The Transition of Street and Architecture in Hong Kong

15 September 2022 by
Daisy Wong

The unique history of Hong Kong can be seen reflected in the architecture around the city. A mixture of traditional and modern, Chinese and British styles, contributes to defining the distinctive landscape that makes Hong Kong what it is today. Beautiful architecture is dotted throughout the city, and walking through the streets can every so often evoke a sense of what old Hong Kong would have been like. 

We thought it would be fun to compare photos of famous landmarks and streets in the city from now and the past, to see how much has actually changed. 

First up, is Hong Kong’s first road, built by the British between 1841-1843. Initially 6.4 kilometres long, a whole mixture of things lined the road, from squatter’s huts to military camps to taverns to churches, allowing for an eclectic mix of people to interact every day. Today, the road is split into four separate roads: Queen’s Road East, Queensway, Queen’s Road Central, and Queen’s Road West. 

Queen’s Road Central, Late 19th Century

Queen’s Road Central, Late 19th Century

Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai Section

Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai Section

Queen’s Road housed Hong Kong’s first Western-style department store, Sincere, which opened in 1900. Numerous types of businesses continued to establish themselves along the road. Today, Queen’s Road is home to department stores, restaurants, banks, entertainment centres and more.

Queen’s Road Central Queen’s Road Central

Hong Kong’s General Post Office (GPO) is another landmark that is a part of the city’s modern heritage. The GPO has been moved three times due to several land reclamations. From 1841-1846, it was located above St John’s Cathedral on Garden Road. Then, from 1846-1911, it moved to Queen’s Road Central. 

General Post Office, 1911
General Post Office, 1911

From 1911-1976, it occupied the site of what is now World Wide House. The post office on this site was regarded as Hong Kong’s ‘most beautiful building,’ by Joseph Ting, the former chief curator of the Hong Kong Museum of History.

Today, the GPO sits at 2 Connaught Place in Central. It was designed by K.M. Tseng in a modernist 70s architectural style. Built to accommodate Hong Kong’s then growing postal needs, it has served the city well since 1976, streamlining the postal service. It even has Hong Kong’s first central vacuum system built into the building.

Hong Kong General Post office, today Hong Kong General Post office, today

Another landmark that has been reshaped to fit Hong Kong’s ever-changing landscape is located right in the heart of Central. Victoria Prison, the Central Police Station and the Former Central Magistracy have all been redeveloped together to form what is now Tai Kwun - a centre for arts, shopping, and entertainment. 

The building complex consists of some of Hong Kong’s oldest surviving colonial buildings. Central Police Station was built in 1864, next to Victoria Prison which was built in 1841. The complex functioned as police headquarters, a dormitory and prison and formed an ‘integrated law enforcement system.’ 

The buildings’ heritage was officially recognised in 1995, when they were listed by the Hong Kong government as ‘declared monuments.’ 

Plans to revitalise the compound were announced in 2008, and in 2018 the Tai Kwun - Centre for Heritage and Arts opened to the public. In 2019, Tai Kwun received the Award of Excellence at the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

Here in Capture Hong Kong, we hope we could help you digitise your analogue media, so that you look back at the past via photographs and films. Streets and buildings change over the centuries, and we may miss many things unconsciously. We hope that while we live in the present, we can also value and remember the memories of the past. 

*This article is brought to you by Capture HK.

Capture HK is the premier analogue media digitisation company in Hong Kong.

Capture HK's business covers photographs, photo album digitisation, videotapes digitisation, including VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C, S-VHS-C Hi-8, Video8, Digital8, DV, DVCAM, MiniDV, DVC and digital media digitisation, including Secure Digital (SD), Smart Media (SM), MultiMediaCard (MMC) Compact Flash (CF), xD-Picture Card, Memory Stick, USB Drive, CDROM, DVD.

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