Revitalizing Historic Buildings through Partnership Scheme (seeking adaptive reuse of government-owned historic buildings)
Tai O Police Station - Dating from 1902, this building was formerly the Tai O police station and one of the earliest police stations built in the New Territories. It is situated on a small hill next to the Tai O ferry pier. The authorities stationed police on this western extremity of Hong Kong
The police station was built with a main duty of combating piracy and smuggling prevalent in the neighbouring waters. The number of policemen stationed there increased from an initial six or seven ( 6 or 7) to over 180 in 1983. The station was downgraded to a patrol post in 1996 and till 2002, and was left vacant in 2002. Since 1996 most of the officers were deployed to the Police Report Centre in the Lung Tin Estate.
It has since been identified as a Grade III historical building by the Antiquities Advisory Board since 1988, and as a Grade II historic building in 2009. Following the demise of the Qing dynasty in 1911 and Sun Yat-sen's revolution, the chaos the situation caused meant there were many bandits and pirates who decided to try their luck south of the border. Tai O was among several outlying islands whose security was reinforced. In 1925 when about 60 pirates landed at Tai O where they robbed the occupants of 35 houses.
The Hong Kong Marine Police 1841-1950. Ward was in charge of Tai O station in the late 1960s. There were four separate patrols set up for village penetration patrols. These would go to Tung Chung, Fan Lau and Ngong Ping and each of the patrols would be gone for several days - often spending three days in each village.
In 1952, an extension block in the station was proposed by the Commissioner of Police in order to tackle the hygienic and overcrowding problem. In 1957, a scheme was introduced to re-construct part of the Station by demolishing the Outhouse to give space for building a 3 storey structure for the provision of living and recreational facilities. In 1961, a revised scheme was proposed for constructing a new 2 storey barrack block with modern bathrooms, washing and ironing facilities, kitchen and flushed station. Eventually, the final design was to demolish part of the Outhouse and rebuild a new single storey extension block attached to the remaining two-storey portion of the Outhouse. The extension block of the Station was completed in 1962.
The station consists of two 2-storey blocks comprising the main block and the outhouse block linked by a footbridge at first floor level. The main block with its Chinese pan-and-roll tiled roof, projecting eaves and arched verandas has an Italianate Renaissance appearance. It is two storeys high, containing a charge-room, two cells, separate dormitories, bathrooms and a store. A separate wing, the outhouse block, is a latter addition built in the 1960s. It contains kitchens, drying-room, store and bathroom, an interpreter’s room and some accommodation for servants.
Higher on the same hill are the Tai O Barracks of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Hong Kong Garrison, formerly known before the handover as Naval Coastal Observation Station, Tai O. 前 身 為 大 澳 海 軍 觀 察 站 ， 位 於 石 仔 埗 Shek Tsai Po。
Then there was the lookout, the barrack sergeant and the radio operator among other staff members. The barracks sergeant looked after the arms. Higher on the same hill are the Tai O Barracks of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Hong Kong Garrison, formerly known before the handover as Naval Coastal Observation Station, Tai O.
Historical development of the fishing village – Tai O
Tai O had remained as a remote fishing village on Lantau Island (named Tai Kai Shan [大奚山] or
Tai Yue Shan [大俞山、大嶼山] in old Chinese records) on the southern China coast for centuries before the leasing of the New Territories to the British in 1898. According to Chinese historical records, village settlement history in Tai O dated back to as late as late Ming Dynasty (late 16th century). The place of Tai O was recorded in a late 16th century coastal map of Kwang Tung (Guangdong) [廣東沿海圖] documented by Kwok Fei [郭棐] and appeared in different historic
maps in Qing Dynasty.
The fishing villages in Tai O were originally inhabited by mainly Tanka [蛋家] fishermen who lived on their fishing boats or in stilt houses. They were joined by Hoklo people and other immigrants who moved to Tai O in later periods. Because of its fishery and salt pan production, the villages in Tai O became more established towards the end of Qing Dynasty (end of 19th to early 20thcentury) with its local street market developed along Wing On Street and Kat Hing Street.
Before the Police Station was erected, a Chinese style house began to be used on 18 May 1899 in Tai O as a temporary police station (regarded as a yamen (衙門) - magistrate office). From 1902, the officers of the Old Tai O Police Station were under the charge of the marine police until its closure in 1996. They were mainly responsible for the public security of the villages in Tai O and they patrolled within the community by means of sampan. Goods coming in and out of Tai O needed to be declared to Customs, whereas visitors needed to be interrogated by the police before landing the Tai O Pier.
According to the Government Gazette in 1903, the Old Tai O Police Station consists of two buildings at that time, namely the Main Building and the Outhouse. The Main Building is a two-storey building, which once contained a charge-room, two cells, dormitories for officers, three bathrooms and one storeroom. The Outhouse, partly two-storey and partly one-storey, was connected to the Main Building by a covered bridge. According to record, it contained kitchens, drying room, store and Indian officers’ bathroom, an interpreter’s room, an accommodation for servants and latrines. The additional barrack accommodation was completed in 1961-62. There was no piped water to the Old Tai O Police Station before the new barrack was erected and water was transported manually to the Police Station by boat.
(Late 16th century) Coastal Map of Kwang Tung [廣東沿海圖] by Kwok Fei [郭棐] – Tai O
Source: Mapping Hong Kong, Government Information Services, the Government of HKSAR
View of Tai O Waterway
Source: photo taken by Mr. C.M. Lee of LCM & Associates Ltd.
View of the Old Tai O Police Station –
the façade of the Main Building after over a decade of deterioration
Source: Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation Limited
Site Boundary Plan of Old Tai O Police Station
The Old Tai O Police Station built in 1902 is one of the few remaining historic rural police stations. It witnesses the historical development of Tai O and had continued to serve as a Marine Police Station safeguarding the waters and village communities of Tai O for over 100 years.
The Old Tai O Police Station is a fine exemplar of colonial-style building of the period representing typical colonial barrack architecture with a distinctive façade characterized by its arched verandahs, traditional timber pitched roof and Chinese roof tiles.
The Old Tai O Police Station and its setting including the surrounding landscape, wooded slope, natural vegetation, pier, seashore, mudflat and mangrove etc., have not been changed substantially in the past years. It represents a fine example of cultural landscape being preserved as a whole in relation to its unique site context and adjacent environment.
Exterior of the Main Building and Outhouse
- Verandahs with arched openings, keystone, cornices, architraves, cills and mouldings;
- Original wooden casement windows and jalousies, some with steel shutters;
- The two round watchtowers (the NE corner turret constructed to the 1961-62 extension block & the SE corner turret added to the back of the Main Building);
- The original pitched roof with timber purlins, Chinese roof tiles and chimneys;
- The covered walkway bridging the two buildings;
- All chimneys stacks
- The granite steps and steel gates at the entrance, and the external linking bridge and steps on 1/F;
- Cast iron rainwater pipes and hoppers
Interior of the Main Building and Outhouse
- Original timber purlins/battens and Chinese roof tiles exposed at 1/F verandah
- Original timber casement windows, burglar bars and steel shutters to windows to rooms on
G/F of Main Building;
- Wooden staircase and balustrade in Main Building;
-- French windows and jalousies to 1/F verandah entrances at 1/F Main Building;
- Segmental arched mouldings over doors and windows;
- All original fireplaces;
- The two original cells on G/F, the steel doors at the Charge Room;
- Original granite threshold on G/F
The Main building is constructed of reinforced concrete slabs supported by vertical brick masonry walls and/or columns down to the foundation below. The roof is composed of timber frame with title roofing. The Outhouse is composed of conventional reinforced concrete slabs, beams and walls/columns with pad footings below.
The building was revitalized and converted into the Tai O Heritage Hotel in 2012.
The transformation of the historical Old Tai O Police Station into Tai O’s first hotel and the first rural “heritage boutique hotel” in Hong Kong will undoubtedly create an exciting platform to spur economic activity in Tai O district.
The architectural transformation will be primarily achieved through a series of conservation-oriented and eco-themed architectural adaptations and enhancements.
- Adaptation of the historical police station into a themed boutique hotel with 9 suites with interiors compatible with the colonial style architecture of the period.
- Adaptation of the roof terrace at the extension wing into a specialty rooftop café /restaurant with addition of a ‘reversible’ glass structure.
- Repair and improvement of slope and landscape, and integration of outdoor historic pieces of interest with the historical buildings.
- Introduction of a police museum and library at Heritage Library/ Museum / Gift Shop (referred as the “Heritage Interpretation Centre” in this report) and Business Centre at the cells.
- Eco-themed architectural enhancements such as re-opening the verandahs to provide natural ventilation.
Through the newly-created hotel rooms, the new café / restaurant, and the various services provided such as tours and workshops, the Tai O Heritage Hotel will stimulate economic growth and create jobs, while preserving one of the most beautiful heritage buildings in Hong Kong. The Tai O Heritage Hotel will attract a diverse range of visitors who will be invited to participate in community-based activities and tours hosted by the villagers. This will help to promote and preserve Tai O’s unique cultural traditions, simultaneously enabling local businesses to flourish.
The hotel includes nine colonial-style rooms and suites with sea views and a roof-top restaurant serving Tai O specialties. The surrounding cannons, searchlight and guard towers have all been restored. The Hotel is envisioned as a 9-suite lodging to be housed in a distinctive architectural heritage building. This boutique hotel on Lantau Island will take advantage of its rural setting, tranquility and green environment. Thus the adaptation of this building to a boutique hotel would offer an attractive alternative experience compared to other built-up locations.
The revitalization of historic buildings into hospitality accommodations has been very successfully implemented in other locations such as the Pousadas of Portugal, Paradores of Spain and Chateaux of France. These programs have revitalized national architectural treasures such as palaces and castles, turning former obsolete uses into very popular hotels accommodation but also for providing heritage vacation experiences and some of the finest gastronomic experiences.
The profits generated from the Tai O Heritage Hotel will be reinvested into the Tai O community in several ways: -
- To preserve / maintain this heritage building and site.
- To establish a Heritage Library / Museum at the Tai O Heritage Hotel, showcasing memorabilia and photographs to commemorate the days when the Police Station was still in use.
- To promote existing heritage eco-tours and workshops run by local community groups.
Tai O Heritage Hotel opens on Hong Kong's Lantau Island
Published: 29/02/2012 - Filed under: News »
A police station in Hong Kong’s Lantau Island, built in 1902, has received a new lease on life as the nine-room Tai O Heritage Hotel.
The renovated hotel guestrooms, reception, souvenir kiosk, function rooms, back of house, and the like are accommodated in the Main Building, the Outhouse, and the Later Extension (which are the original fabric of Old Tai O Police Station). The extended wing is a restaurant / roof top relaxing deck. This new additional steel/ glass structure is formed to enhance the existing fabric function and is reversible.
New steel structure for corridor, staircase, lifting platform and inclined lift is formed to upgrade the building configuration complying with up-to-date building ordinances, particularly barrier free access.
According to the Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation, the hotel’s operator is itself a non-profit organization founded in 2008 by developers Sino Group – but the government originally subsidized HK$69 million for the foundation to undertake the project, which estimates that the heritage hotel will attract 61,000 visitors annually over the first three years of its operation.
The project, which cost HK$66.7m, is expected to break even by the end of its first year of operation. “The profits generated from the hotel will be reinvested into preserving and promoting Tai O’s cultural heritage and natural environment,” stated Daryl Ng Win-kong, director of the foundation and executive director of Sino Group, back at the 2010 ground-breaking ceremony. The foundation has so far been cautious not to disclose room rates, but according to the assistant secretary for the Commissioner for Heritage’s Office, Queenie Lee Lai-kwan, as well as Tai O villagers and on-site construction workers, the rates are expected to range from $1,500 up to $2,000.
The foundation has promised regular ‘public tours’ of the hotel as well as other culture-promoting activities, including photo exhibits and an exhibition hall containing artefacts and documents from the station’s former reporting room. Visitors can also view the suites when not occupied by guests.
Dr Lee Ho-yin, member of the government-directed Antiquities Advisory Board and director of the Architectural Conservation Programme of the University of
Hong Kong, believes the hotel can ‘bring prosperity to Tai O and transform the fishing village’. “Not every historic building has the value to be preserved as a museum,” he says. “The Old Tai O Police Station has less importance in terms of historic and artistic values. The best way to conserve it is to discover its economic potential and make it benefit the whole society.”
Police Launch No. 4 Sea Horse off Tai O Station in 1964
Tai O Heritage Hotel opened on February 27. Its room rates are set at the standards of a four-star hotel, ranging from $1,330 to $2,300 and higher. According to Corey Mak, director of the hotel's liaison office, there will be free guided tours every day, but it will be less likely that the rooms open to the tours. Tourists can also visit the roof-top café and restaurant for free. "But we will consider customers as priority to take the seats in the roof-top café and restaurant," Mak tells Time Out.
Among all heritage buildings under the Revitalisation Scheme, the former North Kowloon Magistracy is the first and as yet only project which has started operations. The magistracy has been revitalized as the campus of the Hong Kong branch of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), managed by non-profit SCAD Foundation (HK) Ltd, founded in 2008. The SCAD Foundation spent HK$250m on the project without any government subsidy and the school opened in late 2010.