Secretary for Development, Antiquities Advisory Board,
I am writing in response to the Proposed Grading of the N331.
On 22nd March, the Antiquities Advisory Board has graded the Garden Centre in Shum Shui Po as a Grade 2 historic building. This 80-year old representative of Hong Kong modern architecture is now bound to be demolished and rebuilt into a commercial building. Based on the architectural and historical value of the Centre, we petition for the Garden Centre to be accorded as a Grade 1 historical building. We request the Development Bureau and the Antiquities Advisory Board to step in and discuss with the proprietor on conservation and revitalisation, so as to avoid retracing the tragic demolish of the Tung Tak Pawn and the Union Church Hong Kong.
Not only does the assessment of the Antiquities Advisory Board neglects the historic importance of the Garden Centre in Hong Kong, it also bends to developers and gives them the green signal to demolish and rebuild. Chairmen of the Board Mr Andrew Lam Siu-lo declares after meeting that the Centre holds low architectural and historical value, and the only consideration was the “collective memory”. He even claimed that “there is no guarantee on conservation even to a Grade 1 building, the owner is definitely going to rebuild it”.
The Centre’s unique architectural features are barely brought up in the Antiquities Advisory Board meeting.
The Centre is a masterpiece of post-war architecture designed by the famous architect Zhu Bin, built in the 50‘s. Zhu Bin was one of the first Chinese architects who studied abroad. He founded the “Kwan, Chu and Yang Architects”, the largest architects in modern China, and designed many classic buildings in China during the Republic Era. The Mainland Bank brand office in Beijing was one of his creations, which is now a major historical and cultural site protected at the national level. Garden Centre is a rare monument created by Zhu Bin that still stands in Hong Kong. It is a milestone that has witnessed Hong Kong’s integration into western architectural style, and the transition from Streamline Moderne to the Modernism.
The Garden Centre is also epoch-making and unique. The architect divided the building into three volumes of different sizes and heights, so that the huge building becomes light and exquisite, allowing it to become a model for far east architecture.
Designed based on modernism, the Garden Centre has its distinct red logo on the roof, equipped with sun visors set according to different directions, and a clock tower that benefits the public. It displays the post-war Utopian concept which puts emphasis on practical function and efficiency. This building reflects Garden’s important role in providing food with modernized production for Hong Kong when she was experiencing the rise of industrial development and the influx of refugees.
Garden is one of the most successful local food producers which has witnessed the modernization of Hong Kong food production. A vast amount of hardtack was produced in this factory building for the British military during the Second World War, then bread and biscuit for the Marine, Air and Ground Force from post-war till the 50’s. It went on to produce “Life Bread” in the 60’s, adding in vitamins, calcium, and iron in order to provide nutrients to the public, which has become one of the collective memories of the Hong Kong people.