Old Buildings, New Uses: Cultural Heritage Impact AssessmentBack
- Professor David Lung
- Professor Richard A. Engelhardt
- Architectural Conservation Programme
- Department of Architecture
- "Central Oasis" revitalisation project
- UNESCO World Heritage Centre
In 1972, when the World Heritage Convention was first adopted by the international community, it was anticipated that a maximum of 100 sites would quality for international safeguarding. However, nearly 40 years later close to 1,000 cultural and natural properties around the world have been put on the World Heritage List and the number is growing annually.
This rapid increase in the number of places designated for protection by the international community has coincided with a change in perception globally about what qualifies as significant places of humankind’s common heritage, important to safeguard for future generations. In addition to monuments and archaeological sites, there is a growing awareness of the cultural value of notable buildings, vernacular structures, cultural landscapes, and historic public spaces.
In line with this paradigm shift, the Hong Kong public has recently begun to embrace its own unique cultural heritage, and has expressed disappointment over the destruction of a number of heritage structures as well as a concern for the protection of what still remains of historic Hong Kong.
Over the past 10 years, through the Architectural Conservation Programme staff and students at the University of Hong Kong have been contributing both locally and internationally, including work to assess world heritage sites by Professor David Lung, the former Chairman of the Hong Kong Antiquities Advisory Board who now holds the UNESCO Chair of Cultural Heritage Resources Management in the Faculty of Architecture at HKU.
Now, under the guidance of Professor Lung, HKU has formed a multi-disciplinary research team to develop a globally-applicable methodology for undertaking cultural heritage impact assessments on structures and spaces of historic significance.
HKU Visiting Research Professor, Richard A. Engelhardt, a former UNESCO official and leading world expert in the field of heritage conservation, is leading the research team. He believes many more places of historic significance in Hong Kong will be recognised as having heritage value as a result of this ground-breaking work.
The Hong Kong SAR Government has responded to the growing public awareness of the importance of local heritage with a range of proposals for the preservation and adaptive re-use of government properties which no longer serve their original functions. While plans for the renovation and future use of the former Central Market, now known as the “Central Oasis,” are still to be confirmed, the Urban Renewal Authority is working with HKU and experts in the fields of history, architecture and urban planning, to examine options of how to recycle this and other historically-significance public buildings in Hong Kong.
The driving force behind the effort to safeguard the former Central Market is the Central Oasis Community Advisory Committee, chaired by Professor Lung. The Advisory Committee has put into place a four-step public-participation process to ensure that the heritage values of the former Central Market remain part of the collective memory of Hong Kong, even while the old building serves new public uses.
This is an innovative procedure, involving the community, professional experts, and government. Previously, there have been only limited guidelines to assist government in making decisions about what historic buildings should be preserved, and how the preserved buildings can best be recycled for new public or private-sector uses.
Research on culture heritage impact assessment methodology is ongoing and promises to have far reaching effects way beyond Hong Kong’s Central Oasis, in the conservation of the character of urban centres globally, as Professor Lung and Professor Engelhardt explain in this short video.