Experts highlight married quarters' significance

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 March, 2009, 12:00am

The former police married quarters served as an advertisement for post-war police recruitment, and are no less historically significant than the underground remains of the old Central School, three architecture experts say.

Duncan MacIntosh, the commissioner of police appointed in 1946, was assigned to rebuild the force, which had been severely weakened during the second world war.

In the annual police report for 1951, he explained the reason for building the Hollywood Road quarters.

'Congestion in the colony has forced many married men into most unsatisfactory environments,' he wrote, noting that some spent one-third of their income just to rent a place to sleep.

Opened that year, it was the first quarters built for rank-and-file married officers, said Woo Pui-leng, associate professor of architecture at Chinese University, who researches urban transformation.

'In a society troubled by unemployment, refugees, squatters and violence, the brand-new quarters came as a great excitement to many people,' she said.

By the time the commissioner left in the early 1950s, the number of officers had more than doubled from 2,000 to 5,000.

The buildings demonstrated a very high level of design, said Professor Woo's colleagues, Vito Bertin and Gu Daqing, who have researched the police quarters built in the 1950s and 1960s. They lamented that most had been torn down. The quarters in Hollywood Road are one of only two that survived; the others are in Aberdeen.

The housing blocks showed the architect's generosity with space, Professor Bertin said. Each flat had a common area outside that almost doubled the whole unit size. The ceilings were also high, allowing for mezzanines.

Pipes in the kitchen were integrated and hidden from sight, he said, and even today, the plaster is still in good shape, showing the builders' excellence.

Professor Bertin opposes the blocks' demolition. 'The space will disappear. You just get decorated emptiness [a vacant lot with trees, say], but it is unusable.'