The Spirit of the Place: Haw Par Mansion Case Study

Stained Glass Panels on the Main Hall South Moon Gates, Haw Par Music, Tai Hang, Hong Kong

By Roger Wu

Heritage conservation in Hong Kong has made significant strides over the past few years. Using revitalisation project of the former Haw Par Mansion into Haw Par Music Haw Par Music as an example, the ‘spirit of the place’ aspect is worth considering in order to add significant value in future projects.

The Spirit of The Place

One of the often-asked questions by visitors to Haw Par Music is: why music? The answer is less of a one-liner as some may expect, but more as an idea once identified quickly developed organically to the point that it has become a very clear vision for the development of programmes (software) that they are intrinsically connected with the place (hardware). Questions as to why we do the programmes in this place and not others, or what makes the programmes that happen in this place different than those in other places have been, and are being, asked of ourselves constantly.

For clues to the answers, looking at the background of Hong Kong around the time of when the building was constructed turned out to be a very good starting place, particularly in relation to a couple of historical points.

Firstly, it is worth noting that, amongst other notable achievements of Sir Cecil Clementi, the first Governor of Hong Kong (1925-1930) who also spoke Cantonese, Clementi appointed Shouson Chow, a prominent Chinese merchant, as the first Chinese unofficial member of the Executive Council. There are clear reflections of the shift in the British Colonial government’s attitude in the governance of Hong Kong as they not only began to respect the local culture and traditions, but also encourage the Chinese population to rise through the ranks.

This is an excerpt. The original article is published in Construction+ Hong Kong Issue 24. Subscribe to the digital edition or print magazine to read the complete article.

Roger Wu

Executive Director, Project Development of Haw Par Music Foundation Limited (HPMF)

Born in Hong Kong and raised in the UK, Roger has worked as an architect for a number of practices in both markets on large-scale master planning, commercial and mixed-use developments ranging from China, Algeria, the United States, Italy, Russia, and Turkey, UK and Hong Kong. With extensive experience leading complex restoration projects in the UK, China and Hong Kong, Roger has put his knowledge, experience and interest in the regeneration of historic buildings, including Peter Jones, Kings Cross Station and the Royal Military Academy in London.

Roger was also the Chief Curator of the 2019 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Hong Kong) and is also actively involved with both the Royal Institute of British Architect (RIBA), and the Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA), where he is a member of the Heritage & Conservation and Education Development & Accreditation Committees. Roger has lectured at architectural schools in universities across the UK and taught design studios at the School of Architecture, Chinese University of Hong Kong, as an Adjunct Associate Professor.

He is currently the Executive Director, Project Development of Haw Par Music Foundation Limited (HPMF), a not-for-profit organisation set up to oversee the operations of Haw Par Music—a centre for cross-culture exchange through music, heritage and the arts based in the revitalised Haw Par Mansion in Tai Hang, Hong Kong.

This article reflects Roger’s further thoughts on heritage conservation in Hong Kong based on his involvement since the early stages of the project. His role as a representative of the Non-Profit-Organisation operating the facilities has not only provided him with a different perspective but also helped the development thinking on heritage conversation further.