Exhibition at Heritage Discovery Centre traces development of construction technology in Hong Kong
The exhibition, "Building the City: Inspirations from the Emergence and Continued Development of Construction Technology in Hong Kong", will run at the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre from tomorrow (June 11) until October 13. Featuring more than 30 exhibits, along with panel text, models and video programmes, the exhibition will introduce the establishment and development of construction technology in Hong Kong in the context of the modernisation of Chinese and Western societies and evolving from conflict to harmony in Hong Kong.
Officiating at the exhibition's opening ceremony today (June 10) was the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Henry Tang. Other officiating guests were the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam; the President of the Hong Kong Construction Association, Mr Conrad Wong; and College Head-Designate, Shaw College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Professor Andrew Chan Chi-fai.
The exhibition is co-organised by the Hong Kong Construction Association and the Lee Woo Sing Hong Kong History Resource Centre, Shaw College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, in association with the Commissioner for Heritage's Office in the Development Bureau and the Antiquities and Monuments Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Construction Association.
Hong Kong is a city created by its people. Modern construction technology has played a vital role in the development of land and the construction of housing and infrastructure, cultural centres and recreational facilities. In an era when technology was primitive and reliance was placed on manpower, construction workers were the driving force behind the city's development. As technology continually improved, the city made use of advanced construction technology from overseas to promote social development. It also depended on the expertise, experience and sensitivity of builders. In a system that respected tradition as well as allowed participation by foreign-owned enterprises, builders were able to adapt continuously to the needs of society and make contributions.
In 1843, Alexander Thomas Gordon, the Land Officer, formulated a blueprint for the development of the City of Victoria. Central and Admiralty were to be developed into Government Hill, Hong Kong's military and administrative centre. The northern shore of Hong Kong Island would become a trading base, while cemeteries would be built in the area around Happy Valley. Wan Chai was designated for use by religious bodies and schools, and Sheung Wan was to become a Chinese commercial and residential district. The area between Queen's Road and Robinson Road was for residential use. With the city plan basically made, there was limited space in the city's core area and it was confined to the northern coast of Hong Kong Island. The government had to make use of new construction techniques to overcome natural geographical barriers and build support facilities such as roads, piers, tunnels, railways and bridges in order to stimulate trading and commercial activities.
With the help of new construction technology, urban development since the mid 19th century has been able to overcome the natural obstacle of insufficient land in urban areas, and tackled the problems of housing, water supply and transport caused by rapid population growth. Owing to the lack of economic resources before the war, the government played a leading role in determining the type and scale of new technology introduced. After the Second World War, new construction technology played a positive role in expanding the city's core to meet the demands of a population that increased by one million people every decade. In the context of economic globalisation, a number of multinational and local construction companies brought in new equipment and technology. New technology has enhanced urban development and changed the lifestyle of Hong Kong people, as well as laying a foundation for Hong Kong's development into a metropolis.
It has long been a tradition to revere Master Lu Ban (known as Lo Pan in Hong Kong) as the patron saint of the construction industry. In this tradition, master craftsmen passed on their trade skills to their pupils. In the second half of the 19th century, skills were still passed on through apprenticeship. Those who wanted to join the construction industry had to serve an apprenticeship under a master craftsman. The tradition of passing on skills changed in the 1930s when construction training schools were established one after another. Through open recruitment and systematic professional training, the industry has been able to nurture new generations.
The construction industry traditionally put great emphasis on good craftsmanship. A newcomer to the industry had to rely on personal relationships with fellow villagers, persons with the same surname or relatives in order to be accepted into apprenticeship by a master. The imparting of skills under the master-apprentice system was of a very personal nature. The ability or effort of the apprentice would not ensure positive learning outcomes. The relationship between the master and his apprentices had a major bearing on skills transfer; an apprentice who had a good relationship with his master might be able to acquire more skills. Besides, a master could have many apprentices and he might find it difficult to take good care of each and every one. As a result, the performance of individual apprentices varied widely; some who did not reach an adequate skill level might still be able to make a living in the industry. In a time of labour shortage, the government had to rely on contractors to undertake construction works in order to further develop the city. The contractors subcontracted the works to construction workers, who formed their own teams to carry out the works. There was considerable urgency to change the traditional mode of training. The imparting of construction trade skills had to be standardised to ensure that apprentices acquired basic skills.
In 1931, Governor Sir William Peel asked the Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong University, Sir William Hornell, Leigh & Orange (an architectural firm), and the Building Contractors' Association to establish a technical school in Hong Kong to nurture local construction talent. The Government Trade School, located at Wood Road, Wan Chai, was completed in 1936. In its early years, the school offered courses including wireless telegraphy, building and light and heavy engineering. The school started recruiting students for the three-year building course in 1937. Each year, students had to spend eight months in class learning theory and four months doing practical work outside the school. In 1953, the Report of Technical Education and Vocational Training prepared by the Technical Education Investigating Committee recommended the construction of a new campus in Kowloon due to insufficient space in the old campus. Backed by a $1 million donation from the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong in 1954, plus a subsidy of $1 million and a site in Hung Hom from the government, the college was completed in November 1957. On March 24, 1972, the government enacted the Hong Kong Polytechnic Ordinance and established the Hong Kong Polytechnic.
In 1965, the government set up a non-statutory organisation, the Industrial Training Advisory Committee, to carry out research and make recommendations on technical training in Hong Kong, and appointed representatives of the Construction Association to the committee. On July 30, 1975, the Industrial Training (Construction Industry) Ordinance was enacted and the Provisional Construction Industry Training Authority (CITA) was established in September of the same year. The training courses offered by the CITA included bricklaying, plastering, tiling, carpentry, joinery and painting. Between 1977 and 1995, the CITA set up four training centres in Kowloon Bay, Kwai Chung, Aberdeen and Sheung Shui for the convenience of students. Following the merger of the CITA and the Construction Industry Council (CIC) on January 1, 2008, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is now responsible for training and skills testing through the Construction Industry Council Training Academy (CICTA). Nowadays, the construction industry no longer relies on the apprenticeship system to impart skills. The opportunities for learning construction skills and entry into the industry are open to all.
Located at Kowloon Park, Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, the Heritage Discovery Centre opens from 10am to 6pm from Mondays to Saturdays, from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is free.
For details of the exhibition, visit the Antiquities and Monuments Office's website, www.amo.gov.hk . For enquiries, please call 2208 4400.
Ends/Thursday, June 10, 2010
Exhibit, "Formwork Model". Concrete is traditionally used in walls, columns, floor slabs and staircases. It requires the erection of plywood formwork, followed by the pouring of concrete. The formwork is removed once the concrete has hardened. In recent years, "system design formwork" has been used to replace traditional timber formwork with precast construction and metal formwork. The improved quality of the concrete finish reduces the thickness of wall rendering and results in an approximately 30% reduction in construction waste. This model is made by tutors and students of the Construction Industry Council Training Academy.
Exhibit, "Scaffolding Model". A scaffold is a temporary structure, and the use of bamboo scaffolding is a unique feature of construction in Hong Kong. Scaffolds can be built for many different purposes, including temporary housing, theatres, swimming pools, horse sheds, venues for holding purification rites, archways and lanterns. Each type of construction follows specific procedures. Nowadays, scaffolding is mainly used as a platform for workers to do building work at a high level. The scaffolder uses his head, shoulders, hands and feet together to pull bamboo poles and timber onto the scaffold. The feet have to grip the scaffold tightly like a pair of pincers. Both hands are used to tie bamboo poles with bamboo strips, using a hand as a ruler and the eyes to estimate the distance. A scaffolding project has to also consider the design, safety and aesthetic aspects. This model is used for teaching in the Construction Industry Council Training Academy.
Exhibit, "Model of Tunnel Boring Machine". A tunnel boring machine (TBM) is tailor made for different ground conditions. Capable of boring through hard rock, soft soil and slurry, it advances and builds the passage to eliminate the need for above-ground construction work, minimising the impact on traffic and the environment as well as tunnel excavation accidents. The TBM is normally used once only; it will be dismantled upon work completion. The TBM is given a female name before construction commences for easy identification. Past names included "Mulan", "Mu Guiying", "Xiaolongnu" and "Dae Jang Geum". This TBM is named "Oshin" and has a length of 170 metres and a diameter of 8 metres. Its operation is highly automated. It was used in the Hong Kong West Drainage Tunnel project.
Exhibit, "Bronze Statue of Lo Pan, 1960s". There is a saying that "thread regulates criteria, compass regulates radii" (yardsticks are used to determine straightness, while compasses and set squares are used to make circles and squares). Accuracy is a basic requirement of all construction techniques. The instruments placed beside the statue are an ink marker (a thread dyed in ink for marking lines), a ruler and an axe., which were early construction tools. Apart from axes, which have been replaced by saws, ink markers and rulers remain vital tools to this day. In the 1960s and 1970s, small statues of Lo Pan were given by the earliest Lo Pan Temple in Hong Kong to construction sites as blessings.