Hong Kong City Hall
Since Hong Kong is a "Special Administrative Region" and not a normal Chinese city, there is no mayor or city council; therefore, the City Hall does not hold the offices of a city government, unlike most city halls around the world. Instead, it is a complex providing municipal services, including performing venues and libraries.
The City Hall is managed by the Government's Leisure and Cultural Services Department. The Urban Council （UrbCo) managed the City Hall (through the Urban Services Department) and held its meetings there prior to its dissolution in December 1999. Prior to its dissolution the UrbCo served as the municipal council for Hong Kong Island and Kowloon (including New Kowloon). The UrbCo had its meeting chamber in the Low Block of the City Hall.
Hong Kong's first City Hall, which existed from 1869 to 1933, occupied the current sites of the HSBC Hong Kong headquarters building (partly) and the Bank of China Building. It was designed by the French architect Achille-Antoine Hermitte and was opened by Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, in a ceremony on 28 June 1869. The current site of the HSBC Hong Kong headquarters building was occupied in part by the old City Hall, and in part by the first and second generations of the HSBC building.
Design and function
The City Hall was built on Government land, and funds were raised for its construction, which started in 1866, from public subscriptions. The two-storey hall was designed by Me A. Hermite, a French architect, in a Renaissance style, with cupolae, colonnades and arches. The facilities available for use by the local community included a theatre, library, museum and assembly rooms. A fountain, sponsored by Dent & Co. was located at the front (south side) of the Hall. The building was inaugurated by HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh on 28 June 1869 on his visit to the colony.
The land was acquired by the Hong Kong Bank in 1933 for its third generation headquarters, so that the western part of City Hall was pulled down. The remaining part was demolished in 1947 to make way for the Bank of China Building.
The second and current City Hall complex was built in the late 1950s on a 10,000 square metres (110,000 sq ft) plot of land on the newly reclaimed seafront, about 200 metres (660 ft) from the first generation building.
The foundation stone laying ceremony took place on February 25, 1960 with then Governor Robert Brown Black, who also presided over the official opening ceremony on March 2, 1962. The City Hall was placed under the responsibility of the Urban Council. It has been listed as a Grade I historic building since 2009.
It was designed between 1956 and 1958 by British architects Ron Phillips and Alan Fitch. With its clean lines and stark geometric forms, the new Hall is an example of the International style fashionable at the time. The structure was constructed using steel and concrete, and much of the equipment was of steel, glass and anodised aluminium.
The two separate blocks and gardens were laid out as a cohesive whole, along a central axis. The entrance to the lower block (exhibition hall) of the City Hall formed an axis with Queen's Pier to lend a sense of occasion to visiting dignitaries. One major consideration was juxtaposing the city bustle whilst maximising public access to the surrounding area. Thus, the out-sized public areas of the Memorial Gardens and the piazza in front were conceived as a natural extension to promote the "freedom of movement and a sense of unlimited space".
The most important civic function performed by City Hall was as a ceremonial location for the swearing in of successive Governors following their inauguration: The 24th to 28th Governors all swore their oaths of office there.
City Hall's Concert hall and theatre have been an important home to the performing arts in Hong Kong since its inauguration. A number of culture events, including the Hong Kong Festival, Hong Kong Arts Festival in 1973, Asian Arts Festival in 1976, the Hong Kong International Film Festival in 1977, and the International Arts Carnival in 1982 were hosted there. The conference room of the former Urban Council was also at the lower building of the City Hall.
The High block once housed Hong Kong's principal public library, until a new Central library was opened in 2001; the Hong Kong art gallery (which became the Hong Kong Art Museum in 1969) began life there on the tenth and eleventh floors. The Hong Kong Museum of History relocated in 1975, and the Hong Kong Museum of Art also moved out of City Hall in 1991.
The City Hall Memorial Garden, located at the north-western quadrant between the High Block and Low Block, is a walled garden wherein a 12-sided dodecagon Memorial Shrine commemorates soldiers and citizens who died in defence of Hong Kong during the Second World War. It is a popular spot and obligatory backdrop for photographs of couples who celebrate their marriage in the City Hall Registry. Within the Memorial Shrine are embedded memorial Roll of Honour and Plaques to combat units who fought in Hong Kong during World War II (1941–1945). Inscribed on the walls of the Memorial Shrine are eight chinese characters evoking the everlasting spirit of the Brave and the Dead. The entrance gates to the City Hall Memorial Garden bear the regimental emblems of Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps and Royal Hong Kong Regiment.
The second and current City Hall complex has two buildings, a garden and a three-storey car park.
City Hall Memorial Garden enclosing the World War II (1941–1945) Memorial Shrine
The High Block, a 12-storey building, is in the south-western end and houses a number of government facilities, including:
- City Hall Public Library, an eight-storey facility, which in the past served as the central library of Hong Kong (on the 9th – 11th floors)
- Exhibition Gallery, 260 square feet (24 m2).
- Recital Hall with 111-seats.
- Committee Rooms: two 40-seat committee rooms (on the 7th floor)
- Marriage Registry (on the 1st floor)
- Fast food restaurant, managed by Maxim's Catering: MX
The 3-storey Low Block is at the eastern end, with the following facilities:
- Concert Hall, with 1,434 seats and 60 standees at the mezzanine level.
- Restaurants and a cafe, managed by Maxim's Catering: continental (Deli and Wine), Chinese (City Hall Maxim's Palace) and European (City Hall Maxim's Café) cuisines
- The URBTIX Box Office
- Exhibition Hall, 590-square metres.
- Theatre with 463 seats.
- Performing Arts Shop
- an enquiry counter
High Block floor directory
Other civic centres in Hong Kong:
- HMS Tamar
- Chater Garden
- Statue Square and the Cenotaph
- HSBC Hong Kong headquarters building
- Former Supreme Court Building
- EIA: A survey report of Historical Buildings and Structures within the Project Area of the Central Reclamation Phase III, Chan Sui San Peter for the HK Government, February 2001
- Davies 2014, p. 208.
- Davies, Stephen (2014), "Achille-Antoine Hermitte (1840–70?)", Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch, Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch, 54: 206–208, retrieved 2018-07-16 – via JSTOR
- "Building Together: 160 Years of Hong Kong – French Common Heritage and Perspectives" Exhibition leaflet
- Hong Kong City Hall at ArtLinkArt
- Hong Kong Memory: Grand opening of Hong Kong City Hall
- List of the 1,444 Historic Buildings in Building Assessment (as of 8 June 2017)
- Heron, Liz (13 May 2007). "Save Queen's Pier, says architect of City Hall complex". South China Morning Post. p. 4.
- Annexe B3 Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, EIA: A survey report of Historical Buildings and Structures within the Project Area of the Central Reclamation Phase III, Chan Sui San Peter for the HK Government, February 2001
- Antiquities Advisory Board: Brief Information on proposed Grade I Items. Item #52
- Tsui, Enid (31 May 2016). "Push to expand Hong Kong City Hall amid harbourfront development". South China Morning Post.
- City Hall: 30th anniversary. A platform for the arts. Hong Kong: Urban Council. 1992.
- Hong Kong City Hall, 1962-1982: Twenty years in retrospect. Hong Kong: Urban Council. 1983.
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