Chau & Lee Architects
137 Yee Kuk Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon
The Sham Shui Po Chinese Public Dispensary was designed by Chau & Lee, a local Hong Kong architectural firm founded in 1933 by Chau Yiu Nin and Richard Lee. The building itself was established by the Chinese Public Dispensaries, an institution founded by the Chinese community in 1904. Opened on 26th October 1936, the Dispensary still stands and comprises two stories divided by five bays on its main façade.
The Sham Shui Po Chinese Public Dispensary is an important example of intersections between British colonial architectural styles and early 20th-century notions regarding modern architecture. Notions of public hygiene and the importance of air circulation were common in both colonial-era and 20th-century modern architecture. The building’s ground floor includes a covered, open-air walkway that partially supports the building’s first floor while also allowing for ventilation, fluid circulation, and easy access to commercial shops.
The Dispensary also represents one of the earliest attempts by professional Chinese architects in Hong Kong to incorporate Art Deco motifs into their designs. The building’s main entrance is flanked by flattened pilasters and surmounted by an abstract spiral decoration, all of which are typical Art Deco ornamentation. Windows and doors are fronted by metal grilles depicting abstract geometric patterns. Other Art Deco-influence elements in the building include sunbursts and spirals symmetrically placed on each of the structure’s six pilasters. The building’s railings also feature green-glazed ceramic representations of Chinese bamboo.
– Prudence Leung Kwok Lau