Preserving past best way to revive Tai O, say design winners

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 September, 2008, 12:00am

The winners of a design competition seeking ways to revitalise Tai O have called for 'minimal intervention' in the old fishing village.

Cultural tourism was the main theme of the first-prize submission among entries from professional groups.

'Too much new development will affect residents' lives and make Tai O commercialised and over-touristy,' said Fanny Ang Bing-hun, 31, an architecture graduate now working for the government.

She and her teammates and former classmates - Stephen Chow Hon-bong and Jimmy Tsui Ka-chun - spent two months on their design and decided that the best way to enliven the village would be to preserve rather than develop.

The group identified dozens of spots in the area that are in need of minor improvements to facilities rather than new buildings. For example, stilt houses would be repaired for residents while some vacant residences would be converted to house oral history archives and historic photos and drawings. Several piers would be added to different spots to strengthen the local traffic network.

Noting that the residents of Tai O have a dragon boat team, the designers included waterfront stands for watching races. Another site would be arranged to stage performances of San Gong Opera, a Cantonese style of drama performed in temporary structures during festivals. Instead of building a new lookout to view the mangroves and wetlands, the team suggested converting residents' rooftops to serve the same purpose.

The competition, which attracted 36 entries in the professional group and 69 in the open group, was part of the public consultation for the Tai O revitalisation plan.

While presenting prizes yesterday, Development Bureau head Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government would fully consider the winning proposals when working out a revitalisation plan. A sum of HK$600 million has been reserved for the project.

Officials are studying a comprehensive revitalisation plan, and are to finish by the middle of next year. Priority works, including flood prevention and a pilot scheme for repairing the disused salt pans, will start in 2010. Officials are looking for a site for the pilot project.

The salt pans will likely become an exhibition, rather than a business operation, for students and tourists.