Hong Kong based architectural photographer, Edmon Leong’s photgraphs of Zaha Hadid’s newest and only building in Hong Kong have been making rounds this week on the interwebs. The building in the photoraphs are of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s nearly-completed Innovation Tower in the Tsim Sha Tsui / Hung Hom district. By the looks of the photos (and by passing by in a cab), it seems that the final building will actually get to look pretty close to the initial intent… which is more than what was allowed of Daniel Libeskind’s Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre for City University, which some have described as a “mangled carpark”.
Zaha Hadid was appointed architect of the Innovation Centre four years ago in 2008. To be more competitive, universities in Hong Kong have been more aggressive in the investment of creative programmes. The Innovation Tower will house the School of Design (SD) which includes specialities in Environmental, Industrial, Product, and Digital Design. Visual Communication, Advertising, Car Design, Fashion Accessories Material Labs, Sound Studios, Entertainment Studios, and Galleries will also be housed here.
For those who don’t know, Zaha Hadid’s more famous older works include Hong Kong as a site when she won a competition to build for the Peak in the early 80s, an idea which was later scrapped. It wasn’t until a few years ago beginning with the Chanel Mobile Art in Central and the Chinese Opera House in Guangzhou that Hadid has finally been able to have built work in the Guangdong region, much less our city.
From Zaha Hadid:
I am delighted to be working in Hong Kong again. The city has such diversity in its landscapes and history; this is reflected in an urbanism of layering and porosity. Our own explorations and research into an architecture of seamless fluidity follows this paradigm so evident in Hong Kong. One of our seminal projects was designed for the city exactly 25 years ago, and the Innovation Tower design is a realization of this continued research.
The Innovation Tower design dissolves the classic typology of the tower and the podium into a seamless piece. The design unashamedly aims to stimulate a vision of possibilities for the future whilst reflecting the history of the institution.
Based on Hong Kong’s strict building laws plus the university’s tight budgets, it’s a miracle this tower’s design remains true to the initial vision.
Now that we’ve seen the previews of the exterior thanks to Edmon, I can’t wait to see the building’s interiors. Thank you Edmon for letting us re-publish your photographs.
CULTURE CHANEL 02: Curator Jean-Louis Froment Choreographs Chanel Exhibition of Passion, Fashion, and Picasso
In Guangzhou, Architecture, History, and Fashion are all intertwined in an elegant dance, choreographed gracefully by acclaimed French Curator and Artistic Director, Jean-Louis Froment for the third chapter of the Culture Chanel Exhibition which first opened to audiences in Beijing and Shanghai a few years ago. The architecture of Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House is the show’s site. The History is the work on display of master artists, Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau among the few. And the Fashion is the work of the House of Chanel from its inception to now.
"Dance" is the keyword for an exhibit with a main center piece that is not a Chanel item, but the world’s largest original Pablo Picasso, Le Train Bleu, a 10m x 12m stage curtain of two voluptuous female figures dancing for a 1924 Sergei Diaghilev ballet of the same name.
Curator, Jean-Louis Froment below in front of Le Train Bleu.
But before this apex which occurs in the Opera House’s black box (a perfect fit), Froment takes us on a walk through amongst pieces straight from the Chanel Archives, arranged amongst manuscripts, drawings, photographs, and art by Coco Chanel’s contemporaries, Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Amedeo Modigliani, and Max Jacob, just to name a few. Of course there are current Chanel pieces in there by Karl Lagerfeld which mirrors archive works, as well as photographs by Mario Testino, Jerome Schlomoff, Peter Fink, and Corinne Day.
A Photograph of Coco Chanel
Works by Picasso at Culture Chanel Guangzhou 2013.
Thankfully the works are housed in delicate glass boxes with no text, label, or date, to explain them. The visitor is forced to really look at each piece which is removed from context and time deliberately by Froment, so the focus is not on a linear narrative, but a visually thematic one.
As an example, each major piece from the archive is placed in one of 5 chapters which all touch on the themes of the ballet, Le Train Bleu. The themes of Breathe, Move, Love, Dream, and Invent, connect to a period in the life of Coco Chanel, as well as her adventures on the beach as a sailor, on horseback, as a tennis player, as a dancer, as a lover of men, as a lover of the countryside, as a muse, as a dreamer, and as a crafty inventor. (I put it literally linear for you all.)
Initially it may be a bit jarring that there is no explanation for which bottle of perfume is original and which was made last year, but that is the point. The point is not to look at the placard next to the work, the point is to look at the work, and to formulate for oneself the items created by Coco Chanel and the House of Chanel, as a gauge of what women seek in their time.
A few exceptions however, this piece cannot be mistaken for current perfume and is an OBVIOUS original. The original bottles for Chanel No.5 designed with perfumer Ernest Beaux. The small one in 1921. The large one in 1924.
On top of being introduced to this show in Guangzhou by Chanel, we were also given the opportunity to speak with curator, Froment about the 3rd show and the overwhelming space designed by Zaha Hadid.
theWanderlister+ Interview with Curator, Jean-Louis Froment RE: Culture Chanel Guangzhou 2013.
W+: How exciting was it to prepare an exhibition for the Guangzhou Opera House, a Zaha Hadid space? Is the feeling different from the first two exhibits in Beijing and Shanghai with you?
JLF: Absolutely! This architecture really inspires me a lot. And definitely the architectural context was distinct. It really gives a certain dynamism to this exhibition, that Chanel appreciated. The fact that this is not a traditional venue for exhibition, we had to invent a subject that had a relationship to such a venue. The exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai wouldn’t work in such a venue, because immediately if those exhibits would be housed here, the Opera House as a building would be irrelevant. That’s why I requested the House of Chanel to frame the exhibit around the performance and specifically “the Ballet”.
"I Want to be part of what is going to happen," Says Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.
And now she’s exhibiting at the Guangzhou Opera House (GOH) by Zaha Hadid from beyond the grave. How about that? She’s still a part of the Zeitgeist.
Coco Chanel was indeed very much a part of what was happening during the time she established her Atelier in the first half of the 20th Century, helping lead a movement in her own way of female cultural liberation in terms of their role beyond the home… in the arts, in education, self expression, and sexuality. All of these aspects were explored in a narrative formulated by curator Jean-Louis Froment, for the Guangzhou leg of the Culture Chanel, which isexhibiting at the GOH.
But getting ahead of myself, before writing about the show and my interview with Mr. Froment in the 2nd part of this post, let’s talk about Guangzhou.
The last time I ventured to Guangzhou, I wrote about Hadid’s Opera House within months of its opening and was left feeling a bit skeptical about the Opera House and the new Central Business District (CBD). In my opinion it seems that everything was pretty rushed, and construction time compressed in an effort to build a new CBD at lightning speed. Additionally I was worried, too, about the CBD’s new context. That said with my recent visit this month, some of my worries have not gone away, but was quite happy to discover that the New Zhujiang Town in Guangzhou, as this place is called, is looking pretty good. There is no other pedestrian street like it in China with commercial and cultural icons flanking both sides of a linear promenade. And definitely no promenade with a granite clad Hadid building adjacent. This is definitely the perfect location for the Culture Chanel Exhibition.
Above the Guangzhou IFC (2010) by KFP, a building with a triangular footprint. Below, Rocco Design’s Guandong Museum (2010).
Above, the Guangzhou Library (2011) by Nikken Sekkei. Below… an urban Peanut (2009), by sculptor, Xu Hongfei.
Our friends at Chanel got me to Guangzhou in about 1.5 hours via a direct car service which picked us up from the Four Seasons HK in Central, door to door, to the newly unveiled, Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou at the IFC.
Four Seasons Hotel is located right in the middle if it all in the Zhujiang, and a five minutes walk away from the opera house and the exhibit.
If I thought the cultural street was pretty cool, it was nothing compared to what was in store for me on the 70th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou Atrium Lobby… This.
This is the Instagram Photo I took as soon as I entered this Atrium Space. What you’re seeing in the photo are the hotel room floors opening to the central void in the shape of a triangle. The edges of the balcony oscillate in such a way that the embedded led strips of the balustrade formulate what seems to be a star expanding from the triangular center.
+ ALILA CHA-AM by Duangrit Bunnag of DBALP / Thailand
Designed by noted Bangkok Based “Starchitect” Duangrit Bunnag of DBALP, the hotel is exactly what one would expect from a full service architect attempting to design “resort” full services style, that is without the aid of a Hospitality Interior Consultant or Proper Landscape Consultants. The product, all right angles, straight lines, and solid forms, without the plushness one would expect from a 5-star Boutique Hotel of the same price point. READ MORE.
+ECO-ARK by Arthur Huang of MINIWIZ / Taiwan
I dont subscribe to NatGeo Channel, but I may have to support it now that I know in April and May the MegaStructures series will debut their Episode on EcoArk in Asia. What’s MORE interesting than that, is that EcoArk, which was designed for Taipei’s recently finished Taipei International Flora Expo, was designed by Arthur Huang, a Taiwanese Architect, Friend, and School Colleague from Cornell University in New York. READ MORE.
+ OPERA HOUSE IN GUANGZHOU by Zaha Hadid / China
Although the facade looks sloppy and the details are a bit poor at spots, (ahem seat handles)… overall it’s quite an important piece milestone for Zaha, for China, and for the people of Guangzhou who have completely understood the importance of the building for their city, their image, and the impact of such a building to their lives. READ MORE.
+ LINKED HYBRID MIXED USE COMMUNITY IN BEIJING by Steven Holl / China
I must say, I have really lucked out in terms of living arrangement. The apartment, which I currently reside in is the Dangdai MOMA in Dongzhimen, a eco-sustainable hybrid building designed by American architect Steven Holl, located on the NE corner of the Second Ring Road. The ironic thing is despite being an architect myself, I never thought that I would actually get to live in an architecturally designed house or apartment, so I thank my roommate, Harold for inviting me to stay. READ MORE
+ THE GOUCESTER by A.B. Concepts / Hong Kong
From the entrance, with its screens and dark stone, you can tell that the design’s materials rely on the more subdued palette, buffering the city outside it … enabling you to walk into a “tranquil” environment defined by materials and finishes naturally found in nature. READ MORE.
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In March 2011, Sir Norman Foster’s (UK) completely lush and green “City Park” scheme was awarded the full master plan of the West Kowloon Cultural District over OMA (Netherlands) and Rocco (Hong Kong).
What this win means is that A) there is life and hope once more that this proposed cultural center and its proposed avant garde museum, the M+, will actually be built during my lifetime and B) so continues Hong Kong’s deep rooted love affair with Foster ever since the HSBC Tower and the International Airport. This love affair however was once on the rocks when Foster was awarded the West Kowloon project for the first time… a monster of glass and steal that preservationists and citizens alike protested at the “inhuman” scale and the unecessary costs it would take to build such a glass canopy.
Which brings me to imagine the “What ifs”… if Foster’s glass canopy was built, then why not Herzog’s Cultural Center in SOHO, or Zaha’s PEAK? It certainly would have been a completely different Hong Kong, a city littered with Architectural wonders the way Shanghai and Beijing stand today. Would it make a better city? Who knows, but we can dream can’t we.
4 HONG KONG PROJECTS THAT NEVER or HAVE YET TO MATERIALIZE:
1) NORMAN FOSTER’S WEST KOWLOON (Original Scheme 2007) Before “City Park” above there was this monstrous canopy of glass and metal. People questioned the scale of the structure, as well as the heat and cooling that would occur underneath this canopy… and actually what would stand underneath such a structure. Obviously the project was scrapped. via NEWARCHITECTURE
2) HERZOG & deMEURON’S CENTRAL POLICE STATION CULTURAL COMPLEX (Original Scheme 2008) Local non profit group HK Jockey Club hired H&dM, Swiss architects, to plan an upgrade and retrofit of the exisiting Central Police Station and transform it into a cultural complex worthy of International performances and exhibits. Interestingly enough, while the West Kowloon district would have costs to taxpayers, the HK Jockey Club is gifting this project to the city of Hong Kong, and that no expenses to the construction and transfer or operations would be burdened towards tax payers. While many praised the design for being bold and daring, it still paid homage to Hong Kong (Bamboo Scaffolding) while being respectful to the original site (The building only touches about 20-30% of existing historical structures).
Alas residents of high rise towers complained that there would be plenty of noise and light pollution from the vertical structure, and it would block their sea-view thus devaluation of their properties. The project has been placed on hold. via INSITU
UPDATE as of March 10, 2011, Herzog has updated their design for the Central Police Station. Its now the opposite of its Extroverted First Scheme, and completely low rise, low density, introverted box… a Contemporary Art Space. via INHABITAT
3) Before this monstrosity on the Peak by architects Terry Farrell:
The actual winner of the design competition for a Leisure Club (1983) on this very same spot was Zaha Hadid! (See my previous post about Zaha in Guangzhou.) If Zaha had her way, Hong Kong would have been the site of one of her first structures. Can you spot the project in the picture below?
The program was a leisure club to cater to residents of the Peak, so the program was quite small and didnt include the restaurants
Burger King and the shops Hong Kong T-Shirts and the museum Maddam Tussauds Wax Museum, that exists today. Phooey. Other images via Zaha Hadid.
Can we still build this please???
4) Something still under construction… for at least the last 10 years is the Hong Kong Asia Society in Admiralty by architects, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien of New York (1999-present). Because of land lease issues, and the fact that everything is being produced out of New York… for a non-profit, and the fact that the site incoporates a historical British Military structure, and sits on a sloped site… it makes sense that the project is taking so long to finish. But PLEASE finish it soon.
I’ve been to a few lectures of theirs where they explain the project, and it seems like a pretty exciting project. Especially because their American Folk Art Museum in New York City is one of my favorite museums ever in the world. Their spatial planning and use of materials is simple yet sublime. Rendering via ASIASOCIETY
Okay time to snap out of it and get back to reality.
When I was in Architecture School we had this to study:
Zaha Hadid’s Vitra Fire Station in Switzerland built in 1994. (In the end it was never used as a Fire Station. Something about not being user-friendly.) During my school days that was most likely the only thing she got built. The technology and the expertise wasn’t yet prime for her to build buildings from these kinds of drawings:
At the time she was only celebrated as a “Paper Architect”. One who basically made her name via concepts, theories… ie. everything on Paper.
When I moved to Hong Kong. The Paper suddenly had Air. And then this landed:
That was Chanel’s Mobile Art. A travelling exhibit designed by Zaha for Karl Lagerfield which made its debut in Hong Kong. By then construction was already approved and underway for this monster:
heavily photoshopped image above is from Zaha Hadid’s website of the newly opened Guangzhou Opera House. 7000m2 completely devoted to an 1800 seat Opera Hall and a 400 seat Auditorium plus additional supporting program. According to the website the building resembles ”pebbles in a stream smoothed by erosion… sitting in perfect harmony with its riverside location… Its unique twin-boulder design enhances the city by opening it to the Pearl River, unifying the adjacent cultural buildings with the towers of international finance in Guangzhou’s Zhujiang new town.”
Lucky for my friends Dana and Ken who were visiting from New York, the Opera House in Guangzhou was open to tours and tourists.
The tours, conducted only in Mandarin, are only 60RMB, less than 10USD, and is a little more than an hour long.
The tour starts in the building’s humongous lobby. And takes you into the Main Opera Hall below. You can sit on chairs and touch surfaces. Ken, whose an acoustic architect, tested the sounds.
Too Bad about the Details. OOPS. (notice the broken handles on the chairs already… it was made of WOOD! … the not so expensive kind.)
In any rate, despite the detailing, the space was completely “WOW”. Ive seen nothing like it.
The surfaces of the walls become the floor, become the balustrade, become the facade, become the ceiling. Everything is in Black and White.
Can I play Piano in this Room???
Theres even a statue of the Venus a-la Mies Van Der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion.
Although the facade looks sloppy and the details are a bit poor at spots, (ahem seat handles)… overall it’s quite an important piece milestone for Zaha, for China, and for the people of Guangzhou who have completely understood the importance of the building for their city, their image, and the impact of such a building to their lives. Looking at the ticket prices of concerts and shows at the Opera House, I can say that all performances are of reach to most economic classes. It seems like Beijing and Shanghai won’t have to hog all the cultural clout from now on.
The website isnt much help to anybody, not even the Chinese. But it’s safe to say there will be tours available mid-week to weekends around lunch time. Ticket counter is on the Ground Floor underneath the ramps and are about 60RMB a person (though that can change.) Take the MTR to Zhujiang New Town. The whole place looks like SIM CITY.
The Hong Kong educational system is reforming and aligning their programs and academic calendar away from the British System to cater more to the United State’s traditional 4 year program. The move is meant to accommodate flexibility and increase Global Student Diversity in the City which means a much needed economic boost for the private academic system overall, which would then help solidify HK’s goal to be the Asia’s Education Destination. Additionally, with the increase of students expecting to enroll in programs over the next decade, Universities in Hong Kong have begun their facility expansion. While hiring “Starchitects” is the norm for all types of construction in Mainland China, the leeway for progressive architecture is minuscule due to stodgy existing building practices and standards, unavailability of land, and an overall conservative construction spending culture, therefore these University Facility expansion programs with their larger than usual budgets have given Global Architects a chance to flex their design muscle in the city.
Six high profile University Design Projects are already underway for Hong Kong and are currently in various stages of Design and Construction Completion. Will it help bring a much needed iconic signature boost for their respective campuses? And Will it help Hong Kong’s ultimate goal to be Asia’s #1 Education Destination? It definitely can’t hurt the cause. And if anything, it’s nice to see iconic architecture in Hong Kong, that isn’t a high-rise sky scraper.
1. HONG KONG DESIGN INSTITUTE by CAAU (completed as of Spring 2011) via EVOLO
2. HONG KONG POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY INNOVATION TOWER by ZAHA HADID via DEZEEN
3. CHU HAI CAMPUS by OMA via DEZEEN
4. HKUST SCHOOL OF BUSINESS MANAGEMENT by WOODS BAGOT via ARCHITECTUREZT
5. CREATIVE MEDIA CENTER HK by DANIEL LIBESKIND (almost completed as of Spring 2011) via NYTIMES
6. CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG CENTRALIZED SCIENCE LAB by RMJM (completed) via TOPBOXDESIGN