History of Blue House
The Blue House is a four-storey Lingnan-style house built in the 1920s. The site used to be the first hospital in the district to provide traditional Chinese medical treatment to locals in late 19th century. In the 1950s and 1960s, Kung Fu master Wong Fei-hung’s student launched a Kung Fu studio here. The building is built with a mixture of Chinese and Western architectural features.
The distinctive blue colour was not a deliberate aesthetic decision – the decorators only had blue paint, so a blue house it became. (Hong Kong Tourism Board, 2017)
Blue House is a Grade I Listed historic building. Together with Yellow House which is Grade III listed and the Orange House form the Blue House Cluster to undergo the revitalisation project.
Community Designed Revitalisation Project
The Blue House Cluster Revitalisation Project “Viva Blue House” is the first project adopting the “Retain House and Tenant” approach in Hong Kong. However, this approach was not what the government originally proposed.
In March 2006, the Urban Renewal Authority announced the Blue House preservation project. The three buildings will be refurbished and become Chinese Tea and Chinese Medicine Museum. There were over 20 households living in the Blue House Cluster at that time. Residents was not provided the option to ‘stay’. All they could do was to negotiate for a higher compensation. However, most of them are elderlies and have been living there for decades. This proposal received comments criticising that the proposal is a ‘fake preservation’, since it is destroying the existing community and taking away residents’ family history and memories. (St James’ Settlement, 2007)
St. James’ Settlement (SJS) Community Development Services then collaborated with the Wan Chai District Council to organise workshops, exhibitions, residents’ meetings, community bazaars, etc. with the local community, surrounding shops, professionals and concerned academics. After half a year, the Blue House area community participatory preservation model was drafted.
2 years working on proposal and 2 more years fighting, we finally succeeded in 2010. (Y Chen, 2016)
Preservation Proposal (SJS, 2007)
- Adopt original use of the site as far as possible to avoid “mummification” of heritage.
- Build up a strong sense of local community and identity, in terms of geographical, sentimental and sociological function.
- Integration of community art and community culture into the project.
- Participatory bottom-up approach instead of the traditional top down strategy.
- Preserve the tangible cultural heritage, including the façade, interior structure, roof, floor, staircase, etc.
- Preserve the intangible cultural heritage, including stories, local culture, livelihood patterns, oral histories, vernacular cultural elements, etc.
- Avoid gentrification of residents and local businesses, avoid rapid business development which may affect the current local business,
- Establish local management committee to include local stakeholders, including residents, professionals, academics, artists, government officials and NGOs to develop the local community’s ownership of the project.
- Establish various forms of social enterprise to achieve social inclusion, community participation and community building
The spirit of Blue House is democracy. We hold meetings to decide everything together. No one can dominate. (Y Chen, 2016)
Community Cultural Concern (CCC). (2016). [Rehabilitation of Blue House] First “Retain House and Tenant” Project in Hong Kong – A Long Lesson Learnt with the Community. [online] Available at: https://communityculturalconcern.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/%E9%A6%99%E6%B8%AF01-%E3%80%90%E5%BE%A9%E4%BF%AE%E8%97%8D%E5%B1%8B%E3%80%91%E9%A6%99%E6%B8%AF%E9%A6%96%E9%A0%85%E7%95%99%E5%B1%8B%E7%95%99%E4%BA%BA%E4%BF%9D%E8%82%B2%E3%80%80%E4%B8%80%E6%AC%A1/ [Accessed 2 May 2017].
Discover Hong Kong. (2017). The Blue House | Hong Kong Tourism Board. [online] Available at: http://www.discoverhongkong.com/uk/see-do/culture-heritage/historical-sites/colonial/the-blue-house.jsp [Accessed 2 May 2017].
Google Cultural Institute. (2017). VIVA BLUE HOUSE & Hong Kong House of Stories – Google Arts & Culture. [online] Available at: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/u/0/exhibit/viva-blue-house-%C2%A0hong-kong-house-of-stories/dgIiRbp05DoTLA [Accessed 2 May 2017].
Sham, D. (2015). Heritage as Resistance: Preservation and Decolonization in Southeastern Asian Cities. Ph.D. Goldsmiths, University of London. [online] Available at: https://research.gold.ac.uk/12308/1/CUL_thesis_ShamDHM_2015.pdf [Accessed 2 May 2017].
St. Jame’s Settlement. (2017). Hong Kong House of Stories. [online] Available at: http://houseofstories.sjs.org.hk/ [Accessed 2 May 2017].
St. James’ Settlement Community Development Service. (2007). Proposing Community Heritage Preservation Model through the Blue House Project. [online] Available at: http://courses.washington.edu/quanzhou/pacrim/papers/HKHS-BlueHouse-130607-lowres-English.pdf [Accessed 2 May 2017].
Featured Image: Photo of Blue House Cluster (Google, 2017) (https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/u/0/exhibit/viva-blue-house-%C2%A0hong-kong-house-of-stories/dgIiRbp05DoTLA)
Figure 1: Blue House in 1950s (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-TYsuUUoOk0w/UgxhPL2GBGI/AAAAAAAAC_0/j-06xtRmCgw/s1600/Untitled-2.jpg)
Figure 2: Wooden stairs in Blue House (http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8523/8564658747_a49a91ab1d_c.jpg)
Figure 3: Blue House under maintenance work in 2017 (https://cdn.hk01.com/media/images/459212/xlarge/9a1fd3866df9606ed8db8216d12af04b.jpg)