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ABOUT
  • VISION AND MISSION
  • HISTORY
  • FUNG PING SHAN BUILDING
  • COPYRIGHT AND PERMISSION
FUNG PING SHAN BUILDING

HISTORY OF THE FUNG PING SHAN BUILDING


Conception and Construction 1929–1932

The University of Hong Kong was established in 1912 as the city’s first institute of higher education modeled on the British educational system. In 1929, Mr. Fung Ping Shan, a prominent Hong Kong businessman and advocate of Chinese cultural and historical education, made a generous donation for the establishment of a library building to house the university’s collection of Chinese books focused on history, literature, arts and culture. 

Construction began in 1931 and was completed in 1932. The architectural firm Leigh and Orange designed the library with Han Yu Company as the contractor. Unfortunately, Mr. Fung Ping Shan passed away before the library building was completed. To commemorate Mr. Fung’s generous contribution and support for Chinese culture, the building was named “Fung Ping Shan Library”.


Second World War 1941–1945

Interruptions to library operations briefly occurred during Hong Kong’s period of Japanese occupation. In December 1941, the Fung Ping Shan Library was used as a dormitory by the British First-aid Station of Air Defense at Mid-levels Section E, and anti-aircraft guns were installed on the roof. However, with Hong Kong’s surrender to Japanese troops on 25 December 1941, these resistance activities abruptly ended.

The University of Hong Kong fell under Japanese possession on 2 January 1942, and the Fung Ping Shan Library was likewise seized for Japanese use. However, the Japanese continued using the space for scholarly purposes, even expanding upon the collection by incorporating other private (confiscated) collections.  This arrangement lasted until the Japanese surrender on 14 August 1945. Both the University and the Fung Ping Shan Library reopened in October 1946.


Post-War 1950s–1994

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the library building underwent a handful of minor repairs and remodeling. In 1953, the “Museum of Chinese Art and Archaeology”, dedicated to collecting Chinese art and artefacts within the University’s Institute of Oriental Studies, moved into the second floor of the Fung Ping Shan building. On 4 April 1955, the museum section was formally opened to the public.

For the next decade, the Fung Ping Shan Library housed these two assets—the library collection and the museum collection—until 1962 when the library materials were moved from the building and integrated into the newly-completed Main University Library. In 1964, after renovations, the Fung Ping Shan Library building officially rebranded itself as the “Fung Ping Shan Museum of Chinese Art and Archaeology”, shedding the original library title and usage.

On 31 January 1964, the Fung Ping Shan Museum was officially opened by Mr. Fung’s son, Sir Kenneth Fung Ping-fan. This museum eventually separated from the Institute of Oriental Studies and the Chinese Department, becoming its own University entity on 1 December 1975.


University Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG) 1994–present

On 1 July 1994, the University Museum fused with the newly established University Art Gallery, formally creating the “University Museum and Art Gallery” (UMAG). With the opening of the adjacent T.T. Tsui (Tsin Tong Tsui) building on 8 November 1996, staff offices and art gallery space moved out of the museum. The T.T. Tsui building was designed to be linked to the Fung Ping Shan building via a footbridge. In September 2013, a lift was added to the Fung Ping Shan building on the east elevation, designed by Nelson Chen Architects Ltd.


 

 

BUILDING DESCRIPTION


Location and Setting

The Fung Ping Shan Building sits on Bonham Road, adjacent to the east gate of the University of Hong Kong. As part of the University, it is located on the lower (northern) section of the campus, with a base elevation around that of the nearby Main Building (a Hong Kong Declared Monument). Rising only three stories, the Fung Ping Shan Building is a humble site compared to the nearby newer constructions. 

There are two entrances to the building. The original entrance faces north to Bonham Road, and is accessed via a large staircase (original) or via a footpath from the east gate (added in 1987). A second entrance, which also serves for handicap access, was added in 2013 via a lift and footbridge connecting the adjacent T.T. Tsui Building. The historic façade is framed by a large frangipani tree (Plumeria rubra) and a Chinese banyan tree (ficus microcarpa).


Structure

The building is a three-story red brick structure, designed in a symmetrical Butterfly Plan with the central body housing the open library space and the wings as side rooms, which are all now galleries.  The Butterfly Plan, also known as the Double Suntrap Plan, is a “nineteenth-century design where two or four wings of a house are constructed at an angle to the core, usually at about 45 degrees to the wall of the core building.” (Historic England)

The back (south) side elevation is bow-shaped, creating an interior central space with a curved wall.  This central space, now named the Drake Gallery (after the museum’s first director, Prof. F.S. Drake), is an open chamber without separation by floors. An interior balcony walkway runs along the perimeter of the 2/F central gallery, allowing access to the east and west sides as well as the back southern curved wall. The walkway is supported by four octagonal columns.

A large overhead convex glass skylight is built into the roof’s structure, allowing diffused natural light into the space below. The skylight is a defining feature of the space, and displays a metal frame and glass panes in an octagonal shape. While originally fashioned with wired- and obscured-glass plates, its components have been replaced over time, but the original design still exists.

Large vertical windows along the curved southern wall provide natural light on the first and second floor. These windows are only opened when the exhibitions allow. There are two staircases within the Fung Ping Shan Building. The central staircase leads from the ground floor entrance to the first and second floors. This staircase is stone, with a wooden and iron bannister. A second stairwell, constructed in 1969, connects the ground floor workshop room to the first-floor furniture gallery. 


Materials

The exterior ground floor was constructed using dressed ashlar granite, generally understood to be one of the finest units of masonry due to the thin joints between stone blocks. The first and second floors exhibit exterior red brick and ornamental stone columns, with a stone pediment at the top of the second-floor façade. The roof is flat except for a raised perimeter edge and the glass convex skylight juts upwards triangularly. Internally, the floors are laid with wood, as are certain elements like the stairway bannister and windowsills.


Styles

The architectural style of the Fung Ping Shan Building is primarily Neo-Georgian, with secondary elements of Arts and Crafts as well as Regency styles. While the Butterfly Plan was used in late Victorian architecture, and during the early Arts and Crafts Movement, there is no information as to why the plan was chosen for this particular site. It is not clear if the general design was proposed by Leigh and Orange, the architects of the building, or by Mr. Fung Ping Shan himself, who had viewed and designed other educational sites.

The Fung Ping Shan building exhibits large windows on every façade. Due to its location against a slope, the only ground floor windows appear on the front (north) façade. These windows display two recessed blocked masonry windows (“blind windows”) on the front of each side wing. Without written documentation of these windows’ purpose, we can assume this architectural choice was made for symmetry.


Current Legislative Grading

On 16 November 2018, the Fung Ping Shan Building (exterior only) was designated a Declared Monument by the Hong Kong Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance (Cap. 53)—a declaration which enables the Antiquities Authority to prevent alterations or to impose conditions of alterations based on their expertise in order to protect the monument.  The Fung Ping Shan Building was bundled together with two other historic buildings on HKU campus, Eliot Hall and May Hall, which all received the status of Declared Monument. Prior to its Declared Monument status, the Fung Ping Shan building had been a Grade 1 Historical Building, granted on 18 December 2009.


Address: 90 Bonham Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong View the location on Google Maps
Tel: (852) 2241 5500 Fax: (852) 2546 9659 Email: museum@hku.hk
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