Saturday, 16 June 2012

Why Demolish Our History?

The Hong Kong government has its own West Wing, and it has decided to demolish it.

It's located on Queen's Road Central where it intersects Ice House Street and extends all along Lower Albert Road.

While it may seem like a non-descript low-rise building, it has a lot of historical and architectural significance.

Built in 1959, the West Wing was built with very good materials and is still structurally sound. I watched a TV program a few months ago where an architectural historian praised the building for its design, with clean lines and that it was well built, that it would be a pity to see it knocked down.

After that there was some public momentum protesting that the city needed to retain more of its heritage. They also worry the huge old trees will be cut down during redevelopment.

However, the government has deemed the East and Central wings, which have higher a heritage value will be kept for use by the Department of Justice.

The West Wing will be knocked down to make way for a 26-floor office building and a 7,600 square metre leisure area accessible to the public. The government will retain ownership of the new building while a private developer would build it and then operate it for a certain period of time before returning it.

But protestors feel this is not fair -- as taxpayers, they own these government buildings and believe they have a say in how these buildings should be used -- and leaving them as is or restoring them for other use is what they have in mind.

Why is the government so intent in knocking down our own history?

And how could the Antiquities Advisory Board justify only giving the West Wing a two heritage rating out of a three-grade scale, while the Central and East wings have a one heritage rating each? They were all built around the same time.

It just shows how pathetic the government is when it comes to preserving heritage sites. Retaining the existing building and re-purposing it for the public is the best way to use the space.

But no -- it is only thinking in the short term of trying to put more coffers in its already full treasury.

Just like the issue with air quality in Hong Kong -- the government refuses to acknowledge the right solution and the long-term benefits.

The real issue is -- when will it listen to us?

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