Central Market: 5 Design Features Not to Miss
Benjamin Lam and Kin Cheong, local architecture firm Shadow Design's directors who designed the new Central Market, talk about five special features not to miss at the revitalised building.
Since opening in August, the Central Market has been flooded with curious and/or nostalgic Hongkongers, keen to experience the 179-year-old grade 3 historic building that has been revitalised into a shopping, dining and cultural complex. Built in 1842 as the city’s first wet market, the Central Market has undergone several reincarnations before its current version, a model retaining its 1939 façade. The interior, though redesigned and modernised, incorporates architectural and decorative features reminiscent of old Hong Kong. Tatler speaks with Benjamin Lam and Kin Cheong, the project designers, and directors of local architecture firm Shadow Design, to find out more about five special features not to miss.
Red wet market lamp shades
These red lampshades are a famous feature of traditional market stalls in Hong Kong. Their colour casts a warm tone on the produce, especially eggs and fish, making them look fresher and more tempting. There are 500 half-sized versions of these lamps at Central Market, hanging from the ceiling at the two main entrances and arranged in a dome shape which echoes that of the lampshade, their bright red colour contrasting with the bronze frame of the doorways.
Folding metal shop gates
Traditionally, folding metal shop gates were made from sheets of metals, often with the shop name cut out. This helped to distinguish the boundaries between the different retail units as well as enhance ventilation. The shop gates at Central Market are made from wood and bronze instead, which will be easier to both install and store, allowing tenants the flexibility to form and combine retail spaces.
The Food Street counters’ terrazzo
Lam and Cheong say the two most recognisable features of the old site were the streamlined façade and material of the grand staircase; these inspired how the pair redesigned the new building that would be the source of a new generation’s collective memory.
The stairs and food counters are made with terrazzo, a faux-marble material typically used on local buildings built before the Second World War. It is usually produced on site, in a time-consuming and highly labour-intensive process, which is why the technique is very rarely used in modern construction. Lam and Cheong ordered 15 types of pre-fabricated terrazzo, which are used for the Food Street counters on the second floor. The choice of orange and green surfaces is a reference to the colour palette commonly adopted in the old days. The curved edges retain the style of the original market’s streamlined design.
The urban oasis
The new market has been designed as an “urban oasis”. There are 700 plants in the indoor space, 400 of which are planted in white cubes hung from the ceiling of the 24-hour corridor which connects to the Central escalator. The rest are used as “green partitions” to divide sections of the market. The plant pots lining the walkway are inspired by dim sum bamboo steamer baskets. “Dim sum is a traditional Chinese cuisine much loved by Hongkongers, and the sight of stacks of bamboo cages remains close to our hearts,” Lam says.
During colonial Hong Kong, English signage was often sandwiched between the equivalent Chinese characters, something which has been recreated by the grand staircase at Central Market. At the start of each staircase are the bilingual words for the floor number, as well as the directions "上UP上" and "落DOWN落". This design, which was common in the 1970s and 1980s, can also be found in on Star Ferries.