Sydney park held up as model for cistern

Local | Michael Shum 31 Dec 2020

Michael Shum

Learn from Sydney's Paddington Reservoir Gardens and turn a Shek Kip Mei Romanesque-style cistern into a public park, a University of Hong Kong conservation expert has proposed.

Hailed as a blend of the ancient Baths of Caracalla in Rome and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the reservoir in Australia, which ceased supplying water in 1899, is now heritage-listed and became a park in 2009, with much of the ruins preserved.

The director of HKU's architectural conservation division, Lee Ho-yin, said the government should use the gardens in Sydney as a model.

"They designed [the park] so that the pillars can be revealed by removing the ceiling, but they do not have as many pillars as we do at the Bishop Hill site.

"The government should consider doing something similar by keeping the iconic Romanesque arches and build a park around it. Imagine how fascinating it would be to have a public park among those pillars."

Lee also called on the authorities to find out if there are other historic structures on Bishop Hill, adding that conservation experts should check all pre-war structures.

"The cistern is built underground - no one is to blame for not knowing how precious it is.

"Modern architects and engineers are not familiar with the design of waterworks structures in the 20th century, and therefore thought the design is outdated and backward," Lee said.

"The lesson learnt is that the knowledge of engineers, architects or even historians is not broad enough."

District councilor Kalvin Ho Kai-ming said local residents want to save the site.

"Residents want the site conserved and opened so everyone can enjoy it and residents can still do recreational activities there," he said.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor took to social media yesterday as she said the cistern should be preserved, echoing development secretary Michael Wong Wai-lun.

"Even though we are no expert in antiquities and monuments, we all think these beautiful and complete ancient structures are worth preserving," Lam wrote.

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