11 July 2023
An international symposium on heritage conservation co-hosted by UNESCO and New World Development Company, Ltd., was successfully held on 15 June 2023 in Hong Kong. The event, thematically titled ‘Heritage Innovation Symposium 2023 – When Innovation Empowers Heritage Conservation’, brought together government officials, leading experts and scholars to share examples of heritage conservation.
Convened at the University of Hong Kong, the symposium was attended by a combined total of more than 1,000 participants onsite and online, and hailing from various fields such as conservation, architecture, culture, and history. Officiating guests included Lu Xinning, Deputy Minister of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR; Adrian Cheng, CEO, New World Development Company, Ltd.; Feng Jing, Chief of Culture Unit, UNESCO Bangkok Office; Bernadette Linn, Secretary for Development, Development Bureau of Hong Kong SAR; Kenneth Fok, Member of the Legislative Council (Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication), Hong Kong SAR; Ivanhoe Chang, Commissioner for Heritage, Hong Kong SAR; and Douglas So, Chairman of Antiquities Advisory Board, Hong Kong SAR.
International Speakers Shared Heritage Conservation Examples
Mr Cheng, of New World Development, opened the event by noting that it represented ‘a groundbreaking platform for everyone in Hong Kong and around the world to rethink and re-strategize the future of heritage.’ In his keynote speech, Mr Feng Jing remarked,
"In recent decades, urban heritage has become increasingly under threat due to a variety of pressures. This not only affects the built fabric of historic cities, but also its intangible dimensions. Across the region, the winning projects from the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation have been instrumental in changing the discourse about how cultural heritage contributes to the sustainable well-being of cities, societies and the environment…By actively engaging public, private and civic sectors the city, historic and contemporary, can be better preserved and celebrated."
Injecting Innovative Elements to Enable Historic Buildings to Align with Contemporary Cultural Trends
Mr Jeff Tung, Head of Special Projects, New World Development, took the occasion to provide an update on the conservation project of the State Theatre, a Grade I historic building in North Point. Noting the rarity of old theatres in Hong Kong, the State Theatre, a former hub for Chinese and Western cultures, is being transformed into a new cultural landmark, with the theatre itself being converted into a venue for artistic performances.
Geoff Rich, Partner, FCB Studios, shared the conservation project of the East Court of Alexandra Palace in London. Its East Wing Restoration Project, involving the reopening of a historic theatre, was bestowed with a National Award at the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Awards, in 2019.
Ms Tan Huey Jiun, Director in Conservation Planning of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore, introduced her country’s heritage preservation approach and shared how the Singapore Government preserved the 90-year-old Capitol Theatre using technological innovations. Ms Tan discussed how Singapore aims to strike a balance between development and conservation; embraces opportunities for public-private partnership; and believes that heritage buildings can remain culturally relevant while providing lasting value for the wider community.
Professor Jie Zhang, of the School of Architecture, Tsinghua University, introduced participants of the symposium to the conservation project of the Jingdezhen Ceramic Industry Museum, at Jingdezhen, China. The project transformed the 1950s Cosmic Porcelain Factory into a museum and mixed-use facility showcasing Jingdezhen’s global renown as a ceramic production center, and creating innovative opportunities for the public to interact with the famous ceramic production facilities. The project has received an Award for ‘New Design in Heritage Contexts’ by the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation, in 2017.
The Symposium concluded with a panel discussion moderated by Ms Linda Shetabi, Lecturer in the MSc Conservation Programme at the University of Hong Kong, in which panelists shared their thoughts on what ‘sustainability’ meant to them and to their heritage practices.