Andrew Lee King-Fun
10 Lai Yin Lane, Causeway Bay
The building of the Wanchai Synod of the Chinese Rhenish Church, completed in December 1968 in nine months, is an example of the formal and structural ingenuity that characterize modern-era constructions in high-density and topographic Hong Kong.
Sited along a narrow site set against a steep slope off Tung Lo Wan Road and occupying 7,390 square-feet in built area, the building vertically stacks its multiple programs, anchoring into the rocky foundations of the site at the base and separating to create enclosed open spaces against the slope in the upper floors.
The narrow site compels a simplicity in programmatic separation by section. The ground floor is a covered playground and the first floor for offices and meeting rooms, both narrow in width and set into the slope behind by excavating into the 1:2 steep slope. The second floor, doubling the width of the floors below with 3,400 square-feet chapel space that could be partitioned with movable panels into smaller classrooms, is the new ground for the building. A row of structural columns in the center of the space indicates this as the transition floor, with an open space in the back set off against the rising and departing slope. The third-floor church hall soars 27 feet above in height, supported by a hinged portal-frame concrete structure, seating 500 and including an altar space that could accommodate 60 choir members. Bronze screens marked by the alpha, omega, and Jesus serve as the main altar’s backdrop, framed by a portal frame that echoes the structural form.
The narrow and tall bell tower and generous circulation tower to the south (on the right) tie together the vertically-separated programs, the blue facing tiles on the bell tower contrasting with the white Shanghai plaster used on the main volumes to the north (on the left). The minister’s 1,150 square-feet flat is also embedded into the circulation tower floating above the church hall floor. The front elevation also reflects the program shifts vertically, with the second and third-floor volumes overhanging above the bottom two floors, the angular hoods on the protruding windows of the chapel and nave contrasting with the inset windows both below and above for the chapel.
The Synod of the Rhenish Church was originally established in 1951, and until the completion of this building, December 1968 had been renting space in the area. Following the completion of the building, the German Rhenish church gifted the two bells that are in the bell tower topped by the prominent 16-feet-tall concrete cross.