Nos. 600-626 Shanghai Street

Nos. 600-626 Shanghai Street

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Nos. 600-626 Shanghai Street, or more specifically Nos. 600, 602, 604, 606, 612, 614, 620, 622, 624 and 626, is a group of ten pre-war shophouse
Shophouse
A shophouse is a vernacular architectural building type that is commonly seen in areas such as urban Southeast Asia. This hybrid building form characterises the historical centres of most towns and cities in the region.- Design and features :...

s (tong-lau
Tong Lau
Tong Lau or Kee-lau are tenement buildings built in late 19th century to the 1960s in Hong Kong, Macau, southern China and Taiwan...

) in the Mong Kok
Mong Kok
Mong Kok , less often known as Argyle , is an area in the Yau Tsim Mong District on Kowloon Peninsula, Hong Kong...

 section of Shanghai Street
Shanghai Street
Shanghai Street is a 2.3 km long street in the Jordan, Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok areas of Kowloon, Hong Kong. Completed in 1887 under the name of Station Street , it was once the most prosperous street in Kowloon. It originates from the south at Austin Road, and terminates in the north at Lai...

, in Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

, that have been listed as Grade I historical buildings for their historical value.

Background


Shophouses in Hong Kong and southern China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 are commonly known as tong-lau
Tong Lau
Tong Lau or Kee-lau are tenement buildings built in late 19th century to the 1960s in Hong Kong, Macau, southern China and Taiwan...

(唐樓) or kee-lau (騎樓). They were usually built in contiguous blocks and range from 3 to 5 storeys with verandah
Verandah
A veranda or verandah is a roofed opened gallery or porch. It is also described as an open pillared gallery, generally roofed, built around a central structure...

s or balconies facing the street. Shophouses were used for both commercial and residential purposes. This is an important symbolization of the livelihood of local hongkongers in the old days. While people nowadays tend to step out far away from home to earn a living like travel to work everyday by MTR
MTR
Mass Transit Railway is the rapid transit railway system in Hong Kong. Originally opened in 1979, the system now includes 211.6 km of rail with 155 stations, including 86 railway stations and 69 light rail stops...

 or even travel to mainland China everyday to work there, old Hong Kong people tend to make the best use of the place they live to earn a living, making them a very active member of their own residential community. The ground floor was usually devoted to family businesses like small stores and clothes selling while the upper floors were for residential purpose with sub-tenancy and renting of beds. In Hong Kong, this kind of building is being replaced by high-rise buildings and the number of shophouses has declined sharply in recent years.

History of shophouses


Shophouses were mainly occupied by Chinese and predominantly seen all over southern Chinese cities and town in the 19th century. There were various reasons for the existence of tong lau in Hong Kong, which including economic development of Hong Kong, Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and also the influx of Chinese migrants to Hong Kong.

In 1898, the government introduced the building and public health ordinance which defined all the buildings including tong lau. In 1903, the government introduced a maximum height per storey of 9 feet (2.7 m), with a four storey limit. This explains the general appearance of tong lau. Yet, the ordinance changed in 1964, so no tong lau were built from then on.

These 10 shophouses in Shanghai Street are believed to have been built in the 1920s and 1930s, which are typical of an old commercial street. These typical shophouses are composed of shops on the ground floor which open up to a public arcade or "five-foot way", and low-rented residential accommodations upstairs. Shops like selling furnishings, building construction materials (such as window frames, curtains, paint and hardware), traditional Chinese utensils, ceremonial items, traditional Chinese wedding gowns, grocery, snake soup as well as traditional Nepalese snacks can be found in Shanghai Street.
There are lines of stores filled with Chinese and Western household kitchen tools as well as products that can kit out even an entire restaurant. These kitchen products, which include mixers, grinders, gas rings, cleavers, various chopping boards, racks, steamer trays what not, are usually sold by specialist merchants.
Although a majority of products on sale at many shops along Shanghai Street display price tags, they are not fix-rated, giving the consumers the opportunity to use their bargaining skills.
Nowadays, Nos. 600–606, 612–614 and 620–626 are retained as pre-World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 structures with some recent buildings erected in between. And, it is believed that Nos. 620 – 626 are the oldest buildings among them. In view of their historical and architectural merit, the Shanghai Street shophouses were classified as a Grade I historical buildings by the Antiquities Advisory Board
Antiquities Advisory Board
The Antiquities Advisory Board is a statutory body of the Government of Hong Kong created in 1976 to evaluate old buildings in Hong Kong, and to recommend those with historical or architectural merit for listing as monuments. It is under the responsibility of the Home Affairs Bureau, directly...

 since 2000.

As part of Hong Kong's living heritage, those shop houses are still functional in their communities and play important roles in the lives of local people. In recent years, residents and individuals have refurbished some shophouses and converted them into restaurants, shops or artists’ interaction center like Shanghai Street Artspace project managed by the Department of Creative Arts of the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd)
Hong Kong Institute of Education
The Hong Kong Institute of Education is one of eight subsidised tertiary institutes under the University Grants Committee of Hong Kong. It is the only one dedicated to teacher education....

 aiming to explore, develop and learn from the artistic culture of Yau Ma Tei
Yau Ma Tei
Yau Ma Tei, also known as Waterloo , is an area in the Yau Tsim Mong District in the south of the Kowloon Peninsula in Hong Kong.-Name:Yau Ma Tei is a phonetic transliteration of the name 油麻地 in Cantonese...

.

External


Chinese tenement buildings in Shanghai Street are good examples of typical shophouses of pre-World War II times. The shophouses combined Chinese and Western architectural features. The Chinese component was based on building design from southern China, mainly in Guangdong Province
Guangdong
Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...

. European influences were usually Neoclassical
Neoclassical architecture
Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing...

.

Building in contiguous blocks in elongated layout, the narrow frontage is one of the characteristics of tong-lau. Shophouses in Shanghai Street are basically three storeys high, but additional accommodation built on the roofs makes them make them look like four-storey building. They are classified as "Verandah Type" shophouses because they have verandah
Verandah
A veranda or verandah is a roofed opened gallery or porch. It is also described as an open pillared gallery, generally roofed, built around a central structure...

s at each floor level facing the street, which is now enclosed with glazing. The verandahs are supported by columns and project over the pavement, forming an arcade for pedestrians. This type of development is now obsolete as it was discontinued after the Second World War.

There is not much decoration on the facade of the shophouses. Only moulded capitals to the columns and lozenge shaped grille blocks forming balustrades to the verandahs exists in some of some of the shophouses.

Internal


Internally, mezzanine
Mezzanine (architecture)
In architecture, a mezzanine or entresol is an intermediate floor between main floors of a building, and therefore typically not counted among the overall floors of a building. Often, a mezzanine is low-ceilinged and projects in the form of a balcony. The term is also used for the lowest balcony in...

 floors and cocklofts are constructed to form extra bed spaces compounding the overcrowding problem. There are no toilets or bathrooms, all ablutions had to perform in the kitchens at the rear.

The architectural characteristics of shophouses can reflect the live of the middle class, which is the majority of the society at that time during the post-war period. Architectural features such as concrete railings, and external renderings, using Shanghai plaster, were expensive to do at that time.

Social value


In spite of the dilapidated condition and various alterations and refurbishment works, the shophouses are very good and fairly authentic examples of typical shophouses of the pre-war period. It is because almost all their original building materials and decorations are preserved.

Verandah type shophouses are now rare in Hong Kong due to the prohibition of arcades under the building ordinances in the 1960s. Therefore, shophouses have considerable built heritage value as well as social value and local interest.

Neighbouring historic buildings


The Shanghai Street shophouses are geographically close to a number of historic buildings, namely Lui Seng Chun
Lui Seng Chun
Lui Seng Chun is a Grade I Historic Building located at 119 Lai Chi Kok Road, in Mong Kok, Hong Kong, at the junction with Tong Mi Road. It is a 4-storey tong-lau that was built in 1931 by Mr. Lui Leung. The architect was Mr. W. H. Bourne.-Historical background:Mr...

 (Grade I), Old Kowloon Police Headquarters (舊九龍警察總部, Grade III), Shui Yuet Temple (水月宮, Grade III), All Saints' Church (諸聖堂, Grade III), and the shophouses at Nos. 190, 192, 194, 196, 198, 200, 202, 204, 210, 212 Prince Edward Road West
Prince Edward Road
Prince Edward Road East and Prince Edward Road West are roads in Kowloon, Hong Kong, going in an east-west direction and linking Tai Kok Tsui, Mong Kok, Kowloon Tong, Kowloon City and San Po Kong ....

 (not yet graded).

Preservation


In September, 2008, the Urban Renewal Authority
Urban Renewal Authority
The Urban Renewal Authority is a statutory body in Hong Kong responsible for accelerating redevelopment to provide a better living environment and neighbourhood.-History:...

 (URA) announced two heritage conservation plans, which proposed to preserve the ten blocks of pre-war shophouses on Shanghai Street in Mong Kok and ten other blocks on Prince Edward Road East
Prince Edward Road
Prince Edward Road East and Prince Edward Road West are roads in Kowloon, Hong Kong, going in an east-west direction and linking Tai Kok Tsui, Mong Kok, Kowloon Tong, Kowloon City and San Po Kong ....

. Four 1960s buildings which dissect the shophouse cluster in Shanghai Street are also included in the project. The Shanghai Street project covers
an area of about 1,128m2. The project aims to preserve and revitalise these shophouse clusters for commercial uses.

The projects, which costs HK$1.33 billion, is the largest single conservation initiative ever undertaken in Hong Kong. This conservation plan is the initiative of the expanded conservation strategy for 48 pre-war shophouses across Hong Kong.

The URA has two alternatives: to buy property rights of the shop houses and redevelop them into commercial or other uses; to re-zone them so as to limit the use of those shop houses for preservation purposes. Most of the cost, about $1.23 billion, would be spent on property acquisition and tenants' rehousing of the 73 households with 220 residents in the two sites' 24 buildings. The remaining one-tenth of the sum is used for renovation.

For shophouses in Shanghai Street, necessary building services such as lifts, fire escapes and disabled access for the shophouses would be built in the 1960s buildings. The exact usage of the revamped shophouses is not been determined and is open to any options. One of the tentative suggestions is to house low-priced restaurant so that the public will have opportunities to use the verandas. The proposed aim is transforming Shanghai Street into a popular food street, or directly translated from the Chinese as "Food Paradise".

In addition, the authority plans to reserve the shops upstairs for the arts community, such as bookstores and dance studios. The cluster of shophouses on Prince Edward Road East would be remained as a part of the flower market so that the thriving flower trade would not be disrupted.

The Prince Edward Road East project and the Shanghai Street project are expected to be completed by 2014 and 2015 respectively. But some people see problems with the URA’s plans: not so much capital a conservation strategy as an acquisition or buy-out of properties; elimination of Shanghai Street true character by removing the stores and residents.