As a creative person myself, I always love connecting with My People every chance I get. Luckily, this is getting easier and easier to do all around the world thanks to innovative Maker and Creator spaces popping up all around the world. The newest experimental urban laboratory opened just as I arrived into the beautiful city of Hong Kong, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to explore the city’s newest destination, a remarkable space that combines fashion and art with shopping and eating, all while being surrounded by the cheerful ghosts of the past.
The site of the Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters, or PMQ as it is now known, began life long ago, first as a school in the 19th century and then an important living space in the 1950s. In 1951, the PMQ was the first of its kind to provide accommodation for rank and file officers and their families. The housing complex was meant to help recruit new officers to join and to boost the overall morale of the police force. It lived a good life, performed its duties admirably and I’m sure hundreds of families have fond memories of their time spent at the PMQ. Age takes us all though, and so it did for the PMQ when it finally shuttered its doors to an unknown fate in 2000.
In most cities, that would have been the end of the story for this historic site; the PMQ would have been raised and condos put up in its place. But that’s not what happened in Hong Kong, no, something so creative and innovative happened that it speaks to the forward thinking nature of the city and her people. A unique public-private partnership was created, the PMQ was designated a historical site and work began on transforming an old, 1950s housing complex into something special for the 21st century.
Walking through the doors into the central courtyard, the first thing I noticed was the light. Giant windows arced overhead and in the middle of the space was a giant, incredibly green tree. To prove that I do indeed have an inner geek, it reminded me of a scene from Star Trek of what public spaces in the future might look like. It was beautiful. I had just discovered The Cube, a multi-story function hall that was the architect’s solution to connecting the two blocks of the housing complex in a way that was jut as pleasing aesthetically as it was functionally useful. But what had I walked in to?
Simply put, the goal of the PMQ is to be a new city headquarters for local designers and create-preneurs. By nurturing local creatives and giving them the opportunity to flourish, the hope is that a new Asian creative hub will be developed. There are more than 100 creative spaces inside the PMQ where local design and creative enterprises are allowed to work, share their stories and concepts and ultimately sell what they produce. Like other cities, it’s a space for creatives to work in a cooperative environment that fosters innovation and the sharing of ideas, but is different from similar sites in that it is also where the designers sell their wares.
Walking down what used to be apartment complex hallways, today there are trendy boutiques and art studios, selling everything from one of a kind dresses to handcrafted jewelry and watches. It’s a beautiful way to give struggling artists the opportunity to create openly and then to make some money by selling their goods.
PMQ is much more than a shopping center though, there are event venues, a ‘night-market’ where local chefs sell light bites and other shops that aren’t involved in the co-working or designers-in-residence programs. It is a destination in its own right with restaurants, shops and nice green areas where anyone can just relax. It’s something completely unique and may be the way many cities decide to both save blighted areas in the future while simultaneously fostering new industries.
It’s an impressive testament to how forward thinking Hong Kong really is. Is there a basic, economic component? Of course, the hope is that new businesses and even micro-industries will develop, using Hong Kong as their base. But in the process the artistic collaboration and special talents that are fostered is truly remarkable. The new PMQ just opened and while it was instantly popular, I’m even more interested to see how it evolves over time. That’s the great thing about us creative types, we aren’t satisfied with the status quo.
PMQ is easy to reach via MTR and should be at the top of the must-visit list for just about everyone; it’s a fun way to relax, grab a cocktail or a bite to eat and browse one of a kind items the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else in the world.