A derelict low-rise block in Kennedy Town built during the 1960s has undergone a dramatic makeover.

The Tung Fat building, a tong lau – a Cantonese expression for walkup tenements – once upon a time housed both apartments and businesses. It is now home to eight luxury apartments.

Before and after the renovation. Photo: Kerry Phelan Design Office.

The Tung Fat Building literally translates to “get rich together”. Rather than tearing up the tong lau and substituting it with yet another skyscraper, developers decided to preserve the original building and carry out an atypical refurbishment.

The building’s entrance before and after refurbishment. Photo: Kerry Phelan Design Office.

Stephen Javens, the building’s architect, spoke to the New York Times on his aspiration to preserve the buildings: “Once these buildings are gone, they are gone forever. I hope this building encourages people to preserve other parts of Hong Kong’s built heritage.”

Tung Fat Building. Photo: Kerry Phelan Design Office.

Speaking about their adventurous venture, the Melbourne-based design firm said that they “remained as true as possible to the original aesthetics of the building, working to preserve such elements as the cast terrazzo handrail and the mouldings.”

Original characteristics of the tong lau have been retained. Photo: Kerry Phelan Design Office.

While the building was refurbished, the architects cautiously retained the modernistic elements of the original tong lau. 

The building’s spacious rooms and wide windows. Photo: Kerry Phelan Design Office.

The six-foot windows in the renovated building offer a spectacular view of the Stonecutters Bridge in Tsing Yi.

Kerry Phelan, another architect working on the Tung Fat Building, kept in mind the importance of ample room while designing the building’s refurbishment. “Hong Kong is a vibrant and exhausting city, where spaciousness is essential – especially when working in such confined spaces,” she said.

Balcony within the refurbished Tung Fat Building. Photo: Kerry Phelan Design Office.

The renovation costs amounted to HK$30 million in total, and monthly rents start at HK$78,000.

Paul Benedict Lee

Paul Benedict Lee is an undergraduate law student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Paul has previously contributed to HK Magazine and Radio Television Hong Kong, covering issues ranging from local heritage conservation to arts features. He has also worked as a legal intern at local human rights firm Daly & Associates.