Asia Society Hong Kong Center: A Former Explosives, Ammunition Storage Facility-Turned Gallery & Public Space 亚洲协会香港中心: 曾经是英国军队的军火库
A serene oasis nestled amidst a hectic urban environment in Admiralty District, the Asia Society Hong Kong Center ("ASHK") is an unexpected haven, offering visitors much needed visual and cultural respite. Formerly the Explosives Magazine of the old Victoria Barracks, the British Army originally built this compound of four military buildings mid-19th century for the storage and production of explosives and ammunition. Eventually overtaken by the Royal Navy and later abandoned, it was only granted to the Asia Society by the Hong Kong Government in the 1990s.
Affiliated with Asia Society in New York (founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller III), it aims to promote mutual understanding and to strengthen partnerships between Asia and the US in a global and local context. Prioritizing local engagement, ASHK holds a broad variety of programs in the form of lectures, performances, film screenings and exhibitions on the premises, in addition to frequently collaborating with other local cultural institutions.
位于香港商业区的金钟，许多人以为只有香港高等法院，金融大楼及五星级饭店，总是人来人往步伐急促，却不知道金钟山上的正义道（Justice Drive），曾经有一座在1863 年至1868 年间建成的英军军火库。当年主要用作研制与储存炸药，是驻港英军留下来的重要历史遗迹，更是亚洲现存唯一英国殖民时代最完整之军火库。
这座历史古蹟在2012 年由亚洲协会香港中心（Asia Society Hong Kong Center）申请作为分部，经历重新设计与修复，保留原有特色，活化成亚洲协会香港中心的会址，也成为香港的艺术场地之一，定期举行各类演讲、表演、电影播放，致力推广香港艺术文化，为这古蹟添上一份使命。亚洲协会的地理位置与美丽建筑，极有柳暗花明、大隐于市之感，一条双层的人行天桥将栋下半区的场馆和上半区的古迹建筑连接在一起，别具特色。这座天桥蜿蜒曲折，弥漫着一股强烈的科幻感，好像正通往原始森林的时空隧道似的。
The heritage of the site was taken into account during the major 2012 redesign initiative spear headed by internationally acclaimed architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, who transformed the site through their efforts of conservation, and adaptive re-use. While new functions were ascribed to the pre-existing structures, the preservation of the history amplifies the unique feel of the site, reflecting a city of contrasts. Nature and urbanity, ostentation and minimalism, and most noticeably the past and present are exposed through the fusion of new architectural additions, and retained elements of a bygone colonial era.
Upon visiting, one is immediately struck by the accessibility of its location and seamless architectural cohesion with the neighboring natural beauty. Renovated and re-opened in 2012, the present sense of tranquility and calm created by the organic, minimalist aesthetic of the space betrays the more violent historical associations of the site.
This sculpture is titled "Lost City No. 52" is made with stainless steel, which highlights the overbuilt claustrophobia of Hong Kong. The artist Vann Ip included a kite soaring out of his steel complex to symbolize hope against ceaseless urban transformation. Vann Ip works with sculpture and light installations to explore the cityscape, architecture, and psychology of urban space in Hong Kong.
来到空中花园，即刻被绿意包围却能外望城市中的栋栋高楼，感觉仿如置身城市绿洲，令人放松身心，而且还能欣赏户外的艺术装置，其中有由中国艺术家张洹的《长岛佛》雕塑作品。这个大型佛头像夹缝焊接凹凸不平，并非旨在充当宗教偶像，而是反思人类斗争的历史和文化遗产的传承。还有另一个很特别的艺术装置是来自英国艺术家安东尼·葛姆雷（Antony Gormley）的杰作《Another Time》系列，雕塑站于中心的最高点俯视瞬间万变的城市，在时间中停顿，旨意让我们反思生命和人类在世界中该如何自处。
The conjoining pathways and exterior staircases lead to the Joseph Lau and Josephine Lau Roof Garden, a secluded outdoor area which beholds panoramic views of the city as well as the surrounding lush forests. Perfectly supplementing the tranquil atmosphere is Zhang Huan’s sculpture "Long Island Buddha".
Zhang Huan is a prominent contemporary Chinese artist known for his visceral and confrontational endurance performances in the 1990s, and later sculptures and paintings that explore themes of memory and spirituality in relation to Buddhist practice. The sculpture was inspired by his trip to Tibet in 2005, where he discovered fragments of Buddhist sculptures that had been damaged during the Cultural Revolution. Rather than a religious image, this monumental Buddha head lying aslant with its rough surface and welded joints reflects on the history of human conflict and the preservation of culture.
This sculpture, part of Antony Gormley's series Another Time, is one of a hundred casted from the artist’s own body. Looking over the fast-paced city from the ASHK’s highest rooftop, the sculpture stands frozen in time to make us reflect on what it means to be alive as an individual, and how human beings fit in with the scheme of the world. Antony is a British artist widely acclaimed for his sculptures, installations and public artworks that investigate the relationship of the human body to space.
Walking in through the entrance is exemplary of this duality. A two-story pavilion composed of dark green stone, stuns with its simplicity and in visual cohesion with the natural landscape, leading through to a large gallery space. It is with much difficulty for one to imagine that this now transformed space, adorned with artworks, was once one of two original magazines (a 100 seat theatre occupies the other), used for ammunition storage. The visual remnants denoting this history include, red-tile roofs, teak doors, and masonry work.
Moving outdoors to further explore the site, inspired by traditional Chinese gardens, a series of walkways connect the main buildings to one another, taking visitors on a trail interspersed with foliage, waterbodies, and sculptures. These buildings include two historic structures, the Former Laboratory (used for mixing explosives) and the GG Block (used by the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police), which now serve as function rooms and administrative offices.
Beyond museum worthy exhibitions, captivating architecture, and an acclaimed cultural program, one of the center's highlight features is AMMO, a restaurant and bar. Referencing the slang term for ammunition, the name also serves as an acronym for Asia, Modern, Museum, and Original – acknowledging the restaurants roots, identity, and distinctive heritage of the site. Blending seamlessly with the scenery and rest of the complex, the compelling glass architecture and notable spiral staircase illuminate the ambiance and dining experience.
With a diverse range of programs and activities including, lectures by eminent professionals in their respective fields, world-class exhibitions, workshops, film screenings and performances, ASHK provides numerous opportunities for cultural engagement to the local public. The mesmerizing architecture and strong connection to Hong Kong’s heritage makes it a worthwhile destination for those visiting from out of town, providing a peaceful (but easily reached) escape from the intense bustle of the city.
为了让更多人对军火库古蹟建筑有更深认识，协会特地设置免费古蹟导赏团，分成英语及广东话两种，定期开放给大众预约参加，既能欣赏艺术同时也可以享受绿意盎然的美景。此外，于下层平台的行政楼设有以弹药英文为名、结合餐厅与酒吧的AMMO 餐厅。餐厅的创意设计灵感来自60 年代法国名导高达（Jean-Luc Godard）的科幻电影《阿尔发城》（Alphaville），磅礡气势与华丽的工业风格营造出彷如置身在电影里的氛围，如果来到亚洲协会参观，不妨在此用餐歇歇，体会历史与美食融合的色香味之旅。