). After their failed attempt to save the Star Ferry Pier, local conservationists reunited at Queen’s Pier to held rallies, hunger strikes and candlelight vigils to fight against the demolition. While winning support from the public and even some celebrities, the activists once again failed to convince the government to consider preservation the colonial pier. Despite their fruitless attempts, the incidents of Star Ferry Pier and Queen’s Pier have significantly raised public awareness on heritage preservation in Hong Kong, and triggered widespread support for later conservation projects such as Central Market, Police Married Quarter (PMQ) and Tai Kwun Police Headquarters.

As a port city, pier structures have always been essentials to Hong Kong. Based on an university study of photos from 1863, there were once 56 piers and jetties between Western District and Causeway Bay in mid 19th century. Excluding the restricted zones, that works out to be 56 piers in 5.5km of shoreline, or roughly a pier every 98m. As port facilities were moved away from the heart of Victoria Harbour and the opening of Cross Harbour Tunnel in 1970’s, pier activities along the north coast of Hong Kong Island have significantly declined, except for the pleasant Star Ferry and the other boat services to the outlying islands. I still remember the excitement as a kid in 1980’s when arriving at the Outlying Islands Ferry Pier (港外線碼頭) boarding a boat for day trips to Lantau or Yamma Island, or rubbing shoulders with foreign tourists taking photos of traditional rickshaws at Star Ferry Pier (天星碼頭), or watching couples taking wedding photos at Queen’s Pier (皇后碼頭) after tying the knot at the adjacent City Hall. Each pier had its own ambience and scenery. Each pier has become a unique piece of memory. Since the completion of Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project, the old Central piers are all but gone. About 300m north of the former piers, a cluster of ten new piers were established between 1990’s and 2000’s as the new Central Piers. Assigned with Pier No. 7 and 8, the current Star Ferry Pier was erected in Edwardian style mimicking its second generation predecessor from 1910’s. The “fake antique” and “theme park” approach of the architecture have drawn heavy criticism from the public. Between Pier No. 9 and 10, Hong Kong Observation Wheel, a 60m Ferris wheel, was erected in 2014 as a new tourist attraction. Despite being skeptical about the necessity of a new attraction, many do see the Ferris wheel as a delightful focus for the harbourfront, and a welcoming feature upon arriving at the Central Piers by ferry.

In colonial times, certain piers were designated to play ceremonial roles for the city. A Triumphal arch was erected at Pedder’s Wharf for the visit of Duke of Edinburgh in 1869. [Photograph by John Thomson, 1869, Wellcome Library no. 18643i, public domain]
Landing of The Duke of Edinburgh at Pedder’s Wharf in 1869. [Image courtesy of National Archives, Kew, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
Located at the junction of Pedder Street and Chater Road, the Second Generation Star Ferry Pier was constructed in 1910 in front of the former Queen’s Building. [Photograph by Eleanor Mitchell, 1912-1917. Image courtesy of E.G. France, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
In 1925, Cecil Clementi became the first colonial governor to land and sworn in at Queen’s Pier. [public domain]
Similar to modern taxis, rickshaws drivers line up outside Blake Pier and Star Ferry Pier in 1930. [Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]
Blake Pier (middle left) and Star Ferry Terminal (right) had served the Central community for decades before being torn down for the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project. [Photograph by Martin Funnell, 1955. Image courtesy of Martin Funnell, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
The Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier or Star Ferry Pier, its clock tower and car park structure belong to be a single building complex. Today, only the carpark remains. [Photo of Edinburgh Place, 1957, public domain]
At midnight 12th of November 2006, the Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier Clock Tower played the last chimes. [Photography by WING, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -WING, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons]
Taken from the 10th Floor of City Hall High Block in October 2005, the former Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier (Star Ferry Pier) can be seen on the left, former Queen’s Pier on the right, and the current Central Piers under construction at upper left. [Photography by Carismith, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -Carismith, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons]
After failing to stop the demolition of Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, local conservationists shifted their focus to the adjacent Queen’s Pier. [Photography by CX257 in September 2007. Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -CX257, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons]
Local celebrity Chow Yun Fat signed the petition at Queen’s Pier in April 2007. [Photography by Leo Cheung, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -Leockh, CC-BY-SA-3., Wikimedia Commons]
Locals gathered for the last night of Queen’s Pier on 31 July 2007. [Photography by Wing1990hk, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -Wpcpey, CC-BY-SA-3., Wikimedia Commons]

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A series of pier structures lined across Central Harbourfront as the current Central Piers. [Photo taken from Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
The former Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier has become Lung Wo Road and the Central Harbourfront Event Space. [Photo taken from Lung Wo Road outside the City Hall, 2020]
As part of the former Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, the Star Ferry Car Park remains as a prominent modernist structure in Central. [Photo taken from Lung Wo Road outside the City Hall, 2020]
A footbridge links the Central Piers with the main financial district further inland. Each time a land reclamation projects is completed, the time it takes to reach the piers f would increase. [Photo taken from Lung Wo Road, 2020]
With reference to Edwardian architectural features, the fourth generation Star Ferry Pier has been criticized for failing to represent the contemporary spirit. [Central Pier No. 8, 2020]
For many, the new Edwardian clock tower of the current Star Ferry Pier in Central appears like a theme park backdrop. [Central Pier No. 9, 2020]
The real antique at the Star Ferry Pier is the ferry boats themselves, such as the 58-year old Day Star (晨星號). [Central Pier No. 7, 2022]
At the upper deck of Star Ferry Pier, a farmer’s market selling local organic produces is held every Sunday. [Central Pier No. 7, 2019]
Across the harbour, the 1957 Streamline Moderne pier structure of the Star Ferry Pier (天星碼頭) in Tsim Sha Tsui offers a glimpse of what its counterpart in Central, the now demolished Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier used to be like. [Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2021]
In June 2020, regular ferry service between Central and Hung Hom has resumed after a 9-year service suspension. [Central Pier No. 8, 2020]
The easternmost Pier No. 9 and 10 offer fine views of Victoria Harbour. [Central Pier No. 9, 2020]
It is pleasant to linger at Pier No. 9 and 10 at dusk. [Central Pier No. 9, 2020]
The public Pier No. 9 and 10 are occasionally used by private boats. [Central Pier No. 10, 2020]
Pier No. 9 and 10 have become a popular place to hang out after work. [Central Pier No. 10, 2020]
As casual public spaces, Pier No. 9 and 10 are often shared by different groups of people. [Central Pier No. 10, 2020]
Between Pier 7 and 8, a Ferris wheel known as Hong Kong Observation Wheel has become a new focal point in Central Harbourfront since 2014. [Central Pier No.8, 2022]
Sitting up to five people, all gondolas of the Ferris wheel are equipped with air conditioning [Central Pier No.8, 2020]
The pandemic has prevented outside visitors coming to Hong Kong in the past two years. Most tourist related businesses, including the Hong Kong Observation Wheel, have suffered a considerable time. [Central Pier No.8, 2020]

ARCHITECTURAL GEM ON THE SEVEN TERRACES OF SAI WAN, Kennedy Town (堅尼地城), Hong Kong

In Kennedy Town, less than three hundred meters from Smithfield Municipal Market and Forbes Street Playground (site of the former slaughterhouses), a sleepy neighbourhood has been tucked away on a quiet hill slope for a hundred years. A staircase on Sands Street is all it takes to separate the two worlds, one bustling and the other tranquil. Once consisted of seven terraces built on the slope between Hong Kong University above and Belcher’s Street below, the secluded neighbourhood is commonly known as the Seven Terraces of Sai Wan (西環七臺). Also called Western District, “Sai Wan” is the general name for the area encompassing Kennedy Town (堅尼地城), Shek Tong Tsui (石塘咀) and Sai Ying Pun (西營盤). The seven terraces can be traced back to Li Sing (李陞), the richest Chinese merchant in 19th century Hong Kong. One of his sons Li Po Lung (李寶龍) inherited the sloped land when his father died in 1900. Li Po Lung decided to develop the land into residential terraces and an amusement park. He named the terraces and amusement park with references to his favorite ancient Chinese poet Li Bai (李白). Chinese pavilions, outdoor stages, dance floors, merry-go-round, playgrounds, and even an artificial pond for rowing boats, coupled with street performances, handicraft fair, small fireworks, chess competitions, etc. made Tai Pak Lau (太白樓), Li’s amusement park, into a trendy destination from 1915 and on. It was especially popular with wealthy men and prostitutes coming from the nearby Shek Tong Tsui (石塘咀), the city’s most famous red light and entertainment district in early 20th century. Just like many places in Hong Kong, Tai Pak Lau was rather short-lived, lasting for merely nine years before closing down due to financial difficulties of Li Po Lung. The park was then converted into today’s Tai Pak Terrace (太白臺) residential street. Despite the bankruptcy of Li Po Lung in 1924, the seven terraces, especially the topmost terraces such as Academic Terrace (學士臺), To Li Terrace (桃李臺) and Ching Lin Terrace (青蓮臺), continued to thrive as an upscale residential neighbourhood for wealthy Chinese.

If Tai Pak Lau was an ephemeral dream of a wealthy man, the historical Lo Pan Temple (魯班先師廟) on Ching Lin Terrace (青蓮臺) has proven to be a much more resilient establishment. Listed as a Grade 1 historical building, Lo Pan Temple was erected in 1884 by the Contractor Guild, way before Li Po Lung laid hands on the area. The temple construction was supported by 1172 donors, mostly contractors and builders from all over Guangdong (Canton) and Hong Kong. The temple is the city’s only religious establishment solely dedicated to Lo Pan, the patron saint for all Chinese contractors and builders. Lo Pan (魯班) or Lu Ban in Mandarin, was a renowned structural engineer, inventor, carpenter, builder and craftsman in the Spring and Autumn Period in China. During his lifetime, (507 – 444 BC), Lo Pan was responsible for inventing a variety of tools from the saw and prototype of a kite, to military tools and seige ladder used in warfare. Lo Pan was considered to be the master of all craftsmen in the Chinese culture, and has become a deity and patron saint for all contractors.

Maintained by a very old temple keeper “Uncle Fun” (芬叔) in his late 90s, Lo Pan Temple (魯班先師廟) is a remnant from a distinct past, a time when traditional values in the three general construction trades (三行), namely carpentry, cement work, and paint work, were strong. In the old days, paying respect to Lo Pan was a common routine to start the day for all contractors. They would celebrate Lo Pan’s birthday, on the 23rd of June in the Lunar Calendar, with heart beating drums and dragon dances, and share a big pot of “Lo Pan meal” (魯班飯). It was the contractors’ respect to the Lo Pan heritage that has sustained the temple to the present day. Even “Uncle Fun” is serving his temple keeping responsibility out of appreciation for his former patron saint, after a 60-year career in the paint trade until retirement at 80. Working together with architectural conservationist and master carpenter Wong Hung Keung (王鴻強), Uncle “Fun” was also involved in the temple’s major renovation in 2007, repairing structural damages and restoring some of the magnificent wall paintings, stone carvings, and clay sculptures that make Lo Pan Temple one of the most precious architectural gem in Hong Kong.

In this photo, the Seven Terraces of Sai Wan would be constructed somewhere on the slope at the right hand side behind the slaughterhouses, about three decades after this photo was taken. [City Of Victoria Hong Kong. Slaughter Houses & Pig & Sheep Depôts, 1894. National Archives UK Catalogue Ref: Part of CO 1069/446, Colonial Office Photographic Collection.]
The stair at the end of Sand Street is the main access to the seven terraces from Kennedy Town. [2020]
The locals’ touch to enhance the pedestrian experience expresses a sense of belonging of a close-knitted community. [Sands Street staircase, 2022]
Tai Pak Terrace, site of the former amusement park, maintains its simplicity and tranquility despite the rapid changes of adjacent streets in the past decade. [2022]
The retaining wall of Tai Pak Terrace is itself a piece of historical relic. [2020]
Further up Sands Street would bring us to Ching Lin Terrace, where Lo Pan Temple is located. [2020]
Lo Pan Temple and Ching Lin Terrace can also be reached via the stepped Li Po Lung Path. [2022]
Even the old style street sign of Ching Lin Terrace has become a rarity nowadays. [2022]
Further uphill, Ching Lin Terrace does feel a little farther away from the bustling activities of Kennedy Town. [2020]
Tuck away at the end of Ching Lin Terrace is the small but precious Lo Pan Temple. [2022]
With 26 wall paintings, Lo Pan Temple is home to the largest collection of traditional murals on Hong Kong Island. [2022]
From wall murals, wood carvings to clay sculptures, every detail of Lo Pan Temple is worth every penny and effort to preserve. [2022]
The exquisitely decorated ridge on the roof is centred with the treasure ball. [2022]
Given the fading practice of traditions among the younger generation, the temple is seeing less and less worshipers each year. [2022]
Given the pace of urban transformations in Hong Kong, every precious temple details being preserved is a small victory on its own. The edge of the roof is decorated with the sun and moon deities, with the left side being the Goddess of Moon Chang Er (嫦娥). [2022]
The last major renovation of Lo Pan Temple happened in 2007. [2022]
With great volunteer efforts by architectural conservationist Wong Hung Keung (王鴻強) and temple keeper Uncle Fun, the 2007 renovation successfully restore a number of damages of the old structure. Avoid using contemporary materials as replacement is an essential principle for heritage conservation. Wong went as far as burning his own bricks and making his own grey mortar to match the original ones used in the 19th century. [2020]
The characters “craft lasting ten thousand generations” (巧傳萬世) is written with 99.9% real gold leaf on an wooden plaque. [2022]
Due to the dark interior, many visitors may not realize the upper murals near the ceiling. [2022]
The richly detailed clay sculpture is not common in buildings on Hong Kong Island, making the Lo Pan Temple highly precious. [2022]
Other than clay sculpture, the temple also has beautiful wood carvings. [2022]
The bell in the temple is dated to the 14th year of Emperor Guangxu (光緒), 1888. [2022]
The delicate altar is another piece of precious gem. [2020]
From To Li Terrace (桃李臺), one terrace above Ching Lin Terrace, the temple roof can be conveniently appreciated. The jagged rood and elaborated parapet walls are another unique features of the historical building. [2020]
The back ridge on the roof is also decorated with beautiful sculpture, including two dragons fighting for a treasure ball. [2022]

URBAN METAMORPHOSIS THAT WOULD NEVER LOOKED BACK, Kennedy Town (堅尼地城), Hong Kong

The first 130 or so small units of Kennedy 38, a new residential development in Kennedy Town, went on sell in November 2021 during the pandemic. Ranging from 229 to 332 sq.ft with an average price of HK$27,522 per sq.ft, 1400 interested parties registered as potential buyers, translating to about 10 bids for each available flat. A few days later, prices went up even higher for the upper floor units. A 287 sq.ft unit was selling for HK$10.24m (US$1.31m). While this may not match the most pricey developments in Hong Kong, US$1.31m for 287 sq.ft is not a friendly price tag either, especially for Kennedy Town, a neighbourhood that not long ago was still considered as Hong Kong’s de facto back-of-house. Today, things have obviously changed. Kennedy Town is now marketed as the up and coming neighbourhood on Hong Kong Island accessible by the mass transit railway (MTR), and a destination where the Harbour, Mount Davis and HKU are just minutes of walk away.

Gentrification has been happening in many parts of the city, but not that many places can match the 180 degree makeover of Kennedy Town, not only for its appearance, but also its identity. The westernmost settlement on Hong Kong Island was named after Arthur Edward Kennedy, the 7th governor of colonial Hong Kong in 1870’s who was responsible for substantial land reclamation and developments in Kennedy Town. Due to its considerable distance (3.5km, not that far in today’s standards) from Central, the city’s central business district, Kennedy Town was seen as an outpost in the early days. From late 19th century to the hundred years that followed, Kennedy Town was home to all sorts of the city’s undesirable but necessary supporting facilities: infectious disease hospital, mortuary, cemeteries, mental health hospital, poultry houses, depots for cattle, pigs and sheep, massive slaughterhouses, battery factories, waste incinerator, etc. From 1894 when the first slaughterhouse began operations, to 2007 when the demolition of Kennedy Town Abattoir and Incinerator finally took place, the impression that combines foul smell, animal whimpers, polluted air, and streets of blood and feathers on Kennedy Town have deeply imprinted in the collective psyche of many Hongkongers.


Then everything changed almost overnight on 28th of December 2014, when the MTR finally opened the Kennedy Town Station, bringing flocks of outsiders into the westernmost neighbourhood on Hong Kong Island. Then suddenly everyone realized that at only four stops west of Central, Kennedy Town is in fact a tranquil neighborhood where a less crowded waterfront and friendly old shops await for visitors to explore. Unsurprisingly, real estate developers were the first to arrive, tapping in the neighbourhood’s potentials by erecting blocks after blocks of luxury sea-facing apartments. Then came fancy restaurants, pubs, cafes, bakeries, cinema, lifestyle shops, etc. To maximize development potentials for the area, buildings in Kennedy Town associated with its dark past were all but wiped out. Shadows of the past have quietly faded away under collective oblivion. Yet if one looks careful enough, traces of the past are still visible in hidden corners and fenced off brown sites. Under the warm afternoon sun, the air is full of distant laughter from cafes, sport bars and waterfront promenade. Even a ruined slaughterhouse or a roadside tombstone of a 19th-century plague victim may not seem that spooky anymore.

The Skyline of Shek Tong Tsui (石塘咀) to the left and Kennedy Town (堅尼地城) to the right, with Kennedy Town Swimming Pool complex standing at the middle foreground. [Photo taken from the Harbour, 2020]
After series of land reclamation, the latest coastline is located at New Praya Kennedy Town. [Photo taken at New Praya Kennedy Town, 2020]
Situated at the western end of Hong Kong Island’s north shore , the Kennedy Town waterfront offers some fantastic views of the container ports at Stonecutters (昂船洲) and Tsing Yi (青衣) across Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken at New Praya Kennedy Town, 2020]
Leisure fishing is very common along the waterfront of Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken at New Praya Kennedy Town, 2022]
Southwest from the intersection of Cadogan Street and New Praya once stood the massive compound of Kennedy Town Abattoir and Incinerator. The structures were demolished in 2009. [Photo taken at New Praya Kennedy Town, 2022]
The incinerator is no longer standing behind the corrugated metal hoarding, yet a refuse and recycling station continues to occupy a part of the former incinerator’s site. Today, the mortuary at far left in the photo continues to serve the public as one of the three public mortuaries in Hong Kong. [Photo taken on a slope over Victoria Road, 2022]
The imposing chimneys of the incinerator and adjacent abattoir compound were once the most prominent features in the skyline of Kennedy Town. [Photo courtesy: Wiki Commons by ken93110, taken in 1968, (CC BY-SA 3.0)]
Hidden from Victoria Road on a slope full of wild plants and fig trees lie the ruins of a former shanty town, where tombstones of the 1894 plague victims from a largely forgotten cemetery nearby were taken as construction materials (stairs or wall cladding) decades ago. [Photo taken near intersection of Victoria Road and Sai Ning Street, 2022]
Caption from University of Bristol – Historical Photographs of China reference number: Bk09-03. “Photograph taken from the recreation ground of Hong Kong University of the western entrance to Victoria Harbour. In the foreground is Kennedy Town (堅尼地城). The large buildings in the far centre are the infectious diseases hospital. On the left is an abattoir, and sheep, pig and cattle depots. Towards the right, between Forbes Street and Victoria Road, are rope and glass factories.” [Photograph by Denis H. Hazell. Image courtesy of ‘Picturesque Hong Kong’ (Ye Olde Printerie Ltd., Hong Kong), c.1925., University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
The original infectious diseases hospital was long gone. Only a memorial arch from the former building survives to the present. [Photo taken at intersection of Victoria Road and Sai Ning Street, 2020]
200m inwards from the waterfront, the impressive stone wall trees on a century-old retaining wall is perhaps one of the most iconic attractions in Kennedy Town. The tree wall is briefly featured in David Attenborough’s The Green Planet. [Photo taken at Forbes Street, 2022]
Above the stone wall trees stand the remnants of the old slaughterhouse and pig/sheep depots. An account from 1922 suggested that there were 292,184 pigs and 30,732 sheep at the depot, at a time when the human population in Hong Kong was around 725,000. [Photo taken at Forbes Street, 2022]
The intersection of Rockhill Street and Smithfield Road was once occupied by a large cattle depot. An old account mentions that there were 46,347 heads of cattle (87% of the city’s cattle population) at the facility in 1922. Today, the site is home to the multi storey municipal block, housing a public library and a wide range of sporting facilities. [Photo taken at intersection of Rockhill Street and Smithfield Road, 2022]
While all abattoirs have been moved out of Kennedy Town, legacies from the former slaughterhouses remain in the neighbourhood, such as the odd opening hours (03:00 – 16:00) of Sun Hing (新興食家), who used to serve the slaughterhouse workers in the wee hours. [Photo taken in Sun Hing Restaurant at Smithfield Road, 2020]
The 59-year old Tung Fat Building (同發大樓) has been refurbished in recent years from a rundown apartment into an upscale loft apartment. Designed by Australian architect Kerry Phelan Design Office, the project is a rarity in Hong Kong since most landlords would prefer to knock down the old building and erect a new residential skyscraper in order to maximize the financial reward. [Photo taken at New Praya Kennedy Town, 2022]
A 1,300 sq.ft unit at Tung Fat Building (同發大樓) was asking for HK$88k (approx. US$11,300) per month for rent. [Photo taken at New Praya Kennedy Town, 2022]
Just down the street from the stone wall trees, fancy restaurants and pubs have found their feet across the street from Sai Wan Estate, a public housing complex that has been around since 1958. [Photo taken at intersection of Davis and Forbes Street, 2022]
Of course, retail spaces with sea views are perfect for restaurants, cafes, and bars. [Photo taken at New Praya Kennedy Town, 2022]
Many restaurants make use of their waterfront location to create a marine ambience. [Photo taken at New Praya Kennedy Town, 2020]
With an influx of expats entering the neighbourhood, Australian craft beer Little Creatures has joined the F&B scene of Kennedy Town in 2015. Everything was on the up side until the pandemic hit, forcing the beer hall to close its doors in 2020 after 4.5 years of operations. [Photo taken at Little Creatures, New Praya Kennedy Town, 2020]
Golden Scene, a local film distributor is brave enough to open their first ever neighbourhood cinema in Kennedy Town in February 2021 during the pandemic. [Photo taken intersection of Catchick Street and North Street, 2021]
Fully opened in 2017, the fluid form of the second generation of Kennedy Town Swimming Pool signifies a new era for the neighbourhood. [Photo taken at Shing Sai Road, 2022]
Apartments in Kennedy Town seem to be getting taller and taller in the past decade. [Photo taken in Belcher Bay Harbourfront at Shing Sai Road, 2022]
Opened in 2020, the Belcher Bay Harbourfront has immediately become a popular spot for the community. [Photo taken in Belcher Bay Harbourfront at Shing Sai Road, 2022]
The Belcher Bay Harbourfront offers great views of the sea, and decent outdoor spaces for a wide range of leisure activities. [Photo taken in Belcher Bay Harbourfront at Shing Sai Road, 2022]
It is so chill to skateboard right next to the Harbour. [Photo taken in Belcher Bay Harbourfront at Shing Sai Road, 2022]

WINDING ARCHITECTURE & DESOLATE RUINS, Mount Davis (摩星嶺), Hong Kong

A day after the attack on Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, Regimental Sergeant Major Enos Charles Ford at Hong Kong’s Fort Davis was woken up by the Japanese raid of Kai Tak across the harbour at 08:00, 8th of December 1941. Ford and his fellow gunners returned fire but the Japanese aircraft were out of range. The raid of Kai Tak officially pulled the curtain for the short but intense Battle of Hong Kong. At 269m tall, Mount Davis at the westernmost point of Hong Kong Island had been a major defensive facility for the city since the 1910’s. Five guns were mounted at different locations on the mount, and two were later relocated to Stanley. Jubilee Battery near the shore was later added to guard the coast below. During WWII, a force of about 50 gunners was stationed at the fort. Thanks to the diary of Regimental Sergeant Major Enos Charles Ford, a brief account of what had happened at one of the most bombarded spot in Hong Kong during WWII survived to the present. From 8th of December to the 24th, Fort Davis engaged in fierce battles with the Japanese and was under intense bombardment by both warships and aircraft. The gunners fought hard from the fort until Christmas Eve, when they were sent to Wanchai to fight as infantry in the last desperate attempt to fend off the enemy. The colony of Hong Kong surrendered on the Christmas Day of 1941, and the damaged Fort Davis fell in the Japanese hands two days later. After the war, the fort was used for a variety of military purposes until 1970’s, when the site was abandoned and gradually crumbled into ruins. Ever since, the ruins have become a hot spot for war games and ghost tours, certainly not a place for the faint hearted.

Below Mount Davis, the Jubilee Battery complex was converted into Victoria Detention Centre in 1961, before emptying out after the Chinese takeover in 1997. The abandoned Jubilee Battery was finally offered a second life in 2013, when University of Chicago becomes the new occupier of the site. The revitalization plan was met with a poetic response by the late Canadian architect Bing Thom (now Revery Architecture): a winding architecture perched over the hillside of Jubilee Battery overlooking Sulphur Channel and the western approach of the Victoria Harbour. Named as Francis and Rose Yuen Campus of the University of Chicago, the sleek architecture curves around a 75 year old flame tree, and floats above ground on slim pillars to minimize impact on the delicate coastal landscape and the heritage structures. Since inception in 2018, the Yuen Campus has become a popular place for watching the sunset. Its heritage interpretation centre offers visitors insights of the history of Mount Davis, and military history of the former colony.

Overlooking the Sulphur Channel, the ruined Jubilee Battery forms part of the interpretative court of the University of Chicago Yuen Campus. [2022]
Storage for artillery cartridges below the former gun platform at the Jubilee Battery. [2022]
Beyond the ruined battery structure stands the glassy campus building. The curving profile of the new architecture echoes with the historical structure. [2022]
The futuristic structure is raised over the former detention buildings nicknamed the “White House”. The historical buildings have been revitalized to house educational spaces and an interpretation centre (closed due to the pandemic). [2022]
The site of the campus is open to the public throughout the day. Referred to as the “Tree of Knowledge”, the 75-year old flame tree prominently stands on a raised platform (far left in photo), serving as a pivotal point for the building’s bending configuration. [2022]
A prominent stair bends at an opposite angle to the main building, creating an eye-catching feature at the outdoor court. [2022]
Circular benches work well with the curvilinear architecture. [2022]
Etched with the school logo, the centre of the drop-off appears seems to be the setting out point of the winding structure. [2022]

***

After checking out the Yuen Campus, it is worthwhile to do a short hike to check out the military ruins on Mount Davis behind the school.

The artillery batteries on Mount Davis was first constructed in 1911. Fort Davis was one of the most bombarded site by the Japanese during WWII. [F2 Gun at Mount Davis, taken probably in the mid 1930’s, Public Domain]
The artillery batteries on Mount Davis were damaged and decommissioned by the guarding force before Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese on the Christmas Day of 1941. From then on, the structures gradually fell into ruins. [2022]
Incense offering at the ruins is perhaps a good reminder to causal hikers that precious lives have been lost 80 years ago on the mount for defending the city. [2022]
In the midst of dense vegetation, a deep trench leads to the former signal station. [2022]
Abandoned battery buildings can be found at various locations on Mount Davis. [2022]
With little regulations to protect the heritage structures, the ruined fort has become a popular place for war games. [2022].
The ruin’s desolate conditions and bloody history have inspired numerous urban myths and ghost stories. [2022]
Ghost stories of Fort Davis have cast a sense of mystery to the site. [2022]
Despite the ruined conditions, the battery structures on Mount Davis deserve high respect from every visitors for the history and memories of the war. [2022]

***

Descending Mount Davis at the right moment brought us back to the Yuen Campus just before sunset. [2022]
Facing west to the sea, the court of the Yuen Campus is an ideal place to watch sunset.
Many would just come to the campus for the sunset. [2022]
The glassy facade of the Yuen Campus reflects the distant Lamma Island to the southwest, while a cruise ship (probably empty) lingers in the Sulphur Channel during the pandemic. [2022]
Built in 2004 on the former battery platform, the Sunset Pavilion (日落觀瀾亭) adjacent to the Yuen Campus is popular for leisure fishing and sunset watching. [2022]
From the pavilion, the setting sun slowly descends behind the distant silhouette of Lantau Island. [2022]
Before the suspension of ferry between Macau and Hong Kong, the water of the Sulphur Channel and beyond was much busier. [2022]
Sitting on the coastal rocks to contemplate the setting sun offers a moment of meditation in this bustling metropolis. [2022]
The sun turns vivid orange as it lowers to the horizon. [2022]
Then just after a few minutes the orange sun has quietly slipped away. [2022]