Public Heritage Site Tours Led by Local Celebrities

Inaugurating the new Asia Society Hong Kong Center, enthusiastic, high-profile local personalities contributed both time and expertise to insightful public heritage site tours on February 11 and 12, 2012. A total of six celebrity volunteers each brought their own perspectives when they introduced the heritage site, which is steeped in historic and cultural significance.

Legislative Council Member Margaret Ng began with a tour in which she engaged visitors with an account of the originality and local origins of historic structures like the Berm and the two Former Magazines. What makes the site special, she explained, is that "This kind of wall structure and the material is local. It was put together with local material with local workman and the filling of the cracks are very typical of Asia."

Louis Ng, Assistant Director (Heritage & Museums) of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Hong Kong S.A.R government, explained some of the challenges of preserving a heritage site and painted a visual of the past as he recounted historical anecdotes behind each monument.

Asia Society Hong Kong Center's new home also stakes a claim to creating "a future of the past" through the work of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, the Center's chief architects. Two Hong Kong University Architectural Conservation Programme Professors, Lynne D. DiStefano, PhD, Adjunct Professor, and Ho-Yin Lee, Assistant Professor, shared their insights: DiStefano described the previous uses of the site while Lee identified the architectural techniques and construction challenges the Williams-Tsien team encountered.

The dream of transforming the Former Explosives Magazine into today's thriving cultural hub would never have become a reality without the generous support of Center donors. Center Chairman Ronnie C. Chan, involved in the project since day one, explained the construction process and the fund-raising that went into realizing the dream. Edith Ngan Chan, former Executive Director of Asia Society Hong Kong Center, outlined some of the ways in which Asia Society will inject new life into this heritage site.

44 back-to-back tours conducted over the first weekend after the center opening attracted over 1200 people from all walks of life, ranging from three to more than 80 years of age. With the support of the celebrities, Asia Society Hong Kong Center raised public awareness of its new home, a cultural and intellectual hub that will ideally benefit the community beyond boundaries.

Reported by Natalie Lai