Hong Kong public to be given a say on future use of King Ying Lei mansion

Roadshow will illustrate two rival proposalsfor the future use of historic King Ying Lei

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 September, 2012, 2:49am

The public is being given a say on the future use of the historic King Ying Lei mansion, rescued from demolition after a public outcry five years ago.

Two rival proposals for the Stubbs Road mansion, restored after being defaced by a previous owner, went on show in a roadshow yesterday.

People visiting the exhibition at the Heritage Discovery Centre in Kowloon Park, and later in Sha Tin and Wan Chai, will be asked whether they would like the building to be used as a museum of Chinese ink art or a wedding museum and venue.

Their views will be considered by a government vetting committee, headed by executive councillor and heritage adviser Bernard Chan, that will make the final decision.

The Ink Society, a group of ink art enthusiasts led by Alice King Tung Chee-ping, sister of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, said it had assembled a collection of 5,500 pieces for display.

The Lifestyle Group charity group, which also runs the century-old Western Market in Sheung Wan, plans to transform the mansion's swimming pool into a transparent wedding hall.

Both groups have engaged conservation architects.

Professor Ho Puay-peng from Chinese University, an architect involved in saving the defaced mansion, is a project committee member of the Ink Society.

Consultants Atkins, who helped conserve Westminster Abbey and provided engineering design services for the London Olympics, designed the wedding hall with a roof of green slate tiles of the type made to repair the mansion.

"People often associate art with Picasso. In fact, his works were also influenced by Chinese ink art," Ink Society project director Eddie Lui Fung-ngar said.

He said Hong Kong had been a refuge for artists during the Cultural Revolution and gave birth to contemporary ink art.

The society would keep part of the swimming pool and turn the rest into a three-storey, below-ground arts centre in the shape of an ink stone.

Lui, a visual artist who operates an arts centre in a former industrial building in Shek Kip Mei, said the centre would accommodate seminars, exhibitions and banqueting.

The mansion would display the development of Chinese ink art over the centuries and allow visitors to meet ink art masters.

Exhibits acquired by the society, with the support of masters like Wucius Wong, include pieces from well-known collections such as those of Yi Qingzhai and Zhu Yuetang.

Existing trees, including a large joy tree, would be preserved in a Chinese garden.

Lifestyle Group managing director George Wong Fuk-wah said he was confident his group's proposal would be able to support itself without a government subsidy.

"We will also welcome couples who want to renew their wedding vows," he said. "I think it's very romantic."

Lui said the Ink Society would also allow commercial photography, including wedding pictures.

The exhibition will end on October 29.