Visual arts centre proposed for old police station

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 March, 2010, 12:00am

The Central Police Station compound is set to become a contemporary visual arts centre to show off collections owned by the city's residents.

A person working on the project said the Jockey Club, which is responsible for the plan, would hand over management of the site to a third party, such as a non-governmental organisation. The club had previously considered managing the declared monument through a company formed under its charities trust.

The shift towards visual arts means an auditorium and a black-box theatre for the performing arts in the club's original proposal would be scaled down or dropped.

The person said many local artists and collectors lacked proper space to store or showcase their pieces. The compound on Hollywood Road was well situated to serve the purpose, given its proximity to the art galleries in SoHo.

Some space, such as the courtyards, would provide for small and medium-sized performances to add vibrancy to the venue.

The visual arts centre could include a range of forms including photography, installations, digital art, multimedia works in addition to painting and sculpture, another person familiar with the proposal said.

Some shops and restaurants would be opened at affordable prices to generate revenue with the goal of making it self-financing.

The latest proposal, being prepared by consultants including Asia Art Archive executive director Claire Hsu, who is stepdaughter of former Jockey Club chairman Ronald Arculli; and former director of Swire Properties Michael Moir, who runs a consultancy in property management and investment.

The consultants came on board after the club's former executive director for charities William Yiu Yan-pui, who had steered it since 2007, departed in January.

The Asia Art Archive was set up by Hsu, Arculli and curator Chang Tsong-zung in 2000 to promote contemporary Asian art by documentation and research.

The person working on the project said it had yet to be decided which organisation would take over the operation.

As for the design of a new structure, he said no significant new building would be added and that its height would be lower than the 77-metre restriction suggested by the Antiquities Advisory Board in 2004.

But Hall F, a prison cell that is not designated as monument but which held a local poet, Dai Wangshu, as a political prisoner during the Japanese occupation, would either be kept or be 're-created' within the site, the person said, without giving details.

'We need to keep the whole story of the police station, and Hall F is part of it,' the person said. Historians and district councillors had lobbied for the hall's preservation.

The Jockey Club has undertaken to finance the HK$1.8 billion renovation work of the compound. The club reached an agreement with the government in 2008 to revitalise the site as a cultural complex with commercial elements.

It later scrapped the initial design of a 160-metre-high transparent tower, by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, amid public unease over its height and bulk. A six-month public consultation for the design and the use was then launched and local architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee was invited to join the design team.

The club is expected to release its latest design in the next few weeks before taking it to the Town Planning Board.

Alexander Hui yat-chuen, director of the Heritage Hong Kong Foundation, questioned why contemporary visual arts were considered the best option for the monument, and whether other options on public programmes were evaluated.

He said the club should make public the research questions and parameters given to the consultants.

Benny Chia Chung-heng, director of the Fringe Club, said the shift towards visual arts was a natural outcome given the consultants' background, but he hoped the site would still stage some performing arts activities so that it would be eventful, especially at night.