Anything but a mall - plea for Central Market

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 April, 2011, 12:00am


Architects have come up with four very different designs to revitalise the Central Market building. But the public seems to have only one request - please don't turn it into another shopping mall.

About 100 people came face to face with the four design teams in a Designing Hong Kong public forum at the Fringe Club yesterday as they heard the teams elaborating their plans for the 72-year-old building.

All four teams suggested similar uses inside the market: open space, greening and cheap food outlets.

But many of those attending had a question that the designers could not answer: would the future management of the project ignore their creative plans and make it a mall?

'A shopping mall seems to be the end point all the time in Hong Kong,' one man at the forum said.

His feelings were echoed by a woman who suggested principles of management should be established.

'If they are heritage [buildings], their function should change within parameters,' she said.

Vincent Ng Wing-shun, who is behind one of the designs, said he could not speak on behalf of the Urban Renewal Authority or any other clients. Architects created the building but its use should be determined by public demand. 'This is a public building. What we are creating is space. If people really want a shopping mall, let them have it,' he joked.

Michael Ma, from the Central Oasis Community Advisory Committee, said discussions about management would start in May when a roadshow of the four designs finished. A total of 4,000 questionnaires would be collected by the end of this month.

A show of hands in the forum showed a little over half preferred a minimalist touch on the old building. Others wanted more modification to the original Bauhaus design and two wanted the market torn down.

When the teams were asked if they thought it was right to make big changes, Barrie Ho Chow-lai, whose team's design would see the demolition of about 60 per cent of the internal structure, said evolution was needed to mirror changes in society.

'If you add something to an old woman's legs and that lets her run further, it's nice,' he said.

Ng, who proposes adding a storey to install a swimming pool, said: 'I'm only saying a swimming pool is possible ... tell us what you want.'

Aedas and Britain-based TFP Farrells recommended fewer alternations. Hongkongers will be allowed to 'interpret and develop' the final design in co-operation with the Urban Renewal Authority.