Heritage Preservation in Kyoto VS. Hong Kong
Kyoto, which has the most “stringent” city’s law on architectural heritage in the world, has successfully preserved the Japanese capital of Heian-kyo built 1,220 years ago. In contrast, Hong Kong is rapidly loosing its historical heritages and “historical ambience”. What is the reason behind the differences between the two cities and can Hong Kong learn the lesson from Kyoto?
Whether historical building saleable or not, is one of the big difference between Kyoto and Hong Kong. South China Morning Post stated that “In Hong Kong, private owners of graded historic buildings may apply for maintenance grants of up to HK $1 million. But Kyoto does not buy private buildings in order to preserve them.” Recently, Hong Kong has already lost the famed Ho Tung Garden due to disagreement between the building’s owner and the government.
A proactive government that learns its lesson is another factor to the success of preservation. Kyoto has no difference from other cities that it has gone through struggles between heritage conservation and urban development. The 131-metre Kyoto tower built in 1964 and the massive Kyoto Station construction along with department store and hotel have once been criticized for destroying the city’s “historic ambience”. Therefore the Kyoto authorities have announced seven years ago to lower all building height and imposed different restrictions. However, take Kowloon City has an example of Hong Kong, many old low-rise Tong Lou has become high-rise pencil towers. Professor Ho Puay-peng, the board member and director of the Centre for Achitectural Heritage Research at Chinese University of Hong Kong said, he is saddened whenever he sees the Kowloon City area is destroyed because of the high-rise pencil towers.
Can Kyoto’s approach to preservation be implemented in Hong Kong? Kazuhiro Yamamoto, chief of Kyoto city government’s landscape policy section, doubts the possibility that the Kyoto’s strategies work anywhere else. The strict building codes are very site specific to the Kyoto city. However, this case study already can rise the discussion on whether Hong Kong’s building codes and policies for heritage preservation should be revised.
Fung, Y.W. Fanny. “Lessons from Kyoto on Preserving Hong Kong’s Architectural Heritage.” SCMP. South China Morning Post, 29 July 2014. Web. Dec.-Jan. 2015. <http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1561314/lessons-kyoto-preserving-hong-kongs-architectural-heritage>.