First impressions of Hong Kong may be sparkling sky rises, but with the newly revitalized Tai Kwun Centre For Heritage and Arts opening its doors, we’re given a taste of how old and new can sit side by side.
The compound is a collection of sixteen heritage buildings, which used to contain a police station headquarters, prison and police housing. The carefully crafted walkways, staircases and sculptural elements on the compound’s revitalization are thanks to the skillful work of Herzog & de Meuron. The Swiss architecture firm saw the compound space as a retreat from the bustle of the city; “from an urban perspective, it is a rare ‘courtyard’ in the middle of one of the densest cities in the world. As a historical presence, the site reveals the city’s colonial past, standing in sharp contrast to the surrounding commercial towers of today.”
When the compound was originally built in the years between 1864 and 1925, it was an imposing multi-leveled structure, towering above the Hong Kong harbor. As the city rose in prominence and skyline, this 156,077 square-foot (14,500m²) block stayed as it was, until decommissioned in 2006. In such a densely populated city a 4,000 square meter courtyard is a rarity, so it’s refreshing to see this now public space become available to Hong Kongers.
Funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the centre will be used to host arts and culture. “Located in the heart of Central, Tai Kwun is a place where the old meets the new and where heritage meets the arts. For over a century and a half, Tai Kwun was closed to most people. Today, it has been transformed into a cultural destination for all to enjoy which will encourage creativity and provide the community and visitors with a vibrant mix of heritage, arts and lifestyle experiences,” the Hon Mr Bernard Chan, JCCPS Advisory Committee Chairman, said.
One of the two newest additions to the compound is the JC Contemporary art gallery built on the south side of the site. It will be used to feature contemporary artist exhibitions, and features stunning structural finishes.
The opening ceremony was marked with a light and horse show on the front of the Barrack Block. Horses, of course, for the jockey club who funded the project. Visitors are encouraged to enter Tai Kwun by registering for a free pass, in an effort to maintain crowd control at this new architectural treat.
The Hong Kong art gallery scene is finally on the rise, giving local artists a new playground for showcasing their work and inspiring the public. The center’s visual art centre, Tai Kwun Contemporary, will open two exhibitions in its 1,500 square-meter galleries on June 8th.
Looking for more architecture tours? Check out our guide to these 6 Jaw Dropping African Architectural Buildings That Celebrate Afrofuturism, or find the answers to Everything You Wanted to Know About Brutalist Architecture.