Due to a really slow work month, me and my designers took one afternoon off to check out this year’s architectural pavilions on exhibit for the 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism \ Architecture (UABB) in Hong Kong. For those of you who have lived in Hong Kong for a while, and are a bit confused, the “Bi-City” is a politically correct way to say Hong Kong and Shenzhen without having to worry which city to name first in the official title.
What makes visiting it this year so confusing is that this used to be called the “Hong Kong-Shenzhen Bi- City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture”, but with the new name has broken up into two separate websites (which barely link to each other for some reason) with two separate graphic brandings / logos.
HK UABB BRANDING:
SHENZHEN UABB BRANDING:
I really wish they would just stick with one brand, one logo, one website, or at least have each a clear web link for information between the two. The HK site has a small tiny logo in the lower left hand side which links to the SZ programme (but the logo looks like sponsor…not actually part of the programme). The SZ site has no link back to Hong Kong. That said once you’ve gone past the initial confusion and realize it’s both the same biennale, you have until February 28 to spend half a day on the Hong Kong showing, and a full day on the Shenzhen showing.
I have yet to visit the Shenzhen arm of the exhibition, but at least me and my designers were able to spend a couple of hours checking out the Hong Kong exhibits which are “bi-harbour”, meaning the sites for the shows are both on the Kowloon side of the Harbour in Kwun Tong, and the Hong Kong side in North Point/Fortress Hill.
The Kwun Tong site is fascinating. For those visitors who only know Hong Kong via the glittering towers of Central or the hilly terrain of Lantau, Kwun Tong was once one of Hong Kong’s most highly industrial areas centered around the salt trade amongst other things.
The neighborhood is currently undergoing an kind of development renaissance since the government will be putting in place an MTR connection here, in part to serve the newly opened Kai Tak Cruise Terminal designed by Foster + Partners on a strip of site that was once the Kai Tak Airport, which is parallel to the Kwun Tong Promenade… the site of the UABB. Of course with any development, controversy always follows, and the UABB, a bi-annual event that seeks to question the urbanistic growth between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, was a target of activists who wanted to focus on the the Government’s pro-development schemes of the Kwun Tong neighborhood. Even some of the event organisers and partners were not allowed into the programme’s opening day of which Chief Executive, CY Leung was in attendance.
That said, here are some highlight photographs* from the Hong Kong exhibit that you should take note of:
+ EKEO (Energizing Kowloon East Office) Hong Kong Head Office Temporary Building / Designed by Architectural Services Department (ArchSD) and the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD)
According to their website, the EKEO office was set up in 2012 to "steer, supervise, oversee, and monitor the development of Kowloon East (Kwun Tong) with a view to facilitating its transformation into another premier CBD of Hong Kong." The building currently highlights a study of a smart transportation system, using a rechargeable scooter bike, which can make use of existing buildings and alleyways to help promote new grassroots commercial ventures.
The most interesting part about this is actually the temporary building which houses the exhibition, designed by the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) and the Architectural Services Department (ArchSD). The building was completed in 6 months, taking 3 months for design, and 3 months for construction. Housing 20 staff members, the building used recycled freight containers for a modular scheme, amongst utilisation of raw bamboo, low flow water technology, daylight sensors, recycled aggregates to help lower its carbon footprint overall.
+ House of Red . House of Blue / Designed by Kacey Wong
Kacey Wong’s introverted House of Red . House of Blue pavilion is an open air library cocooned in a croissant-like pavilion made of burnt wood and chopped down tree trunks. The books in the pavilion set amongst the seats and the trunks of trees, all focus on the subject on Hong Kong and China’s built environment and building culture.
+ Make Out City / Designed by Architectkidd, CHAT, Studiomake, Thingsmatter
Make Out City is an interesting formal work designed by Bangkok designers, Architectkidd, CHAT, Studiomake, and Thingsmatter. All the pieces for this lookout platform with two seats were fabricated by hand in Bangkok and shipped to Hong Kong. According to the designers, the work “illustrates the hybridized manner in which (they) like to fabricate things. It is a long, skinny lookout platform (which allows) visitors to climb out and gaze out onto the water.” Additionally they wanted to point out that the piece is made of four separate components; stair, structure, platform, and periscope. Which I suppose is why it takes four designers to design the whole thing?
+ Kwun Tong Promenade Stage 1 / Designed by Architectural Services Department (ArchSD) and the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD)