Collapsed building at 150-year-old former Central Police Station will ‘inevitably’ lose heritage value with restoration project, Jockey Club says
Partial reopening of historic compound likely to be delayed to middle of next year due to recovery and stabilisation work on former Married Inspectors’ Quarters, which came crashing down in May
The restoration of a collapsed structure at the historic former Central Police Station will mean an “inevitable loss” of its heritage value as it may involve demolishing or reconstructing parts of the building, the organisation in charge of revitalising the compound has said.
In May, a wall and part of the roof at the former Married Inspectors’ Quarters – one of the 16 historic buildings in the 150-year-old compound – came crashing down. No one was injured.
The site, which is a declared monument, was subsequently closed to the public, and a partial reopening, which was originally set for next month, will now likely be delayed to the middle of next year as a result of the recovery and stabilisation work to the building.
The Jockey Club, which is in charge of the HK$1.8 billion revitalisation project, has put forward proposals to the Antiquities Advisory Board for recovering the building which include eight options. The board will deliberate on the plans on Thursday.
Of the eight recovery options, five include partial or full demolition of the structure, and some allow for adaptive reuse of the building for retail purposes.
Two options involve restoring the collapsed parts by using salvaged, traditional or modern materials.
The most drastic option involves demolishing the remaining parts of the structure still standing and transforming them into an open courtyard.
“The recovery options outlined above will, inevitably, and to varying degrees, result in some loss to the heritage value [of the building],” the Jockey Club said.
Bernard Chan, who chairs the club’s advisory committee on the project, said safety and heritage preservation were the two top concerns.
“Many of these options are valid. There’s no one perfect solution. The best way forward is to open up this discussion to the community – it shouldn’t just be decided by experts,” he said.
Chan said that personally he would prefer half of the structure be kept while the other be restored instead of full demolition, so that a part of history could be kept alive in the architecture.
“At the end of the day, [the collapse] is part of history. People can come and see what happened to the site,” Chan said.
An inquiry is under way into what exactly caused the collapse, but experts believe the structure was in a vulnerable condition due to use of substandard bricks.
A review of the whole site conducted by architects and engineers revealed there were a variety of defects including cracks in the walls and termite infestation between 2009 and 2011, according to a report by the Jockey Club.
Since June, project staff, consultants and contractors have discussed ways to rescue the building, which was slated to be a centre for heritage and contemporary art as well as commercial and entertainment functions.