ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “prison

VICTORIA PRISON (域多利監獄), Tai Kwun (大館), Central (中環), Hong Kong

The former Victoria Prison or Gaol is the third main component of the Tai Kwun Centre of Heritage and Arts. Built in August 1841, some say the prison was the first permanent Western architecture constructed in Hong Kong. It served as the city’s first prison until 2006, when the complex was decommissioned for good. Today, the prison halls are largely preserved as listed historical buildings. Some are opened to the public to showcase the history, while some are being converted into restaurants and bars. But it’s the Prison Yard, the tranquil courtyard in the midst of the prison compound that is the real gem. Under the shade of Frangipani and Candlenut trees, movable beach chairs are provided for relaxation. In the evening, the courtyard is dimly lit to maintain a peaceful ambience.

At either end of the Prison Yard, renowned architect Herzog de Meuron has left their mark by erecting two cubic structures that appear to be floating in mid air above the prison walls. Serving as a theatre, one of the cubic structure is known as JC Cube. The other cube, named JC Contemporary, is a sleek looking museum of contemporary art. Beneath the JC Cube lies the stepped plaza Laundry Steps, where movie screening and live performances would regularly be held. Echoing the brick and stone masonry of the heritage structures, the cast aluminium facade of the cubic structures offer a dramatic contrast between the old and new.

If the Parade Ground courtyard at the lower platform is reserved for the vibrancy of retail and dining activities, the Prison Yard at the upper platform is all about the venues for cultural exhibitions and performances. While the Central Police Headquarters on Hollywood Road and Central Magistracy on Arbuthnot Road were all about establishing an authoritative image to the public, the unpretentious buildings of the Victoria Prison, which have been walled off from the city ever since 1841, offers the perfect setting for contemporary culture and architecture to establish a new identity for the compound. Converting the cold prison blocks into a welcoming urban oasis has so far proven to be successful.

Earlier versions of Victoria Prison have long gone, including the one with a radial plan dated to 1858. [Photo: University of Bristol – Historical Photographs of China reference number: NA16-009. Image from an album in The National Archives. 1860’s]
Today, the JC Contemporary cantilevers over the granite walls of Victoria Prison and red brick facades of the Central Police Headquarters along Old Bailey Street. [Tai Kwun at junction of Old Bailey Street and Staunton Street, Central, 2021]
At the junction of Old Bailey Street and Chancery Lane, the Blue Gate (now painted green) marks the main entrance of Victoria Prison. From my childhood home just a dozen of steps away, my curiosity would explode whenever a police truck arrived with new prison inmates. Back in the 1980’s, the prison was actually used as a transit and repatriation centre for Vietnamese refugees. [Blue Gate of Victoria Prison at junction of Old Bailey Street and Chancery Lane, Tai Kwun, Central, 2021]
The southern extent of Victoria Prison is bounded by the granite wall along Chancery Lane. [Prison wall at Chancery Lane, Central, 2021]
I remember most walls of the Victoria Prison were topped with glass pieces when I was a child. Today, only a small amount of glass is left. [Former prison wall at Chancery Lane, Central, 2021]
The JC Cube overhangs beyond the prison wall along Arbuthnot Road. [Tai Kwun at Arbuthnot Road, Central, 2021]
From Central Magistracy, a small chapel decorated with wall paintings marks the entrance vestibule into the former Victoria Prison. [Tai Kwun, Central, 2021]
Herzog de Meuron chose a cladding design contrasting to the heritage masonry buildings for the new cubic buildings. [Former Victoria Prison, Tai Kwun, Central, 2021]
The Victoria Prison was damaged during WWII, and has gone through extensive restoration after the war. [Hall B, Victoria Prison, Tai Kwun, Central, 2021]
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Hong Kong was declared a port of first asylum for Vietnamese refugees. The prison was used as a transit and repatriation centre. [Former Victoria Prison, Tai Kwun, Central, 2021]
The Victoria Prison has imprisoned all kinds of people in its 165 years of history, including some well known figures such as Vietnamese revolutionary and politician Ho Chi Minh. [Former prison hall, Tai Kwun, Central, 2018]
One of the prison buildings was used to showcase projections of Chinese and Italian sword fighting techniques as part of the Way of the Sword: Warrior Traditions in China and Italy exhibition. [Former prison hall, Tai Kwun, Central, 2021]
The Laundry Steps serves as a connection point between the platform of Central Magistracy and Prison Yard. [Laundry Steps, Tai Kwun, Central, 2018]
Beneath the JC Cube is Laundry Steps, a welcoming stepped plaza designated for live performances. [Laundry Steps, Tai Kwun, Central, 2020]
The Laundry Steps is a great place for movie screening. [Laundry Steps, Tai Kwun, Central, 2020]
During the pandemic, beach chairs were removed from the Prison Yard. Only the Frangipani and Candlenut trees remain as the main features of the courtyard. [Prison Yard, Tai Kwun, Central, 2021]
Live performances would occasionally be held at the Prison Yard. [Prison Yard, Tai Kwun, Central, 2018]
Built in 1913, and modified in 1931 and 1948, Hall F was considered to have less historical value compared to other buildings in the compound. Left of Hall F is the passageway leading to the Blue Gate. [Prison Yard, Tai Kwun, Central, 2018]
Built in 1858, the 3-storey D Hall of former Victoria Prison is the oldest surviving structure in Tai Kwun. [Prison Yard, Tai Kwun, Central, 2018]
The first floor of D Hall was once used as a hospital and psychiatric ward, while the second floor housed youth detainees. Today, the ground floor is converted into a causal restaurant managed by a NGO. [Prison Yard, Tai Kwun, Central, 2020]
Design by Herzog de Meuron, a cast aluminium cladding system made from recycled vehicle wheels in Australia is used for the outer skin of JC Contemporary and JC Cube. [JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, Central, 2021]
The slit of glazing reveals the spiral stair up to the exhibition floors of the JC Contemporary. [JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, Central, 2021]
A minimalist base of concrete and glass lifts the JC Contemporary up beyond the prison wall. [JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, Central, 2021]
The spiral staircase in the JC Contemporary is a popular selfie spot today. [JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, Central, 2021]
Wet Feet_Dry Feet:Borders and Games by Belgian artist Francis Aly was one of the many exhibitions hosted at the JC Contemporary recently. [JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, Central, March 2021]
The small Artist’s Book Library on the second floor of JC Contemporary is a pleasant place to take a break. [JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, Central, 2021]

CENTRAL POLICE HEADQUARTERS & MAGISTRACY, Tai Kwun (大館), Central (中環), Hong Kong

In the business district of Hong Kong, it is always an uphill battle to preserve a heritage building against the power of urban development. The former Police Married Quarters (PMQ) is a rare exception, and so as the former Central Police Station Compound just a few blocks down Hollywood Road. In the past two years, the most exciting new attraction in Hong Kong has to be Tai Kwun (大館). Consisted of 16 heritage buildings, 2 courtyards and 2 new structures, Tai Kwun is the the largest heritage and art compound in the city. Literally means “big station” in Chinese, “Tai Kwun” refers to how people used to call this former police compound over a century ago. Today, Tai Kwun is home to art and history exhibitions, outdoor performances, a 200-seat auditorium, design shops, restaurants and bars. Perhaps everyone acknowledges that there isn’t much old Hong Kong left to see nowadays, that’s why Tai Kwun has become an instant hit on Instagram and made it onto Time magazine’s list of World Greatest Places when the compound first opened to the public in 2018.

The story of Tai Kwun dates as far back as 1841, the year when the British first set foot in Hong Kong. On the slope of Tai Ping Shan in Central, Captain William Caine who also served as Chief Magistrate and Head of Police and Gaol chose the current site bounded by Hollywood Road (荷李活道), Old Bailey Street (奧卑利街), Chancery Lane (贊善里) and Arbuthnot Road (亞畢諾道) to build the city’s first prison, police station and magistracy office all in one compound. Expansions and alterations of the splendid compound gradually establish the authority of the colonial police force upon the public. Most buildings were erected before 1925, despite expansions and alterations continued to transform Tai Kwun well into 1950’s. For 160 years the compound served as Central’s law enforcement hub until 2006 when the compound was finally decommissioned. In 2007, conceptualization of the Tai Kwun revitalization project began to take shape. Construction and conservation work began in 2011 and took 8 years to complete. After spending HKD 3.7 billion from the Hong Kong Jockey Club charity trust, Tai Kwun finally opened its doors in May 2018.

As a child having lived for a decade at the intersection of Old Bailey Street and Chancery Lane just 10m away from the Blue Gate of Victoria Prison, entering the walled compound that has been off limits to the public for the last 160 years has been quite special to me. I used to walk past the prison along Chancery Lane and imagine what might lie on the other side of the high stone wall topped with pieces of broken glass. As the revitalized Tai Kwun unveiled its mysterious face, my childhood curiosity has finally been fed. It is delightful for me to see that Tai Kwun has been carefully preserved, restored and everyone, including me, can finally see, touch and enjoy whatever that are taking place at both sides of the prison walls.

The compound is defined by three main groups of buildings: Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison. Buildings of the Police Station cluster around the Parade Ground courtyard at the lower platform, while the prison structures stand around the Prison Yard at the upper platform. The beautiful Magistracy building is situated in between at the middle platform. [Visitor centre display shows the three areas of Tai Kwun: Police Station in blue, Magistracy in orange, and the Prison in yellow, 2021]
A pedestrian footbridge links up Tai Kwun with the Central – Mid Levels Escalator. [Junction of Old Bailey Street and Hollywood Road, 2020]
The once tranquil Old Bailey Street has seen its streetscape dramatically developed into a welcoming pub scene. [Tai Kwun at seen from Old Bailey Street, 2020]
The Central Police Headquarters building along Hollywood Road is seen as the poster child of the compound. [Tai Kwun as seen from Hollywood Road, 2021]
From Hollywood Road, a sloped lane leads visitors up to the Parade Ground courtyard. [Tai Kwun as seen from Hollywood Road, 2021]
No longer in use, the front entrance of the Central Police Headquarters on Hollywood Road reveals the colonial power of the British government. [Tai Kwun at Hollywood Road, 2021]
Classical style was used in to impose a powerful image upon the public. The Central Police Headquarters was the first attempt by the colonial police force to establish its authority to the city. [Tai Kwun as seen from Hollywood Road, 2021]
Designed by British architect Leslie Owen Ross, the Central Police Headquarters represented the authority of law and order with classical motifs such as fluted columns and lion decorations. [Tai Kwun as seen from Hollywood Road, 2021]
The former inspector residences define the corner of Arbuthnot Road and Hollywood Road. [Junction of Hollywood and Arbuthnot Road, 2021]
Built in 1914, the Central Magistracy stands as the most prominent structure on Arbuthnot Road. Just like Central Police Headquarters, the court house adopted a classical approach to establish its powerful image to the public. [Near junction of Hollywood and Arbuthnot Road, 2021]
The year 1914 was clearly marked on the keystone of the Central Magistracy. [Near junction of Hollywood and Arbuthnot Road, 2021]
Canton red bricks were used extensively for Central Magistracy and Central Police Headquarters. [Arbuthnot Road, 2021]
Inside the compound, an arched doorway divided the Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison. [Outside Central Magistracy, Tai Kwun, 2020]
The decorative entrance of the Central Magistracy is carefully preserved. [Central Magistracy, Tai Kwun, 2021]
The entrance of the Central Magistracy is now a hot spot for taking selfies. [Central Magistracy, Tai Kwun, 2021]
At the former Central Police Headquarters, the Parade Ground courtyard served as the main event and parade space for the colonial police force. Now, it has become the main event space for Tai Kwun Heritage and Arts Compound. [Parade Ground, Tai Kwun, 2019]
Standing at the west side of Parade Ground is the former Armoury building. Now, it has become a bar popular with tourists and expatriates. [Parade Ground, Tai Kwun, 2018]
The Parade Ground is also a designated spot for setting up large Christmas trees in Central. [Parade Ground, Tai Kwun, 2020]
During the Covid 19 pandemic, public performances are occasionally held depending on the temporary regulations during the time. Parade Ground, Tai Kwun, 2019]
During weekends, performances at Parade Ground are often catered for families and kids. [Parade Ground, Tai Kwun, 2021]
Inside the Central Police Headquarters, fluted columns and decorative mouldings filled the space with a strong colonial setting. [Interior of Central Police Headquarters, Tai Kwun, 2020]
Iron stair railing and floor tiles are preserved inside thee Central Police Headquarters. The building is now used to house heritage display, temporary exhibitions, restaurants and shops. [Interior of Central Police Headquarters, Tai Kwun, 2020]
In 2018, the first exhibition at Central Police Headquarters focused on old businesses in the surrounding neighbourhood. [Interior of Central Police Headquarters, Tai Kwun, 2018]
Footbridges at each level connect the Police Station area with the Victoria Prison. [Tai Kwun, 2021]
During Chinese New Year, the alleyway separating the Ventral Police Headquarters and the Victoria Prison would be filled with red lanterns. [Tai Kwun, 2020]

DAY 70 (1 OF 4) – MUSEO MARITIMO, USHUAIA, TIERRA DEL FUEGO, ARGENTINA

Perhaps nowhere else is more suitable to build a prison than at the “end of the world”. Before its closure in 1947, the Ushuaia prison housed many reoffenders and political prisoners from all over the nation. Housed in the asterisk shaped building with an activity court as the pivotal point, the former prison was converted into a museum complex in the 1990s. The museum complex Museo Maritimo includes the Maritime Museum, Prison Museum, Antarctic Museum, and Art Gallery. Exhibitions are located mainly in the former prison cells. We spent the morning at the complex, and were particularly interested in the Prison Museum and Antarctic Museum. In one building wing, stories of some well-known inhabitants of the former prison were told with text and photos, one story in each prison cell. Another wing of the old prison was preserved without renovation to show the former condition of the building. Although small, the Antarctic Museum was an interesting showcase of exploration stories on the ice continent by various expedition teams.
ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

* * *

Read more on Ushuaia in 2013 South America
Day 69.1 – Magellan Straight
Day 69.2 – Arrival, Ushuaia
Day 69.3 – Fuegian Grill, Ushuaia
Day 70.1 – Museo Maritimo, Ushuaia
Day 70.2 – Chiko Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 70.3 – Beagle Channel & Isla H
Day 70.4 – Kalma Resto, Ushuaia
Day 71.1 – Pier, Ushuaia
Day 71.2 – Fuegian Trees, near Estancia Harberton
Day 71.3 – Penguins, Martillo Island
Day 71.4 – Estancia Harberton
Day 71.5 – Kaupe Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 72.1 – Post Office, Isla Redonda, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego
Day 72.2 – Senda Costera & Bahia Lapataia, Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
Day 73 – Stranded in Ushuaia Airport

* * *

South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought