Architectural tours give new life to Hong Kong's old buildings

Architectural tours give new life to Hong Kong's old buildings

Hong Kong's skyline grows taller and more modern every day, but hidden amid the skyscrapers are treasured relics of the city's history


How the Central Police Station compound might soon look.
Photo: Chan Kiu

As skyscrapers and luxury residential towers cloud the skies of Hong Kong, their shadows fall on historic buildings that have stood since the 19th century. To make sure that these monuments are not forgotten by the new generation, Hang Lung Properties organises architectural tours of Hong Kong Island.

On one sunny Saturday afternoon earlier this month, students of TWGHs Kap Yan Directors' College met at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center to take part in the tour. From there they walked along the road to Flagstaff House, then to St John's Cathedral, and finally to the Central Police Station compound.

Ricky Lui, the assistant director of project construction and management for Hang Lung Properties, is also one of the guides for the tour. He is very passionate about architecture, and hopes that through this tour, students will develop an appreciation for the world-class designs of these buildings, and understand the history behind them.

"The spots chosen for the tour all had some kind of significance during their time. Even now, they hold immeasurable value," says Lui. "Through this programme, Hang Lung hopes [people] will know more about city planning and architecture, and of course, that the students may take an interest in architecture as a career as well."

An aerial view of St John's Cathedral built in 1849.

Of all the spots on the tour, Lui's personal favourite is St John's Cathedral. "I'm a Catholic myself, and I really love the intricate design of the church. For centuries, there have always been churches, whether in small run-down towns or a metropolitan cities. They're just kind of omnipresent," he says.

"On my way here today, I realised that no matter where we are, what the culture of the place is, it all comes down to satisfying human desires. Everything in our society is to create an efficient community. And to be able to mix in beauty and elegance with our technical needs, it's just amazing. And it's even more amazing that such beauty can be kept so nicely for all these years. I hope the students on the tour will be able to appreciate this as well."

Lui feels that the Hong Kong government made a late start in preserving historical monuments, but says, "It's never too late to do the right things, I suppose".

Victor Yeung Hong-wa took part in the tour, and felt that it was extremely fulfilling and meaningful. "The part about the Asia Society Hong Kong Center was particularly interesting. Since its renovation, it is used mostly for recreational services, but you can still see how the people in the past really thought everything through, especially the part where the soldiers used to keep their ammunition and explosives. They took extra care to building a special place for putting a lantern for light to prevent the explosives from coming in contact with fire," says Victor.

The Museum of Tea Ware at Flagstaff House (1840s)
Photo: Chan Kiu

"You can really see the wisdom of humans even from so long ago. They made use of whatever knowledge and technology they had at that time, which wasn't much, and created a relic that has lasted until now.

"Mr Lui was a very good guide. His explanations were flawless, and he described the buildings and their history so vividly that we could really feel his passion for architecture."

The tour really raised Victor's interest in history and architecture, and showed him a lot of things he wouldn't normally notice. It allowed him to connect more with Hong Kong, and gain a better understanding of the city.

"Since I live in the New Territories, it takes a really long time for me to travel to Hong Kong Island, let alone take time to admire such beautiful architectural designs," he says.

The next student tour will take place in Wan Chai, in November.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
If these old walls could talk


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