THE CENTRAL OASIS ON THE CROSSROAD OF PRESERVATION AND INNOVATION
The Central Oasis project is the project in Hong Kong that mirrors Hong Kong’s rapid and vivid history of the 20th century and at the same time can project the city’s future to come. The central Market project is the only project in Hong Kong that is at the crossroad of Hong Kong’s (recent) past and its new future to come.
The Central Oasis reflects the paradox Hong Kong is in at the moment; the city gained a central position between ‘the East’ and the rest of the world in the past era of globalisation, but since the handover to mainland China the city is still searching for its new position within the system of one country, two systems. This paradox creates an atmosphere of suspect towards all good intentions to bring the city forward, a suspicion that is rooted in nostalgia and an the uncertain future to come. In other words rooted in the known history and the unknown future, both are under suspicion and mistrusted. It is about time that Hong Kong will find its new identity that preserves the needed elements of the past and that collects the new treasures of the future. An identity that reflects Cantonese, British and Mainland virtues, tradition and development; a multi layered identity with choice for the young and the old, the Cantonese, ‘Gwai Lo’s’ and Mainland Chinese, the educated and the uneducated, the rich and the poor.
No other project than the Central Oasis is in a better position to mark down Hong Kong’s impressive history, its unique urban conditions and its new global position of Hong Kong. It is literally on the crossroads between the new urban waterfront, with its modern commercial facilities and the old parts of Hong Kong Island, there where the unique urban conditions of the city are not fully crushed under the pressure of development. Two main connective pedestrian infrastructural systems come together in the building, the Mid Levels Escalator and the Waterside Central Walkways. The systems are only connected through the Central Oasis at a pedestrian connection at height; another Urban condition that only exists in Hong Kong at its present scale. The building is the main public connector of Hong Kong Island.
The building takes an undeniable central position in the preservation debate within Hong Kong. The building has large historical significance and at the same time it was not able to gain a promising future since the market function was fully given up in 2003. The building is now a ghost of its own past and its own future.The preservation of the Central Market is not a matter of preserving it as an unspoilt masterpiece of Bauhaus architecture within the city alone, it is also a matter of capturing its vivid activity within and around the building, while introducing program known and unknown to the building. Building a new hyper-diverse character for the building that does right to its history, its forward-looking architecture and its central urban position.
OMA is glad to be able to be part of a good and well-balanced team to start a possible endeavour to preserve the historical value of the Central Market by giving it a new future. Barrie Ho Architects Ltd. has laid the foundation for an exciting project with his local design option presented in 2010 and early 2011.
Rem Koolhaas & David Gianotten