Bathing sheds in Hong Kong
Chris Ma Sin Cheung 馬善璋
The history of bathing sheds in Hong Kong can be traced back to the 18th century when the British Army first arrived in Hong Kong. They established the first ever bathing shed – The Victoria Bathing Shed – in Central. Operated by The Victoria Club Hong Kong, the bathing shed was mainly for the British Army and foreigners. Swim culture was then slowly integrated into Chinese society and became an important recreational activity in the 1920s. Bathing sheds were mainly located along the shoreline of Hong Kong Island such as North Point and Sheung Wan, in close proximity to the residential areas and tram stations. Many of the sheds had a viewing platform facing the sea, making them ideal for hosting large scale events such as the Dragon Boat Festival. Some companies provided bathing sheds exclusively for their staff, which reflected the importance and popularity of bathing sheds at that time.
The idea of going to a bathing shed became less popular in the 1970s when the Victoria Harbour became more polluted due to industrial development and land reclamation. As most of the bathing sheds were constructed with lightweight materials such as timber frame and timber pitch roof, they could not withstand strong waves and seasonal typhoons. Many bathing sheds had to be repaired or rebuilt regularly, leading to a high maintenance cost.
The design of bathing sheds have evolved to suit particular functions and environments. Presented here are some drawings of the unique arrangement of bathing sheds in Hong Kong.
* This research is supported and funded by the HKIA CPD Research Fund.
Fig.1 Entrance & Function
Fig.2 Covered Area
Fig.3 Touching the Water
Fig.4 Platform into the water
Fig.5 Section A-A
Ah Kung Ngan Bathing Shed (Concrete Option) (Credit: Chris Ma Sin Cheung)