Conservation expert suggests the Roman-style cistern at Bishop Hill to be turned into a reservoir park

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29th December 2020 – (Hong Kong) The pre-war fresh water decompression tank removal and reconstruction project of the Bishop Hill Service Reservoir in Sham Shui Po was temporarily suspended due to protests by residents after a Roman-style cistern was uncovered.

DrLee Ho Yin, co-founder and the longest-serving Director of the Architectural Conservation Programmes of the University of Hong Kong, said that the ancient Roman arch construction method of the underground reservoir is similar to the Basilica Cistern, or Cisterna Basilica in Turkey. The largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of IstanbulTurkey. The cistern, located 150 metres (490 ft) southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I

He believes that the construction methods and materials of this service reservoir cannot be redone. It is natural to keep it.

Dr.Lee said on the radio program this morning that after looking up government documents in 1910, the Bishop Hill Service Reservoir has been recorded as one of the 10 projects under the “Kowloon Water Supply System Project”. The pumping station is connected, and the red brick house has been assessed as a Grade I historical building. He also pointed out that the authorities have determined the value of waterworks cultural relics, and even waterworks facilities have been listed as statutory monuments, reflecting the importance of waterworks projects to the historical development of Hong Kong. He said that he believed that the engineering staff only thought it was an ordinary water storage tank, and planned to demolish it and turn it into a resting place for residents. Since the service reservoir is currently government land, conservation is relatively easy, and it is believed that the service reservoir can be transformed into a unique underground reservoir park in Asia and open to the public following the example of Canada and other places.

At about 2.50pm, the Commissioner for Heritage, Ivanhoe Chang and the chief engineer of the Water Supplies Department
Supply and Distribution (Urban) Branch Kowloon Region, Ho Lai Wa and other personnel arrived at the site for inspection. During the period, more than 20 staff members dressed in reflective clothing and helmets entered the cistern. The Commissioner for Heritage held a press conference at the site at 3.30pm to explain the details.

At around 1pm, more than 50 civilians arrived at the site to catch a glimpse of the historical reservoir.

Ivanhoe Chang said that the Water Supplies Department has suspended the site works. Based on the information and communication of the government departments in the early years, the Reservoir is understood as a water tank and therefore not a structure for rating. The Antiquities and Monuments Office and related departments have immediately reviewed it and pointed out that the staff of the Antiquities and Monuments Office will become more sensitive in the future.

The Antiquities and Monuments Office will conduct in-depth research. Calendarologists, anthropologists, archaeologists and architects will make the most objective and fair assessment of the data of the decompression tank. In accordance with the general practice, the Historic Building Committee will be invited to consider whether it is necessary that the results will be submitted to the Antiquities Advisory Committee for consideration in a few months, and the chairman of the committee will speed up the work and preparation of the report.

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