Tai Kwun – Centre for Heritage and Arts

More than 150 guests including senior officials, community leaders and neighbours, former users, arts and culture representatives witnessed a spectacular opening ceremony at Tai Kwun – Centre for Heritage and Arts on 26 May.

Guest of honour, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR the Hon Carrie Lam officiated at the momentous occasion, which was hosted by Dr Simon S O Ip, Chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Comprising 16 historic buildings and outdoor spaces on a 13,600-square-metre site in the heart of Central, Tai Kwun is home to three declared monuments, the former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison, which have borne witness to more than 170 years of Hong Kong history. Led by The Hong Kong Jockey Club in partnership with the Government of the HKSAR, the revitalisation project involved the conservation of the heritage buildings in the compound and the addition of two new buildings to serve the needs of the community. The two new buildings are JC Contemporary, a gallery building with a contemporary art space, and JC Cube, an auditorium building for the performing arts, film screenings, educational events and more.

Retracing the Club’s involvement in the project, Dr Ip said the Club took up the challenge of revitalising the Central Police Station compound because of its vision of a Hong Kong that is not only a great commercial city, but also one that is renowned for its cultural vibrancy, where people enjoy, value and participate in a diverse range of cultural activities.

This vision has inspired the conservation of the compound and its transformation into Tai Kwun – Centre for Heritage and Arts, an accessible place to engage with the lessons of the past and the possibilities for the future. Visitors are able to learn about Tai Kwun’s judicial and law enforcement history and its many connections with the local community. They are also able to develop their appreciation for the arts through exhibitions and performances, education and outreach activities. In addition, Tai Kwun will play a vital role in stimulating the arts, providing a platform for Hong Kong artists to showcase their talent and develop their creativity.

At the heart of this project has been the Club’s determination to set a new standard for heritage conservation in Hong Kong. Drawing on the advice of experts from Hong Kong and overseas, and with input from the community, the Club has pursued a heritage-led plan to conserve the site. Building-by-building, room-by-room, it has been returned to its former glory with the closest attention to detail.

The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR the Hon Carrie Lam said that Tai Kwun will be a shining example of Hong Kong’s heritage conservation work and a landmark of Conserving Central, a major initiative that the government announced in 2009 aiming at taking Central, Hong Kong’s century-old Central Business District, to even grander and newer heights.

“The conservation of the Central Police Station compound was conceived and presented as a gift from the Hong Kong Jockey Club to the people of Hong Kong in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. After more than a decade of dedication, patience and perseverance on the part of the Club and the many experts and workers involved, the people can now rejoice at the grandeur of the gift they have received,” Mrs Lam said.

A project of such scale and duration has involved a considerable commitment of resources by the Club, but this is entirely worthwhile because of the value it brings to society, Dr Ip said. The Club has agreed with Government that it will continue to manage and support Tai Kwun’s operation for the next ten years, with any surplus being invested back into Tai Kwun.

Dr Ip expressed special thanks to Chief Executive Carrie Lam who was a prime mover in promoting the conservation of Tai Kwun as a heritage and cultural asset back in 2006 and in engaging the Club to carry out the task. He also thanked the various regulatory bodies, the Central and Western District Council, the Antiquities Advisory Board, the Club’s own advisory bodies, two of which are chaired by the Hon Mr Bernard Chan, the neighbouring community and the former users for their insight, input and advice.

“Tai Kwun is undoubtedly one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by the Club. Nonetheless it reflects the Club at its very best – committed to the highest standards, undeterred by the complexity of the tasks it undertakes, and above all motivated by the desire to act, as in everything it does, for the betterment of our society,” Dr Ip said.

Ten years in the making, Tai Kwun opens its doors now. Once a closed compound to the public, Hong Kong citizens are able to visit and appreciate what is one of the heritage glories of the city. “The Club is truly proud of what we and our partners have accomplished together. Most of all we are proud of the lasting contribution that it will make to the cultural life of Hong Kong – open to all, to be enjoyed by all,” Dr Ip said.

“Located in the heart of Central, Tai Kwun is a place where the old meets the new and where heritage meets the arts. For over a century and a half, Tai Kwun was closed to most people. Today, it has been transformed into a cultural destination for all to enjoy which will encourage creativity and provide the community and visitors with a vibrant mix of heritage, arts and lifestyle experiences,” the Hon Mr Bernard Chan, JCCPS Advisory Committee Chairman, said.

Tai Kwun spans a construction floor area of 27,900 square meters and features two large outdoor areas – the Parade Ground and the Prison Yard – and a newly created semi-covered area under the auditorium. The revitalised site also provides for multiple pedestrian access points linking various parts of Central and includes the creation of a new footbridge connecting to the Mid-levels Escalator System.

For more information about Tai Kwun, please visit https://taikwun.hk/en