Old-style ro­mance

A far­sighted de­vel­oper took a gam­ble on an aging but iconic ten­e­ment build­ing in the West­ern Dis­trict and came up with a win­ner. Agnes Lu re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

ren­o­va­tion work could start.

Ev­ery ma­jor mod­i­fi­ca­tion for the old tong lau had to go through the Build­ings Depart­ment, which also re­garded it as a sel­dom-spot­ted cre­ative project and man­aged to put the in­no­va­tive con­ver­sion un­der the plan­ning code cur­rent at the time. Be­cause “no one wanted to put el­e­va­tors into old build­ings back then,” Al­lan said and laughed.

The first step was re­pairs and up­grad­ing build­ing ser­vices, as in tack­ling leak­age is­sues, prob­lem­atic drainage and sewage sys­tems, un­steady ceil­ings and miss­ing win­dows.

At least 15 sub­mis­sions were handed to the Build­ings Depart­ment, and ev­ery few days depart­ment of­fi­cials would ar­rive to check if the sub­mis­sion was within reg­u­la­tion.

The big­gest headache, Al­lan re­called, was when they found out the in­te­ri­ors in no way matched the build­ing plan they had ac­quired. “Maybe 50 years ago some­body dug out the sewage pipes and the drainage pipes and changed them, but didn’t tell the Build­ings Depart­ment,” Al­lan said.

So the team had to put ev­ery­thing back to fit the orig­i­nal build­ing plan be­fore sub­mit­ting an up­grade ap­pli­ca­tion with the Build­ings Depart­ment, a process that was “costly and time-con­sum­ing”.

The sec­ond phase came when an el­e­va­tor was to be in­stalled. The team tried dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions to fa­cil­i­tate the ride, such as some­where close to the living rooms, but could only put it next to the fire es­cape to meet the fire safety codes.

Even the size of the el­e­va­tor was ad­justed to leave room for the fire es­cape. The shaft space could not be dug be­low the build­ing so the el­e­va­tor lobby was in­stead put at the top of a short flight of stairs.

fi­nally De­sign Of­fice (KPDO) han­dled the in­te­ri­ors with the aim of pre­serv­ing the old build­ing to the best of their abil­ity. Nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and a neu­tral color pal­ette were cho­sen in line with the build­ing’s orig­i­nal un­der­stated charm.

For ex­am­ple, the bath­room and kitchen is­lands had a spe­cial kind of smoky gray mar­ble in­stalled to cre­ate syn­ergy be­tween the two ar­eas. The de­sign team toured mul­ti­ple main­land shops be­fore fi­nally pick­ing this ma­te­rial.

The apart­ments were also given oak floor­ing, doors and cab­i­netry, with cus­tom-made luxury ac­cents such as curved brass han­dles that hint at tra­di­tional Chi­nese de­sign.

The high­light of the apart­ments is slid­ing win­dows on three sides that dom­i­nate the living room, of­fer­ing panoramic sea views and balmy sea breezes.

The orig­i­nal sweep­ing, curved glass win­dows were there­fore pre­served, while the de­sign­ers low­ered the para­pets to max­i­mize views of the hori­zon. The team also re­fur­bished the façade of the build­ing, while re­tain­ing its orig­i­nal black ter­razzo name­plate, em­bla­zoned above the en­trance in Chi­nese script. In­side the build­ing, the stair­case handrails in yel­low ter­razzo were also re­stored to their for­mer glory.

“Along this part of the Kennedy Town wa­ter­front, the build­ing used to be iconic and was part of the fab­ric of the area. Its unique fea­tures are things I re­ally wanted to keep,” said Al­lan.

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