Friday, December 15, 2006

Out with the old

Someone was visiting Hong Kong from Germany recently, and asked me about where to find old buildings.

There basically aren't any, really. Certainly not for European standards.

For that, go to Xi'an in the middle of mainland China. That was the capital of China for centuries, and by those standards, Beijing is a newcomer, being the capital of China for only 700 years.

Hong Kong was a backwater town with nothing of note when the British took over after the first Opium War in the 1840s, and only grew when persecution in China caused many Chinese to flee here. You'd be hard pressed to find any building that even dates from the 19th century, because Hong Kong has never been a fan of preserving their history.

Go to Macau, a Portuguese colony a short boatride away, and there's colonial architecture going back 400 years. But in Hong Kong, the colonial architecture was taken down to make room for skyscrapers.

In fact, when the Bank of China decided to build its landmark skyscraper, they decided to tear down the earliest colonial building in Hong Kong, Murray House, to do it. Some people protested, and the government ordered that Murray House be dismantled and built somewhere else. They dismantled it, quickly built the Bank of China building, then decades later finally got aroudn to rebuilding Murray House in Stanley, where the British live. There are still six columns that are left over that they don't know what to do with.

Well, this year, the big news is they are tearing down the Star Ferry pier. The Star Ferry is a common way to get from Kowloon to Hong Kong island, and has two piers on the Kowloon side, and two piers on the Hong Kong side. The best-known one is Edinburgh Place on the Hong Kong side. It has a clock tower and is a Hong Kong landmark.

Well, they're tearing it down to build a shopping mall. The Star Ferry now docks at Central Pier, which is about a block away.

Welcome to Hong Kong, where your Lonely Planet guide is obsolete by the time it makes it off the printing press.

Here's Edinburgh Place, with scaffolding as they prepare to demolish it:

This is the side that faces inland. The tower in the middle has a clockface that they're removing.

The Star Ferry now docks at Central Pier:

And now locals, upon arriving at the pier by the Star Ferry, are a bit confused as to how to get to where they need to go:

Well, not all of Hong Kong is happy about the demolition. There have been protests. A couple dozen people are trying to stop the bulldozing, and a few people have been arrested. Still, the Chief Executive Donald Tsang says the demolition will continue. Maybe the clockface will be incorporated into the design of the shopping mall, he says.


Post a Comment

<< Home