Gharieni GmbH
Gharieni GmbH
Gharieni GmbH

Urban Regeneration

New life

A new approach to heritage conservation has led to some exciting projects across Asia. Christopher DeWolf takes a look at some innovative examples


It wasn’t long ago that Hong Kong lacked a heritage conservation policy. Historic structures were regularly demolished and there was no strategy to deal with the few that had been preserved. Then everything changed. “I’m amazed at how quickly it happened,” says Lee Ho-yin, director of the University of Hong Kong’s architectural conservation programme. In 2009, the city’s government launched a new initiative that encourages the adaptive reuse of historic buildings by NGOs. The city suddenly witnessed a spate of innovative examples of adaptive reuse, including an old police dormitory turned into a design hub, a row of shophouses converted into a cultural centre for comic books and a former military compound turned art complex.

A similar story is playing out in cities across Asia, where the days of blind progress have given way to a more measured approach to development.

“What’s interesting now is you see old buildings being integrated into part of a larger development,” says Chan Ee Mun, an architect with Singapore firm WOHA, which has undertaken a number of heritage conservation projects. Instead of treating old buildings like artefacts, these projects infuse them with new life through contemporary design. “Innovation is the key,” says Lee. “It is the only way we can produce heritage for the future.”

Space Asia Hub

Location: Singapore
Date: 2010
Architects: WOHA (Singapore)

Singapore was one of the first cities in Asia to adopt a conservation strategy, and its early historic conservation projects, such as the revitalisation of Clarke Quay, won international recognition. But innovation wasn’t always encouraged, which was the case in Bencoolen Street, where an old villa and shophouse were joined by a new infill structure whose architecture was required to mimic its historic neighbours. “It recreated the shell of a shophouse and packed in as many floors as it could,” says WOHA’s Chan Ee Mun.

In 2010, architectural practice WOHA was tasked with transforming the block of buildings into a furniture showroom. It began by clearing out the decades of subdivisions that had turned the shophouses and villa into dingy warrens, restoring them to their original, airy splendour. Next came the infill building, which was transformed into a modern glass structure.

With more open spaces, sightlines have been improved. “Within the series of three buildings you have greater appreciation of the building next to you,” says Chan. “It’s a chance to generate a dialogue between old and new. The result is the old buildings regain their prominence on the site.”

WOHA’s Space Asia Hub consists of two conserved historic buildings joined by a contemporary glass infill structure
WOHA’s Space Asia Hub consists of two conserved historic buildings joined by a contemporary glass infill structure
Space Asia Hub was a finalist in the ‘new and old’ category of the 2012 World Architecture Festival. 
The redevelopment project created a contemporary showroom while retaining many heritage elements of the building.
Space Asia Hub was a finalist in the ‘new and old’ category of the 2012 World Architecture Festival. The redevelopment project created a contemporary showroom while retaining many heritage elements of the building.
Space Asia Hub was a finalist in the ‘new and old’ category of the 2012 World Architecture Festival. 
The redevelopment project created a contemporary showroom while retaining many heritage elements of the building.
Space Asia Hub was a finalist in the ‘new and old’ category of the 2012 World Architecture Festival. The redevelopment project created a contemporary showroom while retaining many heritage elements of the building.
Space Asia Hub was a finalist in the ‘new and old’ category of the 2012 World Architecture Festival. 
The redevelopment project created a contemporary showroom while retaining many heritage elements of the building.
Space Asia Hub was a finalist in the ‘new and old’ category of the 2012 World Architecture Festival. The redevelopment project created a contemporary showroom while retaining many heritage elements of the building.

PMQ

Location: Hong Kong
Date: 2014
Architects: Architectural Services Department (Hong Kong)

Saved from redevelopment by neighbourhood activists, Hong Kong’s former Central Police Married Quarters posed a challenge for the government. Built in 1951 as a dormitory for police officers and their families, it was an imposing modernist structure typical of Hong Kong’s postwar living conditions, with two parallel blocks of small living units that opened onto wide communal balconies with shared kitchens. It wasn’t the most easily adaptable structure, but then came a solution: convert the former flats into shops and studios for local designers.

The rebranded PMQ is now a lively design hub with a mix of retail, workspaces, bars and restaurants. “The key word is community,” says architect Billy Tam, who consulted the NGO that runs the complex, which opened in mid 2014. Tenants are free to make use of the balconies that connect each unit, while a new multi-functional space was created by bridging the two blocks with a glass-walled cube that has a roof garden on top. A number of historic elements were preserved, including Victorian-era stone walls and the foundations of a 19th century school that occupied the site until it was destroyed by bombing in World War II.

The former Police Married Quarters in Hong Kong have been reborn as a design hub featuring studios, shops, restaurants, a library, a rooftop garden and exhibition space
The former Police Married Quarters in Hong Kong have been reborn as a design hub featuring studios, shops, restaurants, a library, a rooftop garden and exhibition space
The former Police Married Quarters in Hong Kong have been reborn as a design hub featuring studios, shops, restaurants, a library, a rooftop garden and exhibition space
The former Police Married Quarters in Hong Kong have been reborn as a design hub featuring studios, shops, restaurants, a library, a rooftop garden and exhibition space

Urban Regeneration Stations, Taipei

Location: Taipei
Date: 2010–ongoing
Architects: Various

The decline of Taipei’s industrial economy, along with the eastward push of development, left the Taiwanese capital with an aging stock of shophouses and factories on the historic western side of town. To protect them from redevelopment, the city launched an Urban Regeneration Office in 2010 that sought to revitalise neglected structures in creative ways. There are now seven Urban Regeneration Stations scattered across the city, including shophouses converted into workshops for artists and filmmakers and a former liquor warehouse that now houses studios for creative enterprises.

Former URO coordinator Lin Yu-Hsiu describes the stations as provoking “a renewal of thought” that allows Taipei residents to see old buildings in a new light. While other historic preservation projects in Taipei have taken a more commercial approach, the Urban Regeneration Stations are more community-orientated, with programmes that are meant to draw in people from the surrounding neighbourhood. Buildings are donated by their owners, who are then compensated with a site of equivalent size in another part of Taipei.

The URSs can be used as “an area for workshops, neighbourhood activities, information gathering, social interaction, exhibitions, experimental actions and a resting area for tourists,” according to the Taipei City Urban Regeneration Office
The URSs can be used as “an area for workshops, neighbourhood activities, information gathering, social interaction, exhibitions, experimental actions and a resting area for tourists,” according to the Taipei City Urban Regeneration Office
The URSs can be used as “an area for workshops, neighbourhood activities, information gathering, social interaction, exhibitions, experimental actions and a resting area for tourists,” according to the Taipei City Urban Regeneration Office
The URSs can be used as “an area for workshops, neighbourhood activities, information gathering, social interaction, exhibitions, experimental actions and a resting area for tourists,” according to the Taipei City Urban Regeneration Office
The URSs can be used as “an area for workshops, neighbourhood activities, information gathering, social interaction, exhibitions, experimental actions and a resting area for tourists,” according to the Taipei City Urban Regeneration Office
The URSs can be used as “an area for workshops, neighbourhood activities, information gathering, social interaction, exhibitions, experimental actions and a resting area for tourists,” according to the Taipei City Urban Regeneration Office
The URSs can be used as “an area for workshops, neighbourhood activities, information gathering, social interaction, exhibitions, experimental actions and a resting area for tourists,” according to the Taipei City Urban Regeneration Office
The URSs can be used as “an area for workshops, neighbourhood activities, information gathering, social interaction, exhibitions, experimental actions and a resting area for tourists,” according to the Taipei City Urban Regeneration Office

Comix Homebase, Hong Kong

Location: Hong Kong
Date: 2013
Architects: Aedas (Hong Kong)

To say that Hong Kong is intensively built would be an understatement. Over the past century, most sites in central neighbourhoods like Wan Chai have been redeveloped four or even five times. Barely 1,000 structures remain from before World War II. In 2009, the city’s Urban Renewal Authority was tasked with renovating a cluster of 10 shophouses built in 1910 and converting them into the Comix Homebase, a cultural hub for Hong Kong’s venerable comics industry that opened in 2013.

The shophouses were in a rough condition — the timber structure had begun to rot — and Hong Kong’s strict building codes required the provision of new lifts and fire escapes. Architects from the Hong Kong office of Aedas responded by demolishing half of the most dilapidated structures to create a public plaza sheltered by the shophouse façades, while retaining the more intact structures.

Existing timber purlins were reused and incorporated into modern structural frames, which gives the shophouses the appearance of retaining their original timber-framed tiled roofs. Original timber staircases were also conserved, with hidden structural support and fire protection to bring them up to present-day building standards. In the new plaza, a green wall made up of interchangeable planter boxes recall the potted plants that commonly filled the balconies of shophouses, while also creating space to hang art installations and display screens.

The Comix Homebase project saw 10 pre-war tenement houses in Wan Chai converted into an arts and cultural centre dedicated to the promotion of Hong Kong’s comics and animation culture
The Comix Homebase project saw 10 pre-war tenement houses in Wan Chai converted into an arts and cultural centre dedicated to the promotion of Hong Kong’s comics and animation culture
The Comix Homebase project saw 10 pre-war tenement houses in Wan Chai converted into an arts and cultural centre dedicated to the promotion of Hong Kong’s comics and animation culture
The Comix Homebase project saw 10 pre-war tenement houses in Wan Chai converted into an arts and cultural centre dedicated to the promotion of Hong Kong’s comics and animation culture

The Waterhouse, Shanghai

Location: Shanghai
Date: 2010
Architects: Neri & Hu (Shanghai)

When Shanghai-based architects Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu completed this 19-room boutique hotel project in 2010, they actually lost some major hotel clients who felt the work was too avant-garde. No matter: the project has since won international acclaim, including the 2011 World Interior of the Year Award. Its success comes from an imaginative relationship between a 1930s-era warehouse and a new structure designed by Neri and Hu. The architects stripped the old interiors to reveal stained, weathered concrete, which they paired with rusted Corten steel doors and support beams.

A similar industrial palette was employed in the new structure, but with sleeker, more polished materials. Intriguingly, the building’s layout was structured in a way that allows for the hotel’s private areas to be glimpsed from public areas; a blurring of lines that Neri says was inspired by the “voyeuristic” experience of walking among Shanghai’s fast-disappearing laneway houses. “To me, it’s not a stylistic concept,” said Neri. “It’s a statement that historically sensitive buildings like this can be done and be successful.”

The hotel clearly contrasts the old and new
The hotel clearly contrasts the old and new
The original three-storey 1930s Japanese Army headquarters building has been restored. Neri&Hu architects were also responsible for the hotel’s interiors
The original three-storey 1930s Japanese Army headquarters building has been restored. Neri&Hu architects were also responsible for the hotel’s interiors
The original three-storey 1930s Japanese Army headquarters building has been restored. Neri&Hu architects were also responsible for the hotel’s interiors
The original three-storey 1930s Japanese Army headquarters building has been restored. Neri&Hu architects were also responsible for the hotel’s interiors
The original three-storey 1930s Japanese Army headquarters building has been restored. Neri&Hu architects were also responsible for the hotel’s interiors
The original three-storey 1930s Japanese Army headquarters building has been restored. Neri&Hu architects were also responsible for the hotel’s interiors

Asia Society Hong Kong Center, Hong Kong

Location: Hong Kong
Date: 2012
Architects: Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (New York)

When architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien first encountered the site chosen for the new Asia Society cultural centre in Hong Kong, they were astounded. “We’d never been given a site like this,” says Williams. “It was astonishing – like something out of a film.” Perched on a steep hillside, the land was first developed as an explosives compound by the British military. Now it was overgrown with thick vegetation cut through by a waterfall.

Tsien and Williams restored the historic military structures and converted them into exhibition and performance spaces. They also designed a new pavilion with an exhibition space, a restaurant and a gift shop. Completed in 2012, the building is low-slung, in defiance of the skyscrapers that surround it, and its use of locally-quarried black, grey and green stone, along with matte metal, gives it a sedate quality that blends in with the surrounding greenery. Most remarkable is the zig-zagging, double-decker bridge that traverses the waterfall, connecting the historic and contemporary portions of the site.

A walkway inspired by those seen in traditional Chinese courtyards links the buildings
A walkway inspired by those seen in traditional Chinese courtyards links the buildings
Sitting in a rainforest surrounded by skyscrapers, the Asia Society Hong Kong Center has been described by Williams and Tsien as a “horizontal building in a vertical city” / ASIA SOCIETY/HK/CENTER:MICHAEL MORAN/OTTO
Sitting in a rainforest surrounded by skyscrapers, the Asia Society Hong Kong Center has been described by Williams and Tsien as a “horizontal building in a vertical city” ASIA SOCIETY/HK/CENTER:MICHAEL MORAN/OTTO
Sitting in a rainforest surrounded by skyscrapers, the Asia Society Hong Kong Center has been described by Williams and Tsien as a “horizontal building in a vertical city”
Sitting in a rainforest surrounded by skyscrapers, the Asia Society Hong Kong Center has been described by Williams and Tsien as a “horizontal building in a vertical city”

Dashilar, Beijing

Location: Beijing
Date: 2013-ongoing
Architects: Various

Beijing has a shaky record when it comes to historic conservation. While monuments like the Forbidden City and the Drum and Bell Towers have been preserved, the everyday fabric of this ancient city was subject to wanton demolition after China liberalised its economy in the 1980s. Things came to a head around the 2008 Olympics, when the Qianmen commercial district was razed and rebuilt with pseudo-historical architecture, a project that was roundly criticised by conservationists and ordinary Beijingers alike.

Not far away, a new model is taking shape in the 700-year-old hutong alleyways of Dashilar. “The policy has changed from demolish and rebuild to this more organic, bottom-up renewal,” says Neill Mclean Gaddes, an architect who worked with Beijing Design Week on a masterplan for the area. Since 2013, the government-funded organisation has worked on revitalising Dashilar through small-scale interventions. So far, a number of historic structures have been restored by private businesses, including a greystone Art Deco building that is now a shop and restaurant, and an early 20th century structure that was at various time a printing press and a public bath, and is now a popular café.

Dashilar’s changing attitude to conservation is seeing a number of historic buildings restored to house a range of design-led businesses
Dashilar’s changing attitude to conservation is seeing a number of historic buildings restored to house a range of design-led businesses
Dashilar’s changing attitude to conservation is seeing a number of historic buildings restored to house a range of design-led businesses
Dashilar’s changing attitude to conservation is seeing a number of historic buildings restored to house a range of design-led businesses

Shijia Hutong Museum, Beijing

Location: Beijing
Date: 2013
Architects: Prince’s Charities Foundation, Chaoyangmen Sub-District (Beijing)

In 1990, when British-Chinese artist Colin Chinnery brought his grandmother back to the house she owned in Beijing before fleeing China’s Communist Revolution, they discovered it had been turned into a nursery school. More than two decades later, thanks to investment from the Prince of Wales’ Charitable Foundation, the traditional courtyard home has been turned into a free public museum about life in Beijing’s historic hutong alleyway neighbourhoods.

This was no simple restoration. “They basically rebuilt it from scratch,” says Chinnery. Modern amenities like indoor plumbing and geothermal heating were installed, but much of the project was led by master craftsmen who used materials reclaimed from other demolished hutongs to create traditional features like hand-carved window grills. Among the exhibits is a room of traditional hutong sounds collected by Chinnery, including hawkers’ cries. “Hutongs have a very specific sonic property – if you’re in a courtyard and you hear a bicycle ride past, you hear it in a way you haven’t before because of the way it bounces off the hutong walls,” he says.

The museum aims to preserve hutong history
The museum aims to preserve hutong history
company profile
Company profile: Matrix Fitness
Unrelenting drive to be the best at what we do underpins activity throughout our vertically integrated business life cycle.
videos
BluGalaxy a Division of Blu Spas
Blu Spas
This animation showcases the beautiful concept design of BluGalaxy Spa.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
features
Houston’s Memorial Park is being restored following hurricane damage
Thomas Woltz
"I am very proud of stewarding the largest public space to be built in Manhattan in a century"

The Wall Street Journal’s Design Innovator of the Year on designing the gardens at Hudson Yards and looking to the Native Americans for ideas on how to create a resilient future

Architects Monk Mackenzie created an interior box to house the new studios
"We’ve designed the space so that the atmosphere is intimate"

Les Mills’ new studio spaces at its iconic Auckland City Gym showcase a trend away from masculine ‘grunty’ gyms to something altogether different

Roosegaarde has a masters in architecture from the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam
"I want to demonstrate that creativity is our true capital as humans "

Rather than feeling fearful and helpless about the future, we must design a way out of the environmental problems we have created, argues the innovative Dutch designer, artist and inventor Daan Roosegaarde

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
Renewable energy sources include a biomass furnace and co-generation plant
"Wellness embraces the entire holiday experience"

The design of the newly-opened Lefay Resort and Spa Dolomitti in Italy aims to celebrate and protect its spectacular surroundings

Three flights of wide steps invite the visitor into the building.
Alexander Schwarz
"Our aim was to create a place celebrating public space and accessibility"

The opening of the James-Simon- Galerie on Berlin’s Museum Island completes two decades of work for David Chipperfield Architects. The lead designer talks us through the building

The guestroom interiors are by Foster + Partners
Dana Kalczak
"If we had focused entirely on high tech in the hotel, the artistry we normally strive for would have been compromised"

Four Seasons’ vice president of design speaks to CLAD about working with Norman Foster and creating magical moments

features
"Further hotels have been confirmed for Los Angeles, Santa Clara, CA, Seattle, Chicago and Houston"

Rockwell Group and Joyce Wang on the inspirations behind the guest rooms, public spaces, spa and gym at Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards

Interview: Elizabeth de Portzamparc
Elizabeth de Portzamparc
"We need to stop the destruction of our world through predatory practices. We need to think of the future"

The architect behind Nimes’ Musée de la Romanité on designing to counter loneliness and the need for more cultural buildings

cladkit product news
Atelier Alain Ellouz launches handcrafted precious stone lighting collection
LYRA has a sleek, cylindrical design complete with an elegant brass dimming switch
Megan Whitby
LYRA, GAMA, MONA and ATHENA are the first pieces from designer Atelier Alain Ellouz’s new.édition collection of handcrafted stone lighting ...
Siminetti unveils first glimpses of Mother of Pearl decorative surfaces inspired by the four seasons
The new winter design is finished with naturally occurring hexagonal patterns found in snowflakes
Megan Whitby
Siminetti has collaborated with British designer Chrisanna London to create a luxury Mother of Pearl decorative surface range inspired by ...
Christie laser projectors power new Five Senses Bubble dome theatre
The dome aims to integrate technology with arts and culture
Magali Robathan
Christie® GS Series 1DLP® laser projectors are delivering vivid and lifelike visuals in a new dome theatre located in Xiong’an ...
cladkit product news
ASPA International launches handheld UV-C light disinfection lamp
The compact plug-in product can be used easily in a commercial spa or domestic setting to disinfect surfaces with UV-C light
Megan Whitby
For over 30 years, ASPA International has designed and built high-quality spas for the hotel, health and wellness sectors. During ...
LianTronics’ glasses-free 3D Star Trek LED screen attracts attention
Magali Robathan
LianTronics’ giant curved LED wall with stunning glasses-less 3D spaceship display effect has attracted many on the street of Chengdu, ...
Diamond balloon concept merges tourist attraction with advertising billboard
Magali Robathan
A group of Dutch engineers have presented a new attractions concept that combines a flying observation cabin with LED digital ...
cladkit product news
Fabio Alemanno Design uses elegant semi-precious stones to create memorable spa experiences
Alemanno believes the stones are well-placed in the spa environment thanks to their capacity to positively support physical and mental health
Megan Whitby
Fabio Alemanno Design has expanded its collection with semi-precious stones to enhance spas, wellness facilities, hotels and private residences. The ...
Cosm unveils Experience Centre with ‘one of a kind’ LED dome
The new Experience Centre houses a 20m LED dome
Magali Robathan
Cosm, a global technology company that builds end-to-end solutions for immersive experiences, has unveiled its Experience Centre which houses a ...
Móz Designs columns anchor the world’s largest indoor aquarium
The design of the columns was inspired by the sea
Magali Robathan
After a two-year renovation, Oakland-based metal experts Móz Designs have unveiled their inclusion in Georgia Aquarium’s new shark gallery. Located ...
Gharieni GmbH
Gharieni GmbH