Textile: TECHSTYLE

南豐紗廠的傳承與歷史

Ray Zee 徐莊德

南豐紗廠一直致力於將人們聚集在一起。在活化 過程,保留了紗廠特色,例如 : 紡織機 , 舊式鐵窗 等等 , 讓市民參觀時感受香港紡織業的歷史。南豐 紗廠見證了 1960 年代的香港製造業鼎盛時期,現 在以活化建築形式繼承了這一遺產。 參觀者可以 探索真實的香港故事的連續性,紡織和工業主題融 入創新、文化和學習體驗。 從設計的角度來看, 我們尋求的不是改變它,而是調整它,使其更符合 當今的挑戰; 經典的迭代,但具有現代感。


The Mills has always been about bringing people together. Nan Fung Group, founded in 1954, had its beginnings in textiles. At one point, it had some 30 buildings in the Tsuen Wan area producing garment-related products. As the group transitioned into real estate, these buildings were either redeveloped or converted to other uses. In 2013, Vanessa Cheung, granddaughter of the founder, saved three of these buildings that would otherwise have been demolished and repurposed them in a new direction centred on sustainability.

As Nan Fung’s in-house design team, we were given the task of consolidating the new user requirements in an integrated design. The new complex would have three programmatic pillars: a shopping floor component, a museum/heritage space and Fabrica, an incubator startup space for sustainable textile-related projects, all occupying the cent red framework of the existing columns, beams and floors of what is now called The Mills.

A key goal was to conserve, preserve and enhance the buildings’ historical structures, showcasing their architectural qualities while inserting new elements that supported the new uses and defined its new identity. Another goal was to connect the Tsuen Wan community to its industrial roots by providing a public front, accessible open spaces and a large gathering hall at the heart of The Mills. That called for developing programmatic spaces where creative talents, ecosystem players, textile industry partners, start-ups, and community partners could gather to create an incubation ‘techstyle’ hub.

Most important to us were the heritage values and the spirit of place. The Mills’ buildings, as archetypal pieces of modern Hong Kong industrial architecture, were a part of Hong Kong’s industrial legacy. They also form a vivid part of the collective memory of many older people. Previously, finding ways of connecting such sites to the present day has not led to major conservation projects in Hong Kong. The Mills, however, with its convergence of innovation, production and entrepreneurship, had the potential to capture a broad-based, self-sustainable programmatic model, not only through the conservation of its architecture, but also through offering a dialogue between past, present and future

We decided to maintain the collective memory of the old factory buildings by keeping recognisable elements of their architecture. Retaining their overall mass and envelope allowed conservation of resources and preserved the integrity of the original structures. Offsetting this, the introduction of new fenestrations and visual transparency opened the way for the building’s new identity. The new elements utilised familiar materials such as steel and glass while forming clear transitions between structures. One of our design tenets was ‘old as old, and new as new’.

Guiding methodology

Various of The Mills’ main architectural elements required their own special methodologies.

1. Concrete structure. The building’s structural frame was left in place with minimal intervention. Since the original structure needed to be strengthened to handle the increased public gathering spaces, its existing concrete columns were ‘married’ with steel members that complemented the design. Original painted surfaces were retained and protected.

2. Signage. Among the building’s characterdefining elements were exterior red mosaic signage and interior stenciled signage as had typically been used in older factory buildings in Hong Kong. Only one piece of signage was not kept due to have suffered irreversible deterioration. Instead, it was surveyed, documented and reconstructed by skilled craftspeople. For the Chinese characters in the building, an old stencil master was commissioned to recreate a periodcorrect font for all new signage words needed.

3. Window frames. The building’s original steel window frames had deteriorated beyond salvage and so needed to be replaced. Specially built steel frames that replicated the original design and character of the building were installed in their place.

4. Window panes. As many of the original glass panes used in the windows were substandard, they were replaced with laminated glass. Panes in a better condition were salvaged and re-used in new wayfinding signage.

5. Timber doors and metal gates. Many of the building’s original doors and gates were salvaged and repurposed as memorabilia or visual markers. One set of metal gates was made into a backdrop for The Mills’ reception desk, while various of the wooden doors were recycled into benches and signage posts in public areas.

6. Paint. A characteristic feature of the original factory building, also found in many other similar buildings of the same era, was the green paint used on the lower areas of walls and columns. While wanting to keep as much of this as possible, we also knew there would be continued wear and tear. Wherever possible, we applied a transparent protective coating to protect the original paint from further deterioration.

Prior to construction, the building complex and its structure was thoroughly surveyed. We found that in some areas the reinforced concrete suffered from spalling. We devised a way of re-patching such areas to make them safe.

Once we had come up with our design tenet of marrying present day technology to the existing historical fabric, we set about using it to solve every design problem we found ourselves facing, including to guide our selection of materials and building techniques. While the existing buildings appear to have remained visually unchanged on the site, new design elements were inserted with scalpel incisions. So while from a distance the building may have appeared the same as before, up close you can see subtle changes that make possible the programmatic changes in the building’s function.

The result was an homage to the past that is also a purpose-designed building of the present.

New spaces

The revitalisation project led to the creation of a series of new spaces, most notably:

    1. The Hall. This three-storey high-volume, air-conditioned, public-gathering space situated at the entrance is our ‘cathedral to textiles’. It is an ideal venue for public events such as performances, exhibitions and workshops.

    2. The Park. This previously inaccessible maintenance rooftop space has been converted into one of the more friendly green public spaces in Tsuen Wan. A public art piece titled ‘Wavy Weaving Wall’ documents the neighbourhood’s local textile industrial history using oral histories of community members.

    3. The Deck. A rooftop with an urban farm where visitors and tenants can connect with nature. Accessible and open to everyone.

    4. The Mills Shopfloor. An intimate atrium space with seating areas for the public.

    5. The Mills Fabrica. Located in the previously

windowless production floor, this space was redesigned with an exterior curtain wall that allows natural lighting to flood the premises, so minimising the need for artificial lighting and so reducing energy consumption. Solar heat gain due to increased transparency is mitigated by the natural shade of taller neighbouring buildings and recessed balconies that reduce the amount of glass surface exposed to the sun.

At that biennale, in the deliberation of design options for Central Market or the on-going design development for Oi!, through the urban processes of exploration and participation to shape better public spaces, has our city been able to generate more consensus to counter or renegotiate the government’s procedural rationality? Certainly, we know we should be ready to state clearly that what Hong Kong needs are not more iconic landmarks but public spaces with both urban visions and urban memories, spaces that welcome everyone to take part as stake holders in a world-class city and civic society

Other features include a staircase fully preserved in its original form so allowing visitors to experience the once heavily circulated stairwell used by the factory workers and the introduction of curtain-wall glazing and skylights at public gathering places that allows natural light to penetrate the deep floor plates. This both highlights the long span structure of the factory buildings and brings new life to once closed off interior areas.

Throughout the conservation process, the design, survey, documentation, conservation and construction teams worked hand-in-hand to ensure that all historical elements were surveyed and documented in detail and the integrity of the building structure was kept intact.

We believe the renovation and refurbishment both shows our care and attention to detail and has proved a successful execution and marriage of old and new elements. Beyond this, we also hope The Mills can set an example for how non-graded historical structures can gain significance through a well-executed adaptive reuse effort.

Since its completion, The Mills has become an alternative centre for the surrounding neighbourhood. The various programmes on offer have brought different generations and work forces together. Opportunities to co-learn and co-create are made possible through a knowledge-sharing platform and other projects that attract different stakeholders. Startups have been able to take advantage of the knowledge base and communities formed around Fabrica and Shopfloor businesses, and local and foreign artists have participated in exhibitions and artist-in-residence programmes. Members of the public, regardless of age, can now meet at The Mills, learn about its historical significance, join workshops and exhibitions and enjoy the site’s architectural features, public spaces and other attractions. With the opening of the Pak Tin Par lane passageway, the public can benefit from the connectivity provided between Tsuen Wan’s industrial and residential districts.

The Mills’ three pillars provide a clear, programmatic path for users and public that can make the project sustainable in the long run. We believe the result is not a face-lift, but a new typology that can be employed elsewhere in Hong Kong as well as for the Tsuen Wan community. The Mills you see today is another chapter in the history of the Nan Fung family. As an architect, I see its Textile-to-Techstyle story as a tale of continuing transformation. With proper care, this project can prove itself the beginning for other new schemes. I hope The Mills will continue to bring people and the neighbourhood together

Ray Zee is the chief designer at Nan Fung.
徐莊德是南豐集團首席設計師。

Nan Fung Mill 1 factory building at 9 1/2 Milestone, 1970s

The Mills Shop exploded isometric

The Hall internal elevation

 View along triple height HALL

View of link bridges at covered entrance

Stairwell with original green paint

Revitalised alleyway with outdoor mural artworks