Award - Project Plum Grove: Revitalising Mui Tsz Lam with Experimental Restorations 梅子林復育計劃 : 實驗性建築復修示範
Architect, Lead Consultant, Interior Designer, Sustainable Design Consultant Thomas Chung & School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Client / Developer: Tsang Yuk On, Tsang Kwok Keung, Tsang Ka Keung (Property Owners), Countryside Conservation Office (Sponsor)
Project Manager: School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Structural Engineer: Marathon Engineering Co Ltd.
Main Contractor: Yong Feng Xing Ha Engineering Co Ltd.
Collaborator: Hong Kong Institute of Construction
Project Plum Grove revitalises Mui Tsz Lam, a remote 360 year-old Hakka village in Sha Tau Kok, through experimental architectural demonstrations with participatory co-creation. Literally meaning “Plum Grove”, Mui Tsz Lam (MTL) is located in Hong Kong’s remote north-east New Territories. Merely 25km from Mong Kok, one of the world’s densest neighbourhoods, MTL is part of a farming village cluster including Lai Chi Wo, as part of the 7-village Hing Chun Alliance. Depopulated since mass migration to cities and abroad in the 1960s-70s and without vehicular access, the unwalled hamlet became abandoned and half-buried, though its “cultural landscape” of rowhouses, feng shui woods, terraced fields with earth god, stream and old well are still intact.
The project engaged returning villagers, studied its background and culture, settlement morphology, dwelling types, traditional architectural construction, and kickstarted MTL’s revival by restoring two ruined houses: Old House, originally a north-facing 3-bay mansion with lightwell; and Mural House, a single-bay rowhouse near the village entrance, is nicknamed for its colourful mural by a local artist. Strategically sited at either end of the village, they represent two different dwelling types. The project aim is twofold: to conserve past heritage, while also explore rural living for the village’s future flourishing. For the former, vernacular architectural form is respected; while for the latter, due to ownership, logistics and budget constraints, the design experimented with material upcycle, delicate new insertions, flexible construction techniques and programmatic innovations. Three place-inspired design principles were adopted:
1) In-situ - Old traditions are renewed with up-to-date technology. Existing rammed earth walls were carefully repaired; new walls reused locally-sourced earth from collapsed walls, adopting scientific ingredient-mixing, lab tests and modern shuttering equipment. Salvaged roof tiles, blue bricks and stone pavings were upcycled with excavated artefact displays.
2) Light-touch - Without vehicular access, new insertions were sensitive “light touch” to facilitate transport, erection and future reassembly while minimizing environmental impact. An adjustable scaffolding system clad with timber-bamboo panels, polycarbonate panels and lightweight roof panelling was adopted for both houses. Architecture students gained experiential learning in designing, making and installation.
3) Co-create - Over two years, villagers, university students and over 120 public volunteers participated throughout - from brainstorming, co-designing, experiential learning, assisting with logistics, full-scale mock-ups, on-site making to continuing operation of the two houses.
A “Blossoming Festival” celebrated the completion of the two restored houses that became multi-use settings for display, trial events and workshops. Villagers provided stories, traditional Hakka snacks and cultural activities to share, while students and volunteers arranged feature tours and eco-inspired events to activate the entire village. With over 200 visitors including government officials, neighbouring villagers, professionals and university dignitaries attending, the lively festival was well-received with widespread media coverage.
The project also encouraged other village initiatives, including volunteer-built communal furniture, privately-funded house rebuilding, NGO-funded open communal kitchen, playground redesign, together with other cultural and ecological projects. With phase two restorations underway, Project Plum Grove regenerates Place by reconnecting People via a collaborative Process, demonstrating a sustainable model for rural revitalisation in Hong Kong.
計劃以實驗性建築活化360年歷史的沙頭角客家村梅子林。復修「老屋」及「壁畫屋」采用三個設計原則， 1) 就地取材在地物料轉型再用及夯土重建，2）新建腳手架；輕量結構與木竹裝置，3）共創參與。兩年來回流村民、義工、學生和專業人士參與頭腦風暴、共同設計、現場制作及持續操作，以協作過程連系各持份者實踐長遠復育模式。