Reimagining Bishop Hill Underground Cistern


A Day of Flânerie at Bishop Hill


Samuel Wong 王守賢 (Winner)

2020 年香港建築師學會青年建築師獎 [YAA] 的舉辦旨在重新審視保護和活化問題。畢曉活化主教山配水庫提案旨在調查建築與自然之間的關係,以及基礎設施如何為公眾做出貢獻。得獎者王守賢建議帶人深入地下蓄水池。羅晉偉憑藉其作品《相遇》獲選為該獎項的榮譽獎。 林偉瀚因其提案“無用的價值”而入圍。

The HKIA Young Architect Award [YAA] 2020 explored the theme of heritage revitalization brought to light by the incident of the Bishop Hill Underground Cistern. The three selected schemes are lauded for their architectural imagination into the relationship between building and nature, how infrastructure contributed to urban life, and how the general public can interact with such a forgotten heritage. Samuel Wong (winner) brought flâneurie deep into the subterranean cistern; Justin Law (honorable mention) imagined playful “encountering”; Joshua Lam (shortlisted) emphasised the “value of uselessness”, speculating on reinventing heritage as archeology of the future. All three are architecture graduates of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

A Day of Flânerie at Bishop Hill is an architectural proposal to bring people on a day-tour deep into Bishop’s Hill to discover its secret gardens and rediscover its underground cistern. The tour aims at evoking visitors’ interests in conservation and preservation. In this context, preservation is not limited to the underground cistern but also the secret gardens built by local people and also those people’s daily activities.

This proposal starts by bringing visitors to a comprehensive hiking path built by local people. The secret gardens are then revealed one by one along the trail. Visitors are welcome to connect with local people by enjoying leisure activities such as ping pong, mahjong or exercising. The trail then brings visitors to the new entrance of the cistern, a new intervention that is proposed not to compete but to complement the hundred-year-old structure. To preserve the originality and authenticity of the existing cistern and to minimise damage to the existing structure, two openings have been introduced to provide access to visitors and also to allow wind into the cistern. The openings are carefully placed such that both the summer and winter wind can enter.

Water is re-introduced into the cistern, altering the humidity and atmosphere of the space at different times, weather and seasons. A footpath is made using weathering steel, a material that transcends time, supported on repurposed granite blocks taken from the demolished columns that allows visitors to experience the cistern on top of a thin layer of water.

The opening unfortunately created during the demolition is preserved and becomes a key feature of the scheme. It serves as a memorial of that event. In lieu of reinstating what was demolished, the scheme embraces the opportunity brought by this opening. As light shines on the granite columns for the first time in a hundred years, it transcends the physicality of the space and the atmosphere of the space changes permanently.

One can choose to sit and enjoy the atmosphere of the space, listening to the wind whistling through the entrance, looking at the rippling of the water as the wind gently brushes its surface, absorbing the echo orchestrated by the blowing wind and the rippling water, feeling the moisture evaporated by the heat from the light rays entering the space via the new skylight, appreciating the new life given to the brick arches and granite columns under natural light after a hundred years of darkness. Time becomes irrelevant in this place. One may wander in it for as long as one likes. It is a space without function, a space for inner peace, a void within an urban void.

Samuel Wong is the recipient of HKIA Young Architect Award 2020.
王守賢是香港建築師學會青年建築師獎 2020 得獎者。

Bishop Hill is the back garden for Sham Shui Po, Shek Kip Mei and Tai Hang Tung’s residents. The hill hides a lot of secret gardens that are built brick by brick by the locals. In combination with the hundred year-old underground cistern, Bishop Hill is truly an unique place in the heart of the city.
(Samuel Wong)

Appreciating the Cistern at 16:05.
(Samuel Wong)

The opening of demolition.
(Samuel Wong)