Wednesday, September 13, 2006

From Middle Kingdom to Star Ferry Pier 從集古村到天星碼頭


From Middle Kingdom to Star Ferry Pier

Two months ago when I was taking a friend to the Ocean Park, I discovered that the famous "Middle Kingdom", the portion of the park that featured the re-creations of ancient China, was gone. The construction of some new feature programs targeting the mainland visitors was on the way. I remember the days when I visited the Ocean Park as a kid : the eye-catching ancient Chinese buildings with red walls and green roofs as well as the beautiful miniature garden in the Middle Kingdom were always very attractive and a big "wow!" to me, though I knew very well that they were just film-like "studio sets". Not surprising, as I set my eyes on the rubble of the demolished buildings, I did not really feel pity for it.

On the other side of the island, the old Star Ferry Pier which has been standing at the waterfront of the Central Hong Kong for nearly 50 years will soon be demolished. My parents used to take me for the ferry rides across the harbour when I was young, and I still do so from time to time when I need to travel between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. Like me, the pier and its clock tower are already a familiar sight to many Hong Kong citizens young and old. The mechanical clock of the tower, the only functioning one left in Hong Kong, was made by the same manufacturer that built the famous Big Ben of Westminster in London. The chime of the clock is actually quite beautiful, although for those who get so used to it may not feel anything special about it. As part of the reclamation project, the government had decided to relocate the ferry pier and to have the old pier building and its clock tower knock down. It was rather sad to hear the news, just like knowing that an old friend will soon be lost forever.

The main reason for deciding not to preserve the old pier building nor its clock tower by the government is that they are not old enough–at the age of 49, they are still 1 year short to meet the minimum requirement for being considered as local heritage or historical site, and rule is rule. I am no expert of architectural art, but still educated enough to know that the old Star Ferry Pier building is a classic and one of the few remaining examples of Modernist architecture (which emphasizes function, attempts to provide for specific needs rather than imitate nature) in Hong Kong. It has been standing in the heart of the city for half a century, and has certainly become part of the modern history of Hong Kong. Maybe when Modernism itself becomes history decades later, there will be no representative building of that period around, thanks to the stereotyped thinking of our present government. To consider whether an object is worth preserving, historical value, its uniqueness and representivity are not the only things that need to be taken into account There is also an significant element called the Collective Memory, the good and sweet time treasured and shared dearly by Hong Kong's civil society. The second half of the 20th century, especially the 60's and 70's, was the beginning of the era of Hong Kong's rapid economic growth, a time of which many Hong Kong citizens remembered dearly and well. If we have to pick an architectural style that can serve as the best reminder of this period, the Modernist Star Ferry building is obviously a much better candidate. It is very sad to see the destruction of such precious collective memory on the hands of the stubborn decision-makers.

On the other hand, the brand new Star Ferry Pier - a rather odd "historical" building in Victorian style - has just been completed as a replacement to the old one. The new pier is a theme park re-creation of a historical building of which most Hong Kong citizens have no memory, some fake antiques as unrealistic as the Middle Kingdom of the Ocean Park – and they don't even bother to imitate the details and the interior structure! Who will be really interested in such second-rate imitation with just a classical looking shell? Not the Hong Kong citizens, nor will the overseas visitors–they probably find the gateway of the Chinatown at home more interesting.

An experienced and visionary antique expert can see the value of a not-too-old but nevertheless unique and classic object, and will even start collecting it when the cost is still low. However, there are still someone that would prefer the gorgeous and brand new stage costume to the faded but finest antique silk embroidery passed down from grandma. The important value of antiquities comes from the real history behind them, and not the fake antique-looking decoration that being placed on them. I thought that is something simple enough for anyone to understand - maybe not so for the officers and experts in the urban planning and building departments.

從集古村到天星碼頭

早前陪朋友到久違了的海洋公園,看到公園內「集古村」的部份剛拆卸了,聽說是為了改建成另一些更吸引內地遊客的項目。以前到海洋公園遊玩,集古村內美輪美奐的中式古代亭台樓閣、紅牆綠瓦、假山流水,雖然明知都是「片場佈景」,但總教我有「嘩,好靚呀」的讚歎。現在看到拆卸後的滿地碎磚破瓦,反而沒有什麼感覺,半點可惜也沒有。

另一座落中區海傍差不多五十年的天星小輪碼頭,亦即將被拆卸。小時候習慣隨父母乘渡輪來往中環和尖沙咀,天星碼頭是經常出入之地。碼頭鐘樓上的是香港現存唯一的機械報時鐘,據說與倫敦的大笨鐘還是同廠的出品,鐘樓叮噹叮噹的報時音樂,其實頗悅耳,但習以為常之下,一直不覺有什麼特別。聽到政府因為中區填海而決意不會保留舊碼頭和鐘樓的消息時,就好像一位老朋友忽然要永別,心裡感到難過。

一直以來,政府不願保留舊天星碼頭的最大理據,是她不夠古老-還差一年才達到會被考慮保存的資格,所以按本子辦事。自問建築藝術的修養十分有限,但也知道舊天星碼頭是屬於香港已剩餘不多的現代主義建築風格的代表,屹立香港心臟地帶五十年,是香港近代歷史的一部份,幾十年後,當現代主義變為名副其實的古董時,因為政府僵化的決定,這段歷史時期的見證物,我們將會欠奉。一些事物是否值得保存,除了年代的久遠、其獨特的代表性,需要考慮的,還有市民大眾珍視的集體回憶。二十世紀的後半期六七十年代,正是香港經濟開始起飛的輝煌時代,如果要選定一種建築式樣來懷緬,現代主義的舊天星碼頭及鐘樓,明顯是更加恰當,是更能令香港人懷緬的時代的代表建築,決策者執意選擇將其拆卸,把大家的集體記憶抹掉,實在令人痛心。

另一方面,新的天星小輪碼頭亦剛建成,那是一座令人感到突兀的維多利亞時代風格的「古蹟」。新碼頭將一座大部份人沒有記憶的舊建築主題公園式地重現,這類「假歷史」景點,就如「集古村」般的不真實。再者,新碼頭徒有古典外觀,但卻連內涵都省掉,內部無論結構和材料,都懶得認真仿造。一座徒具外殼、純屬包裝的A貨假古蹟,不單本地人毫無感覺,外國遊客也未必有興趣,也許他們老家唐人街的牌樓,比這還有味道得多。

一件年代不太久遠但有獨特代表性的物品,精明的古董鑑賞家會看到它的潛在價值和升值能力,會趁低吸納;但有些人卻只會鍾情釘滿珠片、外觀耀目的新簇道具戲服,而對祖傳下來的退了色但手工精巧的真絲刺繡卻棄之如敝屣。古蹟的重要性,就是來自其真實的歷史,而不是虛構的包裝。這樣簡單的道理,負責城市規劃和建設的各位大人們專家們,難道都不懂?

1 comment:

Wingman said...

請大家支持一下。

維港兩岸的天星碼頭和鐘樓是港人廣泛認同的歷史地標,而且是至現時為止仍然風雨無間地服務市民,其價值非任何無緣無故走出來的海傍公園可代替。能夠保留與香港人息息相關的任何城市部分,是自稱文明先進的社會該具備的素質。然而目前為止,我們仍未見到政府拿出對天星碼頭起碼的重視,其政策方向也絲毫沒有展現對新舊社會融合發展的獨到遠見。

邀請你也為香港拼貼另一頁歷史,替香港人的回憶填補空白 - 在天星鐘樓前拍一張自拍照,或發掘一下收藏已久、有你以碼頭作為背景的珍貴舊照片,上載到www.ourstarferry.net ,與眾分享,也作為一個記認 - 支持政府及天星小輪公司保留維港兩岸的天星碼頭和鐘樓。