Hong Kong heritage: The Mills (Part 1)

Posted on May 27, 2019 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

tseun wan

tseun wan

Interesting 1950s-60s architecture

 

If you take the MTR in Hong Kong, you are most likely to encounter the name 'Tsuen Wan' because one of the main lines is the Tseun Wan line (red) and its station is at the end of the line in the New Territories. Around 100 years ago, this area used to be a village by the bay where pirates would pass through frequently. Then in the 1940s, many Shanghai industrialists from Mainland China moved to Hong Kong and then established textile factories (Hong Kong used to be renowned for its textile and denim industry) to manufacture textiles and garments for export. The area started to change when the Hong Kong Government developed it into a new town, building new housing estates to accommodate the growing population. Sadly, the textile industry started to decline around the 1980s, and the 33 mills gradually shut down; although some factory buildings still remain, the city's textiles history has long been forgotten.

 

tseun wan

tseun wan

Traditional shops in Tseun Wan

 

One of the prominent factories here was Nan Fung Cotton Mills, established in 1954 by Chen Din Hwa (from Ningbo in China), who was known as the 'king of cotton yarn'. Six mills were built between the 50s-60s, but Mill 1, 2 and 3 were knocked down in the 80s, and only Mill 4, 5 and 6 survived. In 2008, the mills ceased operation and a revitalisation project was annouced in 2014 to convert the factories into a destination for innovation, culture and learning. The project was initiated by Chen’s granddaughter, Vanessa Cheung, the managing director of Nan Fung, who wanted to preserve the site and its heritage. Four years later, The Mills was born.

I have witness numerous failures with the Government-backed conservations/restorations projects in Hong Kong, so I try not to have high hopes these days. However, since the HK$700 million-plus project was privately funded by the Nan Fung Group (now a major property developer and shipping company), I was slightly more optimistic before my visit. And unlike other heritage sites in Hong Kong, the attraction of this project is not its architecture, but its history and heritage that was tied to Hong Kong's textiles industry.

I have never been to Tseun Wan before, but I found the walk from the MTR station to the venue utterly fascinating. I had to walk through a neighbourhood full of 1950s architecture including housing estates, schools and tradtional specialist shops selling dried seafood, hardware, stationery and groceries etc. It was really interesting to see elderly and children hanging out in the area; the neighbourhood seemed laidback and authentic.

 

the mills

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan  the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

 

I have read very mixed reviews about the venue before my visit, and they are mostly based on one's expectations... it would be unfair to summarise or judge this place until you see it for yourself. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by it, and I think it has exceeded my expectations (but like I said, I had very low expectations beforehand).

The 2,400sqm (260,000sqf) L-shaped site is huge, and it is not easy to nagivate around if you are here for the first time/enter from the side entrance. The company's in-house architects, Boris Lo and Gary Ng, worked with Billy Tam, the partner at Thomas Chow Architects Ltd (also responisble for transforming PMQ in SoHo) on this project, and they have managed to keep much of the industrial look and architectural details in a respectable manner.

 

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan  the mill tseun wan

4th row: The old gate (with rows of golden cup motifs) of the factory has been preserved and now sits behind the reception area.

 

There are three pillars at The Mills: Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile (CHAT), The Mills Fabrica (a techstyle incubator) and The Mills Shopfloor (an experiential retail space). CHAT is an exhibition and studio space that focuses on contemporary art, design, science, heritage, community and craftsmanship. There are also regular artist talks and workshops that are related to textiles, craft and design.

 

the mill tseun wan  the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

 

It is difficult to find a spacious, bright and airy venue in Hong Kong, so I particularly liked the spaciousness and relaxing ambience at The Mills. At the Fabrica Atrium, the original columns have been removed and parts of the roof replaced by skylights to create a long and naturally lit space, which I think works very well.

One feature that stands out at the site is the creation of The Park on the rooftop, a formerly vacant concrete space that has been transformed into an urban public space for the neighbourhood. The 4m x 23m wavy weaving wall mural, inspired by Hong Kong's textile history, was created by Hong Kong artist, Lam Tung Pang and design consultancy Collective. When you look up, you can also see the restored signage of the former factory that says: Nan Fung Textile Co., Ltd.

 

the mill tseun wan  the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

 

To be continued...

 

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This post was posted in Hong Kong, Architecture, Hong Kong design, Architectural conservation, Design, Textiles and was tagged with Hong Kong, architecture, Hong Kong design, heritage, Architectural conservation, contemporary architecture, textiles, The Mills

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