Cultural group Walk in Hong Kong has presented a series of proposals for the preservation of North Point’s State Theatre, which turned 65-years-old on Monday.
The theatre was originally named Empire Theatre and opened on December 11, 1952. It is the only mid-20th century theatre remaining in Hong Kong. The group said it hoped the suggestions could help “preserve the Grade 1 historic building, while giving the future site developer an attractive financial deal and reputational gain.”
Almost 80 per cent of the theatre site – which includes 223 residential flats and a shopping arcade – has been acquired by property investors. As the 80 per cent mark represents the “compulsory sale for redevelopment” threshold, the theatre is now at risk, the group said.
The group invited four groups of local architects – Hour25, Architecture Commons, ACTEBITE and One Bite Design – to come up with potential uses for the building.
“There is a real urgency to provide a way out for this gem of Hong Kong heritage, and to provide a breakthrough in the preservation of privately-owned historic buildings in Hong Kong, something that this city hasn’t been very good at,” Walk in Hong Kong said. “We do not want to act only when the bulldozers move in, by which point it’ll be too little, too late.”
Their proposals involve turning the site into an indoor adventure sports hall, an eco-food space, a human library and elderly community centre and a healthy living and music venue respectively.
‘As a responsible member of Hong Kong’s tourism industry, it is our duty to speak out and offer practical solutions when the best architecture of our city is at risk,” says Paul Chan Chi-yuen, CEO and co-founder of Walk in Hong Kong.
“State Theatre is an iconic Hong Kong building with a storied past. In the right hands, it has every opportunity to shine again.”
Walk in Hong Kong has also called for the government to modify a planning requirement for the State Theatre site so as to protect the Grade 1 historic building. The proposal is an effort to strike a balance between heritage conservation and development, according to the group.
The designs by the four groups of architects will be displayed at “Next stop: State Theatre, an exhibition celebrating its 65th anniversary – and beyond” at Connecting Space on 18 Fort Street, North Point, between 11 – 26 December.