Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bloodsport - Jean Claude Van Damme (1987) - Marine Police HQ, Tsim Sha Tsui

For me, this is one of the most interesting (from a documentary point of view) pieces of HK caught on the film. The shot begins with a nice look over to Causeway Bay in the distance (check out the SOGO sign) and then pans down and left as the camera captures some seafront development in TST before ending pointing down at the car park in front of the Marine Police HQ. Actually, I look at this scene with a tinge of sadness for two reasons: it shows two key pints of redevelopment in TST which I feel should have never happened.


This first section shows us a few things, from the quarrying on the side of Mt Butler (top left), to the SOGO store in Causeway Bay as well as the 1987 waterfront along that section of the island. Look closely and you will see the Excelsior Hotel, Kellet Island Yacht Club, and a small box which marks the area where the cross-harbour tunnel sinks into the water. Of course, this area is still undergoing major works as the 'final' section of harbour reclamation is completed.

As we scroll down we see a load of construction work going on in the lower Kowloon-side part of the scene. I was scratching my head on this one until I realised that what we are looking at is the construction of the HK Cultural Centre along TST waterfront. Yes, that windowless cream-tiled abomination that looked out-of-date the minute it was completed. Remember that to make way for this, a very beautiful and elegant historical train station was torn down (its only remnant being the famous TST clocktower). Well, that was the first piece of regrettable development. The second can be seen as the camera continues to pan down.


The sad thing about the second part of this scene is that everything you can see, other than the front portion of the Marine Police HQ building, has gone! When Cheung Kong got hold of the tender to redevelop this building they decided to completely excavate the whole front portion of the hill so they could put in a concrete and marble lined plaza surrounded by high-end jewelry stores. It may provide a great photo opportunity for camera wielding tourists but its turned a pleasant, quiet tree-shaded area into a barren glitzy excuse to charge high rents to another big high-end chain store :-(

Thankfully, the Marine Police HQ building itself is a protected monument (although I doubt the penalty for "accidentally" demolishing one wouldn't be very high).

5 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more on both points. I was just reminiscing about this elsewhere yesterday. One of my childhood memories is sitting on the roof of the old YMCA building, eating a bowl of noodles from the snack bar, and watching the last of the harbor view from the Y's roof disappearing behind the ugly ski ramp.

    I wholeheartedly look forward to the day that monstrosity is torn down. The best viewing point in town bar none, and they put a building with no windows there. It was ridiculous at the time, and it's ridiculous decades later.

    Sadly I have a feeling the Cultural Canker will outlive me.

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    1. Being a Coventry lad, I 'm used to seeing brutal out-of-place architecture, but this takes it to a whole new level.

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  2. It's funny (weird and sad but also just plain amusing) how so many buildings that used to be by the water in Hong Kong are landlocked. I think in particular of the many Tin Hau temples, including the ones at, well, Tin Hau and Temple Street...

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    1. Indeed Yvonne. Some areas I guess are famous for being extensively reclaimed I.e Central waterfront. But others only hinted at by older buildings and even street names (I'm thinking Reclamation St and Ferry St). I guess it all adds colour to the history of the place.

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  3. I was shocked and saddened when I walked past the construction site and saw trees on top of giant concrete columns while the hill was being razed. I cannot understand why the building won preservation awards -- it is of the same nature of Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize! Renaming the building with an irrelevant year of 1881 (because it sounds better than 1884) shows much disrespect to history. Imagine how much better the hotel would be if the hill with all its trees and the tranquility of the surroundings were preserved.

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