The comprehensive revitalisation of Central Market in Hong Kong

Commercial, Online Exclusive Feature / 2024

The comprehensive revitalisation of Central Market in Hong Kong

May 15, 2024

Hong Kong’s first permanent indoor market, called the Central Market, was built in 1939 in the Bauhaus Streamline Moderne style. It had underwent a partial renovation in the 1990s before being abandoned in the early 2000s. Despite being listed as a Grade 3 historic building and is one of the only two Bauhaus-style buildings remaining in Hong Kong, the market was left seriously dilapidated for many years and risked demolition.

In 2009, the Urban Renewal Authority was tasked to revitalize the building. They subsequently invited researchers to evaluate the Central Market from architectural and societal perspectives to see which parts should be retained and which parts did not necessarily need to be saved. This process resulted in preservation and adaptive reuse strategies to fulfil present-day functional, structural as well as statutory requirements.

Assessing and restoring historic details

Five character-defining elements (CDEs) were identified, namely the façades, grand staircases, market stalls, column grids and atrium. A main challenge was the absence of record drawings, necessitating comprehensive assessments on the existing building and historic information. Thus, the elements were restored through analyses and supervision by experts in the field.

The grand staircases and market stalls were found to be covered with layers of inauthentic paint and had suffered damage over the years. Experts of Shanghai plastering—a stone-like façade finish that is rarely found nowadays—were engaged to determine the best way to remove the paint, as well as creating numerous mock-ups to decide on the plaster’s appropriate aggregate size, colour of cement and mix ratio.

To accurately determine the original colour of the severely weathered façades, petrographic examination, stucco analysis and paint analysis were carried out in New York and Hong Kong. The final external paint was custom-made in Italy to match with such findings. The atrium was repaired with the same principles used for the facades and was converted into a public open space for the community.

For the column grids, 3D-scanning, concrete coring, carbonation tests, hammer tapping and rebar testing were carried out to appraise the condition of the structure—several parts such as the ground floor columns had been dilapidated due to being constantly soaked with seawater from the seafood stalls. Apart from conventional concrete repairing methods, fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) composites, which is new to the region, were used to restore the structural capacities of concrete members with significant amounts of reinforcement loss due to corrosion. This allowed the original concrete member sizes to not be altered, even with additional strengthening.

Compatibility with new sustainable elements

The historic building was transformed into a ‘playground for all’ to fulfil public aspirations, providing open spaces, retail, F&B areas, as well as education, cultural and leisure uses. Keeping with present-day needs and statutory requirements, new additions to the building include escape staircases, lifts, skylights, link bridges, balustrades, glass walls and curtain walls.

The team upheld the conservation principle of minimum intervention and maximum reversibility, and that the new additions must be easily distinguished from the old elements. To deliver an environmentally friendly building and promote sustainability to the community, the following systems are used in the Central Market:

● A human-centric lighting system is installed at the 24-hour public passageway within the Market. It provides controlled artificial light to match the needs of human biological cycles through built-in optical sensors.

● The rooftop planters use a zero-irrigation system with a rainwater storage unit. Retention boxes underneath the soil will collect excessive rainwater, estimated to save around 1,400 cubic metres of water for irrigation annually.

● Photovoltaic solar panels are installed at the upper roof level with the generation of an estimated 16,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable energy per annum. This translates to savings of around HKD16,000 in energy costs (with an assumption of HKD1/kWh).

● High-volume, low-speed fans are placed in the atrium to provide an energy-efficient option to facilitate natural ventilation with almost zero noise.

● Four hundred green planter cubes in the 24-hour public passageway serve as hanging air filters, providing comfort for passersby. An automatic irrigation system was incorporated to control its water usage and minimise manual resources. In total, the indoor space comprises 12 planting areas with hundreds of plants serving as green partitions.

● Building information modelling (6D BIM) is applied for building operation and facility management (FM). The as-built BIM model with Cobie standard is integrated with the BIM-FM platform, which is linked to various MEP systems and smart features, including iBMS (Integrated Building Management System) and IoT devices for human-centric lighting, toilet odor-sensing systems, the CCTV system, the geo-informatic system (GIS), air quality monitoring devices, etc.

“We believe that a successful rebirth project is not to re-create a heritage of the past but to create a heritage for the future”, said the architects.


Project Name   
Revitalisation of Central Market

93 Queen’s Road Central and 80 Des Voeux Road Central, Hong Kong

Completion Date
January 2022

Site Area           
4,166 square metres

Gross Floor Area            
11,884 square metres

Number of Rooms         
Open plan

Building Height
15.8 metres

Urban Renewal Authority

Architecture Firm          
AGC Design Limited

Conservation Consultant            
AGC Design Limited

Main Contractor            
Shui On Construction Company Limited

Mechanical & Electrical Engineer           
AECOM Asia Company Limited

Civil & Structural Engineer         

Quantity Surveyor         
Rider Levett Bucknall Limited

Landscape Architect      
Earthasia Limited

Architectural Design Expert on Creative Adaptive Reuse of Reinforced Concrete Building
Architectural Preservation Studio

BIM Consultant
Global Virtual Design and Construction Limited

Chinachem Group

Retail Interior Designer
SHADOW Design Limited

Courtesy of AGC Design Limited

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