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Renovation transforms derelict Kennedy Town ‘tong lau’

A derelict low-rise block in Kennedy Town built during the 1960s has undergone a dramatic makeover.

The Tung Fat building, a tong lau – a Cantonese expression for walkup tenements – once upon a time housed both apartments and businesses. It is now home to eight luxury apartments.

tung fat building

Before and after the renovation. Photo: Kerry Phelan Design Office.

The Tung Fat Building literally translates to “get rich together”. Rather than tearing up the tong lau and substituting it with yet another skyscraper, developers decided to preserve the original building and carry out an atypical refurbishment.

tung fat building

The building’s entrance before and after refurbishment. Photo: Kerry Phelan Design Office.

Stephen Javens, the building’s architect, spoke to the New York Times on his aspiration to preserve the buildings: “Once these buildings are gone, they are gone forever. I hope this building encourages people to preserve other parts of Hong Kong’s built heritage.”

tung fat building

Tung Fat Building. Photo: Kerry Phelan Design Office.

Speaking about their adventurous venture, the Melbourne-based design firm said that they “remained as true as possible to the original aesthetics of the building, working to preserve such elements as the cast terrazzo handrail and the mouldings.”

tung fat building

Original characteristics of the tong lau have been retained. Photo: Kerry Phelan Design Office.

While the building was refurbished, the architects cautiously retained the modernistic elements of the original tong lau. 

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The building’s spacious rooms and wide windows. Photo: Kerry Phelan Design Office.

The six-foot windows in the renovated building offer a spectacular view of the Stonecutters Bridge in Tsing Yi.

Kerry Phelan, another architect working on the Tung Fat Building, kept in mind the importance of ample room while designing the building’s refurbishment. “Hong Kong is a vibrant and exhausting city, where spaciousness is essential – especially when working in such confined spaces,” she said.

Tung Fat Building

Balcony within the refurbished Tung Fat Building. Photo: Kerry Phelan Design Office.

The renovation costs amounted to HK$30 million in total, and monthly rents start at HK$78,000.

Renovation transforms derelict Kennedy Town 'tong lau'