Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bethanie, An Overview

Bethanie in Pok Fu Lam

Hello Blogsphere,
I’m writing a few days after arriving. Still turned around and have not yet totally reacclimatized to being back in Hong Kong. The dim sum is helping, though.
Tom and I just did our first visit to Bethanie, the site where next week we begin the Aedas My Footsteps masterclass series and performances.
Bethanie is fantastic. It is architecturally beautiful. Its grounds are gorgeous. And most exciting for me, the site has a rich, convoluted history. It’s riddled with all sorts of cultural/social complexities and contradictions. Exactly the type of site I get jazzed about.
It is a perfect site to begin teaching and collaborating with a new group of artists.
Following is a reader’s digest history of the site:
Bethanie was built between 1873 and 1875 by French Missionaries to be the first sanatorium in this part of the world. Built in Pok Fu Lam – some distance from the congested Central area of Hong Kong Island – Bethanie was designed as a haven to serve priests suffering from long term health issues and recovering from the rigors of missionary work. Initially, Bethanie included a chapel, 14 bedrooms for ailing priests as well as a service wing and several other rooms.
Bethanie operated as a sanatorium for 101 years. In the interim, it weathered an occupation by the Japanese during WWII and dealt with the repercussions of the Communist revolutions in 1949. Sold to Hongkong Land in 1974, Bethanie seemed doomed to demolition. However, the government resumed the site in 1975, and it was eventually listed as a heritage building. In 2003 the Hong Kong government allocated Bethanie and two octagonal cowsheds (which neighbored the site) to the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts. In 2006 Bethanie re-opened and currently houses the Academy’s School of Film and Television.
The site has undergone several expansions and renovations in its history. Most notably, the renovation efforts prior to its re-opening in 2006, when the Academy spearheaded an effort to modernize the building, refurbish the site, and restore many of the original elements including the altar, main and chapel doors, statues, and stained glass.

1 comment:

Third Rail Projects said...

From Maggie Morris: Read the blog and it sounds and looks like the trip is amazing so far. So much history and beauty everywhere you look. The space at Bethanie is beautiful and reminiscent of the mission I saw in Tucson with the stark white in contrast to the dark woodwork. The dragon's trail looked like you were above the clouds and seemed like the perfect place to imagine and meditate away from the hustle/bustle and neon lights of the city. I'm excited to read more as your student's birth their creation for the space and embrace the process of creating site specific work.