Playground for All

Markets have played a vital social and economic role in villages, towns and cities for centuries; however the last fifty years have severely challenged their relevance. Transformations in retail habits, from our adoption of supermarkets to the rapid embrace of e-commerce, have emptied many of these important bazaars and turned them into centrally located but derelict vacuums.

The tail end of the 20th century saw many major changes to Hong Kong’s Central district, the greatest of which were the arrival of major commercial office developments and departure of residential buildings into Mid-Levels. This left the Central Market under-utilized to the point of closure in 2003, when it was and converted to serve as a link to the mid-level escalator system.

But now, 18 years on, the Urban Renewal Authority, recognizing the significance of this loss to the community, has appointed Chinachem to spearhead the pioneering regeneration of this 12,000sqm, three level, Bauhaus influenced landmark.

Whilst being of historical significance, and already Grade 3 listed, it was very clear to all involved, that preservation would be meaningless if the issue of relevance was overlooked. The project’s designers, Benjamin Lam and Kin Cheong, Co-Founder/Director of Shadow Design, described the brief set by fellow architect and CEO, Donald Choi,
When Donald first came to us, he immediately questioned why we would still need to define the Market as retail space.  So, we came back and said we must break all these boundaries between retail, shopping, eating and entertainment.  Even education and cultural.  And this became the base idea for how we started planning this place. 
Kin Cheong, Partner, Shadow Design

Bathed in natural light

  • An oasis in the city

  • Contemporary design inspired by the past

Rejecting typical department store or mall zoning, the partners have created a flowing, boundaryless space that encourages free movement within. In this way, it’s the users and their circulation that define the spaces, not the walls, walkways and corridors typical of 20th century retail. The new Central Market will be a vibrant and diverse hub within a densely commercial neighborhood.

Blending traditional Hong Kong fast food with innovative new drinking and dining concepts, seasonal retail that showcases small and emerging brands, green spaces for relaxation and congregation, and flexible venues for entertainment and education; all of the Market’s myriad activities have as their backdrop the stunningly restored, original, geometric architecture from the 1930’s.

Chinachem’s goal for this reimagination of the Central Market is for a space that changes and develops over time, reflecting the evolving desires and interests of its diverse users.

“We want it to become a transition place for everyday life” explains architect Benjamin Lam. “That’s why inside it’s very flexible. This whole idea goes back to the idea of place-making. We’ve got used to the idea in retail that if you’re not buying, you’re not welcome. Here at Central Market, the idea is totally different. Everyone is welcome, it’s a community space. We want people to take their time, to meet, to eat, to watch performances, relax, shop, do some work, or simply do nothing.”

Central Market has reopened its doors to the public and you can visit it online at www.centralmarket.hk

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