Creative Spaces: Old HK police, factory, and apartment buildings renewed as arts centers

You can call it sustainable, repurposed, or just cool, but Hong Kong is seeing a movement toward vintage city structures put to new, creative uses.

The latest was the re-opening of the old police station in Central last week as the Tai Kwun Centre For Heritage And Arts, from where they plan to host art shows, storytelling events, and gather for guided tours of the city.

Photo: Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts

Longtime islanders will know the building well as the historic Central Police Station compound that’s been standing for over 170 years. The center aims to inform and inspire visitors about the Hong Kong of the past, present, and future.

If you’re like us and love a vintage building made to feel new again, here are several more around Hong Kong that strike just the right balance between old and new.

PMQ

Photo: PMQ/Facebook

The center in Central calls itself “home to over 100 create-preneurs,” or people that the rest of us may simply refer to as “makers making money.” Featuring a co-working space, fashion events, indoor and outdoor pop-up markets and more, this place has become something of a gathering place for the city’s fashion-forward and a place to see musicians and artists doing what they do best. 

Though PMQ, a not-for-profit social enterprise, looks crazy modern from the outside, it’s actually been standing for over 60 years and was originally the Hong Kong Police’s married housing quarters, which the government decided to preserve and begin using for creative purposes in 2010.

35 Aberdeen Street
Central

The Blue House

Photo: Discover Hong Kong

Though it may come as a surprise, The Blue House is housed in… a big blue house in Wan Chai. Sitting between The Orange House and The Yellow House, the building was a tenement in the 1920s and skillfully mixes Chinese and Western design.

It’s been graced by UNESCO Asia-Pacific for Cultural Heritage Conservation. The Blue and Yellow houses are considered museums featuring Hong Kong stories about the history of the island told in accessible ways. The Orange House is mainly residences.

72 Stone Nullah Lane
Wan Chai

Green Hub

Photo: Green Hub website

Though this building used to house the boys in blue, it’s now a “Green Hub” housing projects related to low-carbon living. Workshops on living a green lifestyle aimed at both citizens and businesses are now provided, too.

The site was the New Territories’ Police Headquarters until 1949 but today helps locals understand low-carbon concepts, unsustainable consumption patterns, climate change, and resource loss. Other initiatives include organizing fun events like herb growing workshops, nighttime walks, woodworking, and tea appreciation.

11 Wan Tau Kok Lane
Tai Po

Western Market

Photo: Discover Hong Kong

Sheung Wan’s Western Market is the oldest market building in Hong Kong, opening its doors in 1844 and covering an entire city block and built in Queen Anne revival style. Home to endless specialty food shops as well as antiques and fabric dealers, this place is a wonder to locals and tourists alike.

As it has become more modern, several cafes and coffee shops also dot the landscape. On the upper level, there is even a banquet hall that is sometimes open for public dance events but can also be rented for weddings and other special functions.

323 Des Voeux Road
Central

Fringe Club

Photo: Fringe Club website

This building might be most notable for its architecture — a short, stout, round, and striped affair in Central. Many may not even know what goes on inside this highly recognizable landmark. The building houses an NGO dedicated to helping emerging artists find their footing and providing valuable resources like gallery space, theaters, rehearsal rooms, publicity, and the odd chance to go overseas on residencies.

The unlikely structure used to be a dairy cold storage facility that opened in 1892 and is a preserved heritage building. The “striped” appearance of the building is a technique referred to as “blood and bandages” brickwork by design aficionados.

2 Lower Albert Road
Central

Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre

Photo: JCCAC website

This creative hub sits in the former Shek Kip Mei Flatted Factory Building, part of a large factory block dating back to the 1950s and now owned by the government. This particular block housed several small cottage industry factories, most of them related to the garment industry. Today, it’s a nine-story artists’ colony.

A registered charity, the colony offers 124 artist studios with partially subsidized rent and open to painters, sculptors, dancers, photographers, and other creative types.  The center also has a theater, two galleries and a garden used to organize interesting events like The Hong Kong Really Really Free Market.

30 Pak Tin Street
Shek Kip Mei

Savannah College of Art and Design

Photo: Discover Hong Kong

This Sham Shui Po campus of the Savannah, Georgia design university is housed in the former North Kowloon Magistrate Building, and the university continues to re-use the governmental meeting rooms as classrooms.

A seven-story structure erected by Palmer and Turner Architects in 1960, the building features many design flourishes of the time, such as dark panelling and midcentury details.

292 Tai Po Road
Sham Shui Po

Stop by these Hong Kong landmarks to support the creative arts and check out fascinating design details from decades past, let them inspire you like they inspire the artists using them today.

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