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Structural Wall of Hong Kong Arts Complex Collapses, Raising Safety Concerns Among Public

A wall forming a major structural portion of Hong Kong’s Tai Kwun arts and leisure complex collapsed on May 29 during renovations of a former cluster of government buildings, according to the editors at ArtAsiaPacific. The wall that gave way wrecked one of the historic compound’s sixteen buildings, and a search was carried out for people who may have been trapped in the debris following the collapse. It has since been confirmed that the structure was empty when it fell and no injuries were reported.

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The accident occurred in the married inspectors’ quarters which, along with the former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy, and Victoria Prison, make up the forthcoming Tai Kwun complex that has been undergoing a costly renovation led by the Hong Kong Jockey Club since 2006. Though it was originally slated to open in late 2016, its debut has since been pushed back to 2017. Sometimes also referred to as the Central Police Station Compound, it is meant to serve as a culture, leisure, and arts hub and will include two new towers designed by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron.

Originally built between 1862 and 1864, the married inspectors’ quarters are among the oldest sections of the site. Architectural conservation scholar Lee Ho-yin—who works at the University of Hong Kong and is a former member of the project’s heritage working group—has publicly acknowledged in the South China Morning Post that structural weakness in the building and substandard construction had been flagged prior to this incident. A spokesman for the Hong Kong Jockey Club said in the same article that steps to strengthen the edifice were initiated before the collapse and would continue.

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This incident at Tai Kwun raises further concerns amid the construction delays of another arts complex, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, which is to include the M+ museum currently scheduled to open in 2019. The Central and Western district council is investigating the Tai Kwun building’s renovation and will meet with the Hong Kong Jockey Club as well as the Antiquities and Monuments Office and the Architectural Services Department to review standards of repair work being carried out there going forward. Then again, whether information concerning the complex’s development will be made more accessible to the public in the aftermath of this incident remains to be seen.