The old Wan Chai market building at the intersection of Queen’s Road East and Wan Chai Road is an historical landmark. Built in 1934, it was one of the most influential examples of Streamline Moderne architecture in Hong Kong. It will be destroyed next year as part of the government’s urban renewal project for Wan Chai, unlike the nearby 1920s Blue House, which is to be at least partially preserved. “This building is an example of pre-war architecture that marked the beginning of the rapid development of the Central-Wan Chai districts,” says Dr. Ho Kwok-leung of the Department of Applied Social Science at Polytechnic University. “The building not only served as a marketplace for the neighborhood, but was also a symbol of the rapid intrusion of Western concepts during the inter-war period – a symbol of a new era of lifestyle for Hong Kongers.” According to Ho, the market is a key example of Wan Chai’s role in enabling the rapid growth of businesses in Central by providing low-priced basic services and modern business facilities. The building is also a war relic: it was on the frontline during the final hours of fierce fighting in Wan Chai before Hong Kong fell to the Japanese in 1941. “A mixed bag of gunners, Hong Kong Volunteers and the Middlesex regiment held the position in an attempt to prevent the Japanese from reaching Central along Kennedy Road,” local amateur historian Tony Banham writes on his website, hongkongwardiary.com. “There is no doubt that building has been through hard times, but it has survived it all,” Ho says. “It is like a silent storyteller of the district, a monument to the history of Wan Chai. You can feel how strong the bond is between that building and the district – it has been standing as a historical landmark in Wan Chai for the past 72 years.” Its historic value seems lost on the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. Stall owners inside the building have been asked to move out by 2007. After the last hawker leaves, the market will be turned over to the Urban Renewal Authority, which will then have it destroyed. “Knocking down the building is not the only solution,” says Professor Chang Ping-hung of the Chinese University’s architecture department, and an organizer of the Future Memory concern group that focuses on the renewal projects in Wan Chai. “Using the historical building as a theater or an open performing space is just one possible way to preserve it. And turning it into a museum is also a much better choice than knocking down part of our history.” Future Memory is working with the H15 Concern Group, a union of Wan Chai residents fighting to protect their heritage and social network. To get involved, visit the H15 Group’s website: www.h15.hk .