The transformation of the North Kowloon Magistracy is a triumph of both adaptive reuse and heritage conservation in its current incarnation as the Savannah College of Art & Design
When it was revealed in 2009 that the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) had been granted the right to use the building of the former North Kowloon Magistracy for its Hong Kong branch campus, certain sectors of Hong Kong society suffered a major sense of humour failure, most notably veteran Chinese opera star Liza Wang.
Wang, together with the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, had also been vying for the site under the Hong Kong government’s ‘Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership’ scheme, which seeks adaptive reuse of government-owned historic buildings. Wang’s joint bid failed at the final stage, largely for fiscal reasons.
In the ensuing media brouhaha – and most press coverage since – the validity of SCAD’s bid, not to mention its long history and pedigree in heritage preservation of buildings across its campuses in the US and France, received little attention. Time, then, to set the record straight – in fact, it is hard to imagine that there could have been anyone else more qualified for the task of repurposing and preserving the magistracy buildings.
“SCAD occupies about 110 buildings at its campuses around the world, and about 100 of these are heritage buildings,” says John Paul Rowan, vice-president of SCAD Hong Kong. “What we strive for always is a balance between maintaining the history and heritage of a building, while enabling the functionality and useability that we as an educational institution require for our students.”
Read the full story in the November 2011 issue of Perspective magazine!