Commercialisation vs Conservation : Architectural Heritage Preservation in Hong Kong

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 22 - Publication in policy or professional journal

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-41
Journal / PublicationInflection
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


Economic development and heritage conservation is a common dilemma in world cities, which is even more pronounced for a dense metropolis like Hong Kong. As an intersection of Chinese and Western cultures, Hong Kong has left more than 1,000 historic buildings since its opening as a commercial port in 1840. In terms of artistic level, they may not be so valuable compared to those in European countries or even in other Chinese cities. However, they have witnessed the lifestyles and living conditions in different periods, which are the most tangible and vivid evidence of the Territories' social evolution. Unfortunately, in the incentive of privatization, marketization, and financialization, heritage conservation and development needs are constantly challenged.
While emphasizing historical and cultural values, we cannot avoid talking about the need for development and the associated costs. What buildings deserve conservation? How to conserve? How can modern values be brought into play without concealing history in order to achieve sustainability? Hong Kong has been struggling with these issues for the past 50 years. This process has yielded positive and negative lessons which are certainly worth discussing.
This paper reviews how the quest of preserving historic buildings as carriers of collective memory has developed under the dominant influence of commercialization in Hong Kong. To delve deeper, three conserved buildings - the Comix Home Base, the Central Market, and the State Theater - are selected as typical cases to demonstrate and compare the effects of conservation. Hong Kong is featured by its extremely high land price and the contest between profit-making and cultural conservation. The authors highlight the conservation method of integrating the collective memory of heritage into current community life. This paper sheds light on these conflicts and attempts to suggest a possible direction to help achieve balanced development.

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