Demolition Threat: Union Church – Sanctuary & Bell Tower
by Leigh and Orange, Hong Kong, 1949-1956

Docomomo International wishes to draw your attention for the threatened future that Union Church in Hong Kong is facing.

“The Union Church is located at No. 22A Kennedy Road, up the hill from Central, and next to where the Peak Tram bridge intersects with Kennedy Road. It was built after World War II to replace an earlier church which had been severely damaged during the war period. The foundation stone of the original church dating from 1890 was re-laid, and is now found right up the entrance stairs.

During the period of Japanese Occupation (1941-1945), the Church’s religious service was ceased and the pastor, Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie Dow, was interned in Stanley Internment camp. In 1945, the pre-war building in Kennedy Road was considered unsafe for congregation and the Church was temporarily moved to the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps Officers Mess in Garden Road until 1949. The construction of the sanctuary was completed in 1955 to accommodate larger congregation.

The façade of the Sanctuary combines natural hewn granite with reinforced concrete which forms an excellent transition from the external stone structure to the internal minimalist elevations. It is built of granite walls with a pitched roof and a detached Bell Tower which is a granite structure having a simple pitched roof with a void at the top for placement of the bell.

The elevation of the Sanctuary facing Kennedy Road is rather traditional in appearance but the side elevations have a modern composition of stone and concrete. The Sanctuary is built in minimalist modern style with references to the Bauhaus School. It is a hall plus balcony with high vaults spanned from the ground to the ceiling echoing those of Art Deco architecture which favours in geometric decorations. The upper walls in the side aisles consist of a series of louver windows which permit of maximum illumination, ventilation and aesthetic variation.

Internally, the Sanctuary has impressive transverse arches in Art Deco style. The interior is reminiscent of the Royal Horticultural Hall (1929) in Westminster, UK, designed by architects Easton and Robertson, where the modern Art Deco hall with high vaulted ceilings is often credited as motivating and space captivating. Beside the west door, memorial tablets to Dr. Legge, and Mrs. Chalmers are found and had been salvaged from the ruins of the old Church.

Modernist architecture is not often seen in church buildings, so that the buildings which make up the Union Church compound have a rarity and built heritage value. The buildings are well maintained and as no major alterations appear to have been carried out, they retain their authenticity.

The Union Church has a local history going back to 1843 so that it is one of the oldest churches in Hong Kong. It has made important contributions to educational and religious development, and even contributed to the construction costs of the Peak Tram in 1888.

Well-protected by stone boundary walls and self-enclosed by lawns and patios, Union Church enjoys a relatively quiet and private space. The church is physically close to Helena May Institute, St. Paul’s Co-educational College, First Church of Christ Scientist and St. Joseph’s College.”[1]

Docomomo International wish to express its full support to the efforts that are being carried out in order to preserve the Union Church, believing that this building must be preserved taking into consideration its history and the willing to maintain their integrity and authenticity for future generations.

[1] link [646]

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