Purcell was originally appointed by the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) in 2009 to conduct a thorough appraisal of the historical and architectural value of the Central Government Offices (CGO) Complex in Hong Kong. In part, comprising a collection of 1950’s functionalist buildings, the offices were built at a time when other styles of modern architecture were emerging. Neither radical or innovative and despite somewhat lagging behind the rest of the architectural world, the well-preserved office buildings are likely to have influenced the design of many other buildings across the city.

As demolition threats loomed over the West Wing and with redevelopment plans on the horizon, a concern group lobbied support to retain the building. Having gained a lifeline and awarded Grade I status in 2012, Purcell was separately appointed in 2015 to prepare a Conservation Management Plan, Heritage Impact Assessment, and a photographic and cartographic survey of the West Wing in preparation for its reuse and conversion into the Department of Justice offices.

Since 2016, performing the role of heritage consultant, Purcell has been working alongside Ronald Lu & Partners and the Architectural Services Department during the construction phase to monitor the proposed renovation works for compliance against the Heritage Impact Assessment.

As the construction nears completion, the scaffold has been lowered to facilitate Fire Services Department inspections. To many peoples’ surprise, the renovation works have revealed the buildings original finishes. Having been covered up for decades by layers of paint, through investigative paint analysis and a programme of cleaning work, the buildings original mosaic-clad spandrel panels have been revealed. Showcasing what were likely bold colour decisions in 1959, these public-facing facades were clad in yellow and green tiles. Was the architect simply being playful or is there a subconscious message in the choice of colour; just a couple of questions that we are continuing to explore.

The new mosaics on the West Wing

Having been restored and re-introduced into the fabric of society, another example of Hong Kong’s built legacy of the recent past now has a prosperous new future. The reveal of the late 1950s aesthetic will prompt debate amongst the profession and is sure to raise an eyebrow or two from the many thousands of people that pass by the building daily. Importantly, when the building comes into view, this act of pure randomness affords an element of surprise which is vital in its contribution to creating intrigue at a human scale within our cities.

It is imperative that we continue to improve the liveability of our cities. Existing buildings have a crucial part to play in this and we are delighted to see the near-finished work, and its overall contribution to maintaining an eclectic mix of architectural styles across the city

Project Architect, Steve Phillips