Heritage conservation and the creation of new urban values: A comparison of three historical sites in Hong Kong

  • BARBER, Lachlan B. (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Heritage conservation has gained increasing political, cultural and economic importance in urban redevelopment processes in Asian cities in recent years. Built heritage, including buildings and landscapes from the past that are recognized and revalorized with new uses and meanings in the present, has provoked extensive scrutiny and debate. In Hong Kong, community-based aspirations for greater protection of historic places, coinciding with growing interest in heritage on the part of the state and private sector actors, has led to several large-scale conservation projects in centrally-located areas with high land value. While research has examined heritage governance and management in Hong Kong, and attempted to explain and contextualize the ascendance of heritage, as yet there have been no in-depth studies of the ongoing impacts of heritage revitalization schemes. A comparison of projects completed over the last decade can reveal how the material outcomes of evolving conservation approaches reflect the shifting priorities of stakeholders in relation to broader urban processes. This project takes up such a comparison of three sites with historical uses related policing and law and order: the former Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters (PMQ), the former Central Police Station compound (Tai Kwun), and the former Marine Police Headquarters (Heritage 1881).

The research will develop a new approach for conceptualizing how heritage conservation in urban Hong Kong produces contradictory and complementary economic and cultural values. Conservation schemes have involved the introduction of creative industries uses, such as studios and galleries, as well as spaces of consumption, such as boutiques and restaurants. But they are also spaces in which collective memory and community are articulated and affirmed. Comparing and contextualizing the material expressions of, and visitor engagements with, the values of heritage will develop new insights on the role of culture in urban change, and will enrich ongoing debate about gentrification and redevelopment and heritage as a public good.

The project adopts a mixed qualitative methodology. Historical research will contextualize the study sites by investigating evolving place-based relationships between local residents, businesses, neighbourhood institutions and the colonial administration and HKSAR government. Participant observation, semi-structured interviews with stakeholders and visitors, and analysis of online social media will reveal the present-day characteristics of the sites, including a comparison of i) how historic architecture and spaces are valorized as heritage; ii) new uses introduced at the study sites; and iii) visitor experiences, including as expressed in images and content shared through online social media platforms
Effective start/end date1/12/1931/05/22


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