A city that grows as fast as Hong Kong is easily at risk of forgetting certain things. Here – or in any of the four Asian tiger cities, for that matter – you may marvel at the then-and-now contrasts of rapid economic development. But on the ground, you realise that when a place grows that fast, it tends to gloss over the more human side of its identity very quickly.
The result tends to be that many of the places and their associated infrastructure are built hastily to cater for the surging demand, and little time is taken to consider building a culture of place among them. The architecture looks the same – mostly utilitarian.
And it’s unfair to single out the rising Asian metropolises for this – you could argue that American suburbia has suffered the same fate of a cold, faceless identity. Except that when you add the population density of a place like Hong Kong, a story tends to be more diluted. Or, on the flipside, from a perspective of chasing the money, a story gets exposed to far more people.
So come the time that a city matures and seeks to reclaim its affection and identity from the lost years of chasing more money, the faces of its growing pains come out of the woodwork. An appreciation for the arts, history and culture flourishes. And the kaleidoscope of expression brings a culture of place back.
Such is the case with this old police station building. It’s several blocks up a hill from Hong Kong’s Central Station. The names of the district and surrounding streets – ‘SoHo’ and ‘Hollywood Road’ – are almost a nod to the consumerism and the colonial mentality at the time of Hong Kong’s rapid growth. But their contents are far more artsy: exhibits. Boutiques. Shops showcasing wax sculptures, paintings, photography, clothing and the like. And the space at the bottom is undoubtedly a celebration – and has been refurbished to look far more inviting to all who visit. This time, it’s theme was ‘Play Me, I’m Yours.’ And sure enough, this revival of humanity gives people the sense that the city belongs to them indeed.