Trajectory of architecture in time space continuum : Bishop Hill Reservoir

建築在時空下的軌跡 : 主教山配水庫

Justin Law 羅晉偉 (Honorable Mention)

The Proposal
The demolition work in December 2020 revealed an impressive cistern structure immersed underground, pronounced by a regular grid of granite pillars and red brick arches with concrete vaulted ceiling. The historic beauty of this hidden space immediately sparked public concern on the preservation of this cistern heritage, which has been functioning as a reservoir for more than a century.

The inspiration of my proposal began with its accidental exposure. The design plays with the possibility of how the public will find the same encountering experience in this hidden gem and how a sensible scale of intervention can unfold the time of the space.

Unlike most of the listed historic buildings in our city, the trajectory that the cistern has taken is a long journey mostly in solitary oblivion. Not until the demolition began, it has very little human interaction. Its memory has been filled with water and preserved in darkness for many years. Therefore, the concept started with a simple idea, bringing water back to the cistern, to become the medium to experience the space.

SUNRISE 6:50am
The sun’s rising, or at least it seems like it is. Walking up Bishop Hill through the morning fog, you would discover a vast open space surrounded by trees. The awakening city is obscured from this elevated ground. Up here it is quiet and peaceful. Gentle ramps descending through the demolished opening makes you aware of the slow and almost imperceptible transformations of the environment, both built and natural.

A series of ring-shaped walkways offsetting from the centre is designed to resonate the circular structure, and allow visitors to truly appreciate the order and different perspectives of the space by walking in a circular direction.

The structure of walkways is partially suspended from the metal arch frames, which are at the same time reinforcements to the existing structure. When the water level is low enough, one could descend to the bottom of this seven-metre tall cistern. Hollow fibreglass structure is integrated with the bottom part of the walkway to provide buoyancy when it is immersed in the water. The walkways are flexible enough to adjust the height with the changing water level. When it is high enough, one could have a closer look at the red brick arches.

The subterranean cistern is brought into life again as it has been a hundred years ago, but this time, it is with people as its audience.

Time space continuum
The curiosity of searching for similar types of hidden gems in our city suddenly sparked in the public. The existence of pure architecture without ‘purpose’ and uninhabited by humans, is gaining a grip in Hong Konger’s heart. In fact, every building in our city, no matter old or new, unseen or occupied, undergoes repeated cycles of aggregation and dispersion. In this sense, our city is actually a temporary cradle amid a vast time space continuum, one in which countless people are constantly appearing and disappearing, and certain parts of our city are remembered and forgotten.

For this cistern, the design aims to add materials of light and shadow, reflection, and refraction, see and being seen, turning this beautiful edifice into a timepiece that charts the passage in the days and nights. It is about reframing the subtlety in our everyday life and allowing us to slow down and appreciate this hidden gem at the heart of the city.

Through design intervention, it should be possible to create collective memories that belong to all of us and be able to experience together within that continuum.

Justin Law is an architect at Atelier Global Limited.