Mui Tsz Lam: Radical Renewal

Showcase / 2nd Quarter 2023

Mui Tsz Lam: Radical Renewal

by Thomas Chung

June 19, 2023

Mui Tsz Lam is a 20-minute uphill hike away from Lai Chi Wo. An unwalled 360-year-old hamlet predating its bigger neighbour, its two main rows of east-facing rowhouses are also backed by feng shui woods and fronted by rice paddy terraces that once extended all the way down to the coast. By the early 1980s, the last resident moved out. Soon after, the connecting path to Lai Chi Wo also became overgrown and inaccessible.

Witnessing Lai Chi Wo’s growing revival, returning Mui Tsz Lam villagers also wished for their own revitalisation. In 2020, The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s (CUHK) School of Architecture was invited to formulate Project Plum Grove to re-energise Mui Tsz Lam through artefact conservation and experimental restoration with the co-creation of returning villagers, volunteers and students, aiming to explore a participatory model in rural revitalisation.5 The two selected houses of different dwelling types are located at two ends of the village.

Old House is a north-facing three-bay mansion with a large, pitched roof and two lower wings extending out to form a three-sided light well. Mural House, near the village entrance, is a single-bay rowhouse with a colourful mural by a local artist on its front façade, depicting the village’s eponymous plum blossom and familiar birds. Both houses were half-buried with only wall fragments remaining, thus necessitating substantial site clearance before restoration.

With Mui Tsz Lam’s remoteness, the project embraced reuse of in-situ materials while employing removable lightweight scaffolding with timber-bamboo panelling as new additions. Broken roof tiles, salvaged blue bricks and stone paving were upcycled as new ground paving and retaining walls.

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Thomas Chung is Associate Professor at the School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is an international award-winning architect who graduated from the University of Cambridge. Chung has been active in curating, exhibiting and steering the HK-SZ Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture UABB since 2008. His award-wining projects Value Farm (2013) and Floating Fields (2015) fuse ecological design with socially innovative public space. Chung’s current research interests include countryside conservation projects, co-creative rural place-making and learning for well-being. He leads a multidisciplinary team with expertise in architecture, anthropology, geography and life sciences, and is consolidating a research hub on countryside-city regeneration.

Related stories:

Architectural Restorations for Remote Countryside Regeneration in Hong Kong

Lai Chi Wo: Restorative Reuse

Kuk Po: Resilient Regeneration

Read more stories from FuturArc 2Q 2023: Old is Gold!


5 Project Plum Grove: Revitalising Mui Tsz Lam with Experimental Restorations is a built heritage restoration supported by CCFS of CCO. See Chung, T. & Ho, J. (2023) “In-situ, Light-touch, Co-create: Experimental Restoration in Mui Tsz Lam village, Sha Tau Kok”. HKIA Journal: Countryside, Issue 78, pp.114-120.

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