#theWanderlist: Thomas Heatherwick’s Pacific Place
When people think of Design & Architecture in Hong Kong, they immediately think of large scale obvious works which define the overall city skyline… (ie. IM Pei’s Bank of China Tower, Sir Norman Foster’s HSBC Building, or twin towers… IFC or ICC) but which don’t really contribute much to our everyday lives beyond being a pretty object in the distance, unless you work there. Understandably, Hong Kong, one of the world’s top financial hubs, is built on the shoulders of banking sectors, which explains the reliance towards visible and skyline oriented iconic towers, developers are used to here. But unfortunately, the problem with contemporary architecture in Hong Kong is that the innovative, new, and cool buildings that #Archinerds like myself drool over don’t necessarily touch a vast majority of people on a human scale from day to day because high-design usually ends up becoming tall office towers not that well integrated on an urban level.
Hong Kong’s Swire Properties, a relatively boutique (but huge) development firm incorporated in the 70s, has within the last few years, made some odd-ball moves against the grain of how developers are integrating innovative architecture & design projects in the city which people can directly experience. Strategies for their projects are not usually centered around the biggest and brightest and whatever can be seen from Victoria Harbour, but how their design projects can help us rethink about “new” design on an approachable human scale rather an urban one.
Some of Swire’s bold moves include hiring not-so-cheap starchitects, like California’s Frank Gehry, to create signature buildings of new sculptural styles, such as one called the Opus, a feat relative to what’s buildable here within local building constraints. While The Opus, IS as far-removed urbanistically as the other show-towers in Central Hong Kong, it’s made the developer move towards creating more fluid shaped and less boxy living spaces overall, thus affecting the thinking in design for their other property projects like the newly opened Argenta Tower by LWK & Partners or Mount Parker by DLN, for example.
Another odd-ball but sublime choice by SWIRE, is the UK’s Thomas Heatherwick, who had been hired for upgrading of the iconic Pacific Place shopping mall. This is another against-the-grain choice, because Heatherwick himself is not an architect, but a product designer and artist who’s made a name out of his sculptural urban artworks.
Thomas Heatherwick’s stone-cladfacade for the Upper House at Pacific Place.
At Heatherwick Studio, a company Thomas Heatherwick founded in 1994, the designer employs a collaborative team of architects, landscape architects, engineers, and product specialists, focused on projects interested in human-scale form-making, an aspect of his studio which Heatherwick takes pride in. Working in conservative UK, gives Heatherwick an edge in dealing with projects like Pacific Place, especially in constraint-heavy Hong Kong.
Curved glass and hardwood, rare high-design applications by Thomas Heatherwick utilised in Pacific Place retail corridor.
Materiality is very important to Heatherwick, who has applied architectural flourishes like “Elm” Veneer Wood on ceiling surfaces, “ASH” solid wood on balustrade rails” to formulate a human scale natural, warmer, and softer, palette.
Every toilet stall is a throne, made by Heatherwick’s voluptuous forms at Pacific Place.
Pacific Place, which officially unveiled its new design in 2011 to the public, gave Heatherwick an opportunity to let loose his wonderful sculptural tactics towards the pragmatic world of Mall planning. The good thing about all this is, that we normal people get to enjoy high-brow and high-quality design, estimated at HK$1.5 billion, for free just by visiting or shopping there. The challenge here, which Heatherwick revels in, is to make any programme seem like a design opportunity, making the project work even better than it has worked before. (See his work here for a pedestrian bridge, a stool, a bus, and stairs.)
As I #Wanderlist the mall, I get a photograph taken with my favourite Heatherwick feature, this “corset” light fixture at the Garden Court.
NEXT: Where to go and what to visit? Check out our Pacific Place #Wanderlist on the following link…