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URBAN REGENERATION


WOHA’s Space Asia Hub consists of two conserved historic buildings joined by a contemporary glass infi ll structure NEW LIFE A new approach to heritage conservation has led


to some exciting projects across Asia. Christopher DeWolf takes a look at some innovative examples


I


t wasn’t long ago that Hong Kong lacked a heritage conservation policy. Historic structures were regularly demolished and there was no strategy to deal with the


few that had been preserved. Then everything changed. “I’m amazed at how quickly it happened,” says Lee Ho-yin, director of the University of Hong Kong’s architectural conserva- tion programme. In 2009, the city’s government launched a new initiative that encourages the adaptive reuse of historic buildings by NGOs. The city suddenly witnessed a spate of inno- vative examples of adaptive reuse, including an old police dormitory turned into a design hub, a row of shop- houses converted into a cultural centre for comic books and a former military compound turned art complex.


96 CLADGLOBAL.COM A similar story is playing out in cities


across Asia, where the days of blind progress have given way to a more measured approach to development. “What’s interesting now is you see old buildings being integrated into part of a larger development,” says Chan Ee Mun, an architect with Singapore fi rm WOHA, which has undertaken a number of heritage conservation pro- jects. Instead of treating old buildings like artefacts, these projects infuse them with new life through contem- porary design. “Innovation is the key,” says Lee. “It is the only way we can produce heritage for the future.”


Christopher DeWolf is an architecture journalist and photographer based in Hong Kong


Singapore was one of the fi rst cities in Asia to adopt a conservation strategy, and its early historic conservation projects, such as the revitalisation of Clarke Quay, won international recognition. But innovation wasn’t always encouraged, which was the case in Bencoolen Street, where an old villa and shophouse were joined by a new infi ll structure whose architecture was required to mimic its historic neighbours. “It recreated the shell of a shophouse and packed in as many fl oors as it could,” says WOHA’s Chan Ee Mun. In 2010, architectural practice WOHA was


tasked with transforming the block of buildings into a furniture showroom. It began by clearing out the decades of subdivisions that had turned the shophouses and villa into dingy warrens, restoring them to their original, airy splendour. Next came the infi ll building, which was transformed into a modern glass structure. With more open spaces, sightlines have been improved. “Within the series of three buildings you have greater appreciation of the building next to you,” says Chan. “It’s a chance to generate a dialogue between old and new. The result is the old buildings regain their prominence on the site.”


CLADmag 2015 ISSUE 2


Space Asia Hub Location: Singapore Date: 2010 Architects: WOHA (Singapore)


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