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Bridging West Kowloon’s past and present with architects Evelyn Ting and Paul Tse

  • Written by Localiiz

Architects are storytellers whose creations exist as stone and steel structures in the physical world, as props and backdrops in the history of the land and memories of the people. Architecture simultaneously has a relationship with the past and serves as a projection of the future, which makes them vessels of time, or the idea of time. Paul Tse and Evelyn Ting are co-founders of local architecture and design studio New Office Works, and the brains behind the ’Growing Up’ Pavilion in the West Kowloon Cultural District. Ting contemplates, “How does a place tie in the past and present? How do you make reference to stories of one particular neighbourhood or place, but then also relate to functions and technology of today?”

Evelyn and Paul at the Yau Ma Tei Police Station

Image credit: Leo Cheng

In the West Kowloon neighbourhood, the Former Yau Ma Tei Police Station stands out to Tse and Ting. “It’s on a corner, with the entrance facing the corner and arcades on both sides. It has a very different spatial relationship with the street compared to the juxtaposition of buildings on other streets. A lot of older tenement buildings have the gallery, that kind of arcade,” explains Ting. These arcades served as pedestrian walkways back when the streets were still lined with tenement buildings, built in the style that was characteristic of that time.

Evelyn and Paul in front of the M+ museum

Image credit: Leo Cheng

The M+ is another one of their personal favourites, adding a touch of contemporary to the otherwise historic neighbourhood. “I quite like that it has a lot of different senses of scale. It's never just one thing. If you see it from a distance, the overall format looks black. But as you move closer, more details and different aspects of the material emerge. I think the most interesting pieces of architecture do that; it's not just one static thing that you understand from a distance. It's something that should kind of change based on the person's relationship with it, and also, as time goes on,” says Ting.

Evelyn and Paul looking at Broadway Cinematheque’s postings board

Image credit: Leo Cheng

Tse and Ting are also regular patrons of the arthouse cinema Broadway Cinematheque, and the adjacent cafe. For architectural highlights, they recommend going to the Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market, which is right opposite to the Yau Ma Tei Theatre, both of which have gabled roofs — a rare sight in Hong Kong. The nearby pedestrian bridge offers a great view of the Temple Street Night Market, showing a long stretch of colourful translucent canopies. These are areas in the neighbourhood that have stood the test of time, now acting as glimpses into West Kowloon’s past while also maintaining their original functions.

Evelyn in West Kowloon Cultural District

Image credit: Leo Cheng

As society evolves, new needs emerge. “We would like to build a community centre with recreational facilities in the area, one that is more modernised and contemporary,” says Ting. She envisions it to have more linkages between the different offerings, such as between the food hall and the market, the library and the sports facilities. A more modern building would also serve to attract the younger crowd, so different groups will be able to intermingle. Nodding in agreement, Tse adds, “We want to give back to the community and hopefully, be able to engage a broader spectrum of the society.” 

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