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Chp 111, Wanchai Market – Forty years champion for the environment

Wanchai Market

Though assessed as a “grade III” historical building by the Government, Wan Chai Market is almost the last remaining Streamlined Moderne building in Hong Kong. The structure was built in 1937 in place of the first Wan Chai Market. The building is “modern” both in terms of its form and the construction method: it was the first batch of single multi-storey markets and one of the first buildings constructed by concrete. The Wan Chai Market is one of the essential remnants of the surviving heritage asset of the local community, overlooking the development of “Old Wan Chai” from its strategic location. The building also have its own shares of history: The basement of the market was used by the Japanese Army for storing corpses in WWII.

The building was threatened with demolition when the Town Planning Board approved an application to turn the historical structure into a high-rise residential building in February 2004. The project dated back to 1994 when the then Land Development Corporation was approved by the Government to prepare a development scheme for Wan Chai Road/Tai Yuen Street Area (see also 112 for the fate of Tai Yuen Street).

Soon after the Town Planning Board’s decision in respect of Wan Chai Market, The Wan Chai Heritage Taskforce was set up with CA as one of its members; other members of the Taskforce included Hong Kong Institute of Architects, American Institute of Architects (Hong Kong Chapter), LIVE Architecture Programme, Department of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Urban Watch. If the movement to save the old Central Star Ferry Pier and Queen’s Pier is said to be a grass-root movement, the campaign to conserve Wan Chai Market is surely the latest concerned effort to rescue our cultural heritage by the professional bodies.

The Taskforce believed that a participatory process was lacking, and the historical, architectural and social values of the building had not been seriously considered throughout the decision-making decision. A design charrette and a road show were held in July 2004. The Taskforce also wrote to the Antiquities Advisory Board, urging it to preserve the building, but to no avail.

When all hopes seemed lost, thanks to the King Yin Lei incidents (see above), the Urban Renewal Authority and the Development Bureau jointly announced at the end of 2007 that the façade and the front part of the building would be preserved as a friendly gesture to the conservation groups.

CA thinks that the best way to keep the character of Wan Chai Market alive is turning it into a bazaar for small retailers; we do not want another inhuman and faceless chain store run by a big single operator.


July 30, 2015 - Posted by | Dr WK Chan book

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