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.
Located in Hongkou District, Shanghai 1933 was our next destination of the day. After seeing photographs of this magnificent building on the Internet, I longed to visit Shanghai 1933 since months before our trip. Built in the year 1933, Shanghai 1933 was purposely designed as a livestock slaughterhouse for the city. It was designed by British architects, and some of the cement material was also imported from England. Throughout the years, the prewar slaughterhouse had been converted to host other functions. A few years ago this unique building went through a major restoration and has once again gone through another identity transformation. This time, it has become a hub of shops, restaurants, event spaces and studios for creative industries, a cool new representative of Shanghai’s creative and commercial scene.
The five-storey concrete building is remarkable both aesthetically and functionally. The complex is comprised of a circular tower at the centre, and a rectangular ring of chambers around it, with open atrium spaces between the two components. Narrow footbridges and concrete braces connect the two main components, while ramps and stairs link the levels. Visually, the complex seems like a concrete labyrinth as if a modern realization of Piranesi’s imaginary prison. Functionally, the former slaughterhouse is an excellent example of the former meat processing system when cattle was brought into the feeding halls at the outer ring and gradually proceeded upwards via the concrete ramps until reaching the high levels. Then the animals would cross the narrow footbridges into the central circular tower and advanced through the slaughtering process.
After getting off the taxi, we were immediately attracted by the rich architectural articulations on the building facade and columns. Reminding us of this highly globalized era, we could see the signage of Starbucks before we even entered the building. Once inside, we wandered around the atrium spaces to take photographs and gradually worked upwards via its ramp network. We didn’t pay much attention to the shops. After strolling for a while, we sat down at a Sichuan noodle shop and had a late lunch. After the delicious meal, we wandered for another bit, enjoying ourselves with photographing the unique architectural spaces and also other visitors who came to Shanghai 1933 posing for all sorts of photo shoots.
Signage of 1933 Shanghai at the main entrance.
Interesting architectural articulations are visible everywhere, including the columns at the entrance arcade.
Footbridges at different levels of the complex greatly contribute to the labyrinth feel of the experience.
Visitors walked in the ring of atrium space between the circular tower and the rectangular outer chambers (shops).
Walking up the ramp overlooking a series of narrow stairs (probably for working staff back in the old days).
Even the concrete balustrade was created with a sense of organic fluidity.
The round edges of the architecture reminded us of the former streamline slaughtering process.
A narrow bridge linking the circular tower and the outer wing.
A group of children in vivid colours stood out from the monotonous concrete environment.
Watching people enjoying different corners at Shanghai 1933 was delightful.
Watching people enjoying different corners at Shanghai 1933 was delightful.
Some came for their wedding photos.
A few visitors seemed to be models for fashion photography.
Others were simply groups of young people looking for an interesting selfie spot.
We could see either someone was being photographed or someone taking photos of another person almost anywhere at Shanghai 1933.
Looking down from the highest level.
It was empty inside the circular core tower except some artwork display when we were there.
Footbridges and visitors both provided the most interesting components in any scene of the complex.
Concrete patchworks are visible throughout the complex.
Looking out the main entrance as we exited the complex.
The main facade of Shanghai 1933 as viewed from the canal of Shajing Port.
Other interesting former industrial buildings in the area.
Leaving Shanghai 1933 behind, we found our way to the nearest metro station.
Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
2.0 HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
4.0 SOUP DUMPLINGS AND MORNING STROLL, Shanghai, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
9.0 FORMER FRENCH CONCESSION, Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
14.0 CHINESE HAND PRINTED BLUE NANKEEN GALLERY (藍印花布博物館), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China