Members of the Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB) have criticised the MTR Corporation for lack of effort in designing To Kwa Wan station to incorporate displays of centuries-old remains unearthed in the area.

“The displays are all over the place, while the overall atmosphere is absent. [The MTRC] did not appear to have put any effort in the design,” AAB member Christopher Law Kin-chung said Thursday.

Shatin to central link Ma Tau Wai
MTR Shatin to Central Link construction site. Photo: GovHK.

The remarks came after the MTRC submitted to the AAB for review a design proposal of To Kwa Wan station. Thousands of relics and six ancient wells believed to be from the Song (960-1279) or Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) were uncovered in the Ma Tau Wai section of the Shatin to Central Link in 2014.

Archaeologists estimate that more than 1,000 people lived in the area centuries ago.

In the proposal, the MTRC suggested modifying the concourse to conserve an ancient well and allow people to view it from underneath through a transparent panel. The company also proposed placing two cabinets in the concourse to display some of the relics.

Shatin to central link
Proposed design of To Kwa Wan station concourse. Photo: Antiquities Advisory Board.

‘Rich culture’

But some AAB advisors had reservations about the proposal. During a meeting on Thursday, member Chan Ka-kui questioned whether displaying the ancient well on the ceiling is the ideal method of conserving it, Apple Daily reported.

Member Wong Bay said the design fails to present the history of Song-Yuan heritage, with To Kwa Wan station “having just a few extra antiquity cabinets.”

Christopher Leung questioned whether the design was only to meet the minimum requirements of the Antiquities and Monuments Office, as it fails to present a holistic picture of the settlement. He urged the MTRC to review the proposal.

“This historical site is very important as it witnessed the rich culture and mature community of Hong Kong,” Leung said.

to kwa wan well
The ancient well (L) and the site preservation plan (R). Photo: Antiquities Advisory Board.

Heritage park

Member Douglas So Cheung-tak suggested the MTRC reference the University of Hong Kong station, which displays the history of the area through wallpapers.

The government plans to build a heritage park above To Kwa Wan station to showcase relics and highlight the history of the Song and Yuan dynasties. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department will be in charge of the project.

Representatives of the MTRC said they may place wallpapers or display boards to complement the heritage park, but they will only be able to consider the option after the government finishes designing the park, according to Headline Daily.

The AAB Chair Andrew Lam Siu-lo said the AAB would be disappointed if the MTRC fails to meet members’ expectations.

“But representatives of both the MTRC and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department gave very positive responses to our demands. They said there is room for flexibility and to work with each other to improve the design,” he said.

Andrew Lam Siu-lo
Andrew Lam Siu-lo. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

See also: MTR Corporation, gov’t propose redesigning To Kwa Wan station to preserve centuries-old relics

The Antiquities Advisory Board is a statutory body consisting of experts in relevant fields. It advises the Antiquities Authority, which may declare a place or structure as a monument with the approval of the chief executive.

The Shatin to Central Link will connect Tai Wai to Admiralty via eastern Kowloon, passing through Kai Tak and To Kwa Wan. The first phase of the project – linking Tai Wai to Hung Hom – is expected to enter service in 2019.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.