After 12 years of heritage conservation and revitalization, Tai Kwun opens to the public.
HONG KONG, CHINA, 25 May 2018 – Today marks the inauguration of Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts by Herzog & de Meuron. The centre includes two new buildings dedicated to contemporary art (JC Contemporary, Old Bailey Street) and performing arts (JC Cube, Arbuthnot Road) that are conceived as distinctive but carefully inserted elements within the fabric of the 16 existing historic buildings, 11 of which are now open. The former Central Police Station, together with the Central Magistracy and the Victoria Prison, is a walled compound of heritage buildings amidst the commercial centre of Hong Kong Island.
From an urban perspective, the compound is a rare “courtyard” in the middle of one of the densest cities in the world. Our goal was to preserve its openness and distinct character, and to reactivate it for public use as a new type of urban “found space”. For this purpose, we implemented measures in order to allow access to the site from various new places by means of specifically designed staircases, bridges or breakthroughs.
Adding a new arts and cultural program is one of the key strategies to opening up and activating the former Prison Yard. The two new volumes float tightly above the surrounding granite walls. New connections have been created between the two buildings such as a spacious and covered outdoor stair (Laundry steps) below JC Cube, a space that can be used for events and screenings that attract a large audience. Much of the original architecture, with its traces from the buildings’ past use, has been preserved.
Both new buildings are clad with a façade unit system of 100% recycled cast aluminum. In terms of scale and proportion, the system makes reference to the existing granite block elements of the characteristic bordering revetment wall surrounding the entire site, thus establishing a contextual relationship. The aluminum sets the new buildings apart as new insertions amongst the collection of historical masonry blocks, and at the same time addresses issues such as structural support, sun shading, and rain protection in Hong Kong’s subtropical climate.