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In the Central and Western District on Hong Kong Island, there are quite a number of pre-World War II ancient buildings and avenues, most of them are going to be dismantled for solving the problem of urban disintegration. Sheung Wan Wing Lee Street, a tenement portion to the URA H19 and integral part of redevelopment proposal, in view of last few months, the community’s interest on Wing Lee Street. And majority of the opinion stating out that this URA project is completely failed to adopt the “people-centered” approach.
Obviously, the major cause of the failure is due to the social value of Wing Lee Street. When decide whether to conserve the old building, we should take into account expert assessments of its cultural value and also its social value. Let us taking an international environmental paper “Bula Charter Guidelines as an example, “Cultural Values” Article 2.5 from the guidelines state that “Social value embraces the qualities for which a place has become a focus of spiritual, political, national or other cultural sentiment to a majority or minority group”.
There are a lot of buildings in different places in Hong Kong of resembling time of life and style. What is extraordinary and unusual here is that the whole street has not been redeveloped recently. Many people thought that streets with old buildings like Wing Lee Street should be preserved because they were replete with Hong Kong people’s collective memories. As a result, there is a growing body of sentiment for its preservation. However, the government used to emphasize and spot development at the expense of preservation. They will not try to seek to get a proper scale between redevelopment and conservation. The URA’s original plan is to solve the puzzle of urban decay and to ameliorate the living conditions of habitants in decayed urban areas. But the plan for redeveloping Wing Lee Street is not in keeping with the dogma of balancing urban evolution against conservation. The government only thought that the street cannot show monuments, nor do any of the buildings there, appearing a special design.
What’s more, a film produced by Hong Kong director – ‘Echoes of a Rainbow’ awarded with Crystal Bear prize at Berlin International Film Festival. It was the first time that a Hong Kong movie has obtained this award. This has delivered Hong Kong citizens together once again to consider of the preservation of our collective memories and the historical buildings. This film presented the collective remembrance of people here through the description of a Hong Kong household of four during the 1960s. It is significant stating that the execution of the film was come from Wing Lee Street in the Central district. That region about the street is slated for redevelopment by the Urban Renewal Authority (URA). The director has used a lot of authentic and actual acts on that street as background of the film, as a result it does not only make it to appear more practical-minded but also give audiences some immeasurable sensation and nostalgia of these decayed and old streets.
After the film getting the award and was screened, there has raised a “fever” in hunting and exploration of Wing Lee Street. Just like the main theme of ‘Echoes of a Rainbow’-“Time can be a thief, but time cannot steal good memories and the Hong Kong spirit”. This is the foremost message that the producer wants to show to us. So, Wing Lee Street in Sheung Wan may be just a street, but it is part of Hong Kong history and keeps us reminded and citizens including the “post 1980s” and “post-1990s” generations join their efforts to treasure and safeguard them and therefore the redevelopment plan for the street is completely failed due to the eminent social value of Wing Lee Street.
Apart from the high social value of Wing Lee Street, Building Value is another factor of the failure of the proposal. Quite a number of professors and scholars finished a building research from Sai Ying Pun to Central. They have recognized a “tenement buildings, being its puny body weight, stretchable layout, the construction of a simple form, should be our city building a part of cultural heritage.”As the Wing Lee Street, the tenement housing in the entirety and in a extraordinary space on the street level, and its architectural significance is much higher than some singular buildings infrequent on the avenue or in a tenement building has been segregated and contrasted with the building in No. 145-153 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, is also appreciated as ” distinctive value of the architecture of cultural heritage, it is of an equivalent value. So calls on the government not to dismantle but to preserve Wing Lee Street have become increasingly sturdy among conservationists for cultural heritages.
Moreover, the main purpose of this redevelopment project is due to the building safety of the buildings of Wing Lee Street. Secretary for Development Carrie Lam had said that the buildings there were beyond repair and had to be dismantled. However, after carrying out a preparatory reconnaissance on Wing Lee Street Buildings by professional engineers and surveyors, it can be established that the whole set of columns do not discover tenement difficulty to repair the building safety puzzles. The existing portions of the wall surface cracks and illegal porch and roof fabrication, can be repaired by the rehabilitation efforts, there is no insurmountable technical problems. Actually, Wing Lee Street 1-2 has been completed rehabilitation of the outcomes somewhat well. At the same time, a up-to-date main research of old buildings conducted by the Buildings Department, also shows that the environs is not the old housing in Wing Lee Street buildings fall into disrepair, imperiling the safety of the pillar. In an article issued by the URA in March 2008 report of the scrutiny of the street and the buildings have not been come to the “incapability for rehabilitation due to old age” settlement. So, the view that “the buildings there were beyond repair and had to be demolished” should be discarded.
Therefore, this project will redouble social controversy, leading in momentous repercussions of the public right “URA violates about private property rights” interests. In conclusion, the URA is required to adore the residents’ will be able to redevelop the Wing Lee Street, and to explore another proposals.
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