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Architects transform iconic police station

Jez Abbott
25 Jan 2019

Purcell has helped design Hong Kong’s largest revitalisation project to date.

The grandiose former Central Police Station has been transformed into new centre for heritage and art, marking a major milestone in building conservation and adaptive reuse.

The police station was declared redundant in 2006 but has now been transformed by the delivered by architects Purcell into the Tai Kwun (the colloquial Chinese name, meaning “Big Station”) Centre for Heritage and Art.

Refurbishment opened a previously-impenetrable six-acre complex to the public while retaining its distinctive character and remaining embedded at the heart of the ex-colonial city of Victoria.

Tai Kwun is a joint venture between the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which funded capital costs of $3.8bn (£360m) and has committed to run the site on a not-for-profit basis for up to 10 years.

The scale and complexity of the project demanded a range of skills that would have been hard to find in a single provider. Therefore, three architectural companies were employed.

Purcell was responsible for providing full architectural services for the historical buildings; Herzog & de Meuron designed two new buildings and made other site-wide interventions; and Rocco Design Architects managed the on-site executive role.

The former Central Police Station Compound and Victoria Prison site is the largest collection of historic buildings and monuments on a single site in Hong Kong and is the result of over 170 years of change and development.

As successive generations placed new demands on the law and order system, a range of additions of different character were built, in some cases replacing earlier buildings, until the site became a sprawling collection of mis-matched structures. These included offices and living accommodation for the police force, courts for criminal trials, and cell blocks for convicted felons.

Purcell’s work began in early 2008. In total, 16 historical buildings were retained and adapted for new use, including micro-studio units for artists-in-residence, a modern art gallery – alongside a new gallery, designed by Herzog & de Meuron – an art archive, and a range of supporting retail, food and beverage components.

Tai Kwun has proven extremely popular in the six weeks since its opening, having welcomed more than 70,000 visitors. A programme of events in the multi-purpose auditorium (formerly the Parade Ground and Prison Yard) is expected to establish this fascinating place as a must-see destination for both local residents and tourists.

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