Lau Sun-fo (劉新科) & George.W. Grey
King’s Road, North Point
The State Theatre, originally established as the Empire Theatre in 1952, was a pioneer in bringing international musical and cultural performances to town, paving way for the opening of Hong Kong’s City Hall a decade later. The Empire Theatre only operated for five years. Two years later in 1959, the complex was reopened as State Theatre. The whole complex also includes a ground floor shopping arcade and two attached apartment blocks. It is the earliest surviving theatre building built in the post-war Little Shanghai, which is what the North Point area was called in the 50s when migrants from Shanghai fled political turmoil in China. Even within the rest of Hong Kong, it is dubbed the last grand post-war theatre structure standing in the city. The theatre was also a witness to the rise of Hong Kong cinema of the 70s and 80s.
In addition to the State Theatre’s cultural significance, it also possesses structural merit that lies in its roof structure that one can rarely come across in Asia. The parabolic concrete exoskeleton truss lifts the roof over the auditorium. The result is a spacious column-less auditorium that can seat more than 1,200 audiences. The curvaton also doubles as a natural amplifier and sound isolator, creating optimal acoustical conditions that isolate external sounds for the main auditorium. Meanwhile, the external façades of the theatre are graced by streamline moderne features, the likes of which are rare in Hong Kong. The front door façade features a bold wall relief mural by renowned contemporary Chinese artist Mei Yutian with the theme ‘The Prime Minister Tung Cheuk and the Girl Singer Tue Sim’, featuring a Greek beauty with European, Thailand and Greek dancers. The rest of the façade is designed with interlocking blocks and architraves of different sizes which further breaks down the building bulk. The theatre was said to be the first in Hong Kong to provide underground parking facilities. The main building served its original function until 1997 when it was converted into a snooker hall and sauna.
For Further Information:
Heritage in Danger: State Theatre
News from Docomomo International: State Theatre
Urban Dialogues: General Post Office & State Theatre
Zolima Magazine article on the State Theatre