Architecture is indispensable to the physical environment we inhabit. While functionality is the cornerstone to any good design, the dawn of our digitally-driven visual culture has proven a growing appetite for experiential culture, which requires a meticulous approach to design that combines art, culture and nature. Here are five Hong Kong-based architects and design studios that are striving to do just that, and more.
TEXT: CoBo Editorial
IMAGES: Courtesy of various
Architecture and urban planning have never seen a more enthralling time than now, when the desires of contemporary living seek not just solutions for functionality, but the satisfaction of aesthetics that please all our primary senses. From exterior to interior, visual, aural, and more, the complete experience of space must be carefully curated. In an age of smartphone photography, digital storytelling, and growing emphasis on experiential culture, not a single minute detail can be left out. Here are five Hong Kong-based architects and design studios whose head-turning creations integrate art, culture and nature—the vital pillars of aesthetics—to inspire and instil beauty in the concrete hustle of our city dwellings.
Nelson Chow, NC Design & Architecture
If you’ve ever visited Hong Kong’s most revered speakeasies (think Foxglove, Mrs Pound, PDT) then you’ve surely experienced the designs of architect Nelson Chow, which are underpinned by its postmodern, retro-futuristic aesthetics. Chow, who was raised in Hong Kong and Canada, is a New York State-licensed architect with experience working on highly acclaimed international projects including W hotel and Steelworks Lofts. In 2011, he relocated to Hong Kong and established his design studio, NC Design & Architecture. His own treehouse-inspired abode in Ho Man Tin, Kowloon, garnered the architect much spotlight attention for its artisanal-centric, playful design turning a 370 square-foot shell into a calming retreat to call home. Chow and his team took the concept to a larger scale with Timber House—a 24-storey residential complex also in Ho Man Tin—which utilises the treehouse concept as the design blueprint for creating a tranquil, idyllic living space. Most recently, Chow completed his first public outdoor immersive installation project, Dreamscape—inspired by space shuttles—in collaboration with homegrown coffee roasters Elephant Grounds, currently on view at Hong Kong’s cultural-retail landmark K11 MUSEA.
Otto Ng and Yip Chun Hang, LAAB
Named “The Design Studio of the Year” in 2020 by INDE Awards, LAAB may be summed up by a single word: innovation. LAAB first rose to fame via YouTube, for the design of a modular smart home—complete with a built-in ceiling “catwalk” for felines—in a shoebox flat in the heart of Central, Hong Kong. Since then the firm has been the mastermind of cutting-edge temporary public art projects including Kaleidome, conceived as a colourful outdoor installation comprising 242 polyhedral cells of polished stainless steel mirrors.Led by Design Director Otto Ng and Architecture Director Yip Chun Hang, LAAB’s breakthrough public architectural projects include contributions to Victoria Dockside in Tsim Sha Tsui: Salisbury Treescape, a series of tree-like canopies giving respite from the city’s blazing sun; Harbour Kiosk, a robotic architectural design combining a food kiosk and mechanical room inspired by Hong Kong’s market stalls; and most noteworthy, Theatre Oculus, a 33-metre-tall organically shaped vault sculpture embedded with hundreds of spotlights, and two seven-metre-wide skylights, the pulsating heart of Opera Theatre, the grand atrium of K11 MUSEA.
Joyce Wang, Joyce Wang Studio
Born in Hawaii, with time spent studying in the UK, US and the Netherlands, later working in London and Los Angeles, Joyce Wang is nothing short of a global citizen—and her luxury interior designs certainly reflect her vast world experience. In 2011, Wang relocated to Hong Kong and founded her award-winning design studio, Joyce Wang Studio, which has since expanded operations to include an office in London. Among various high profile international projects—such as the Mandarin Oriental in London and Hong Kong, Equinox Hotel in New York, Mott 32 in Vancouver, Hong Kong and Las Vegas, and cigar lounge Oscuro and the expansion of Kyubi, both in The Arts Club, London—are a suite of restaurants in Hong Kong whose interiors are every bit as enchanting as the food it serves up including Spiga, ICHU, Hay Market, AMMO, and BELON. Nostalgia takes centre stage in Wang’s latest project, Dockside Dairy, for K11 MUSEA—a limited-time outdoor ice cream kiosk savouring sentiments of old Hong Kong. Inspired by amusement parks and the joys of childhood, the octagon-shaped kiosk is constructed from terrazzo, a common material used in old tenement houses, and will be serving ice cream cookie sandwiches in collaboration with Cookie DPT with special Hong Kong-inspired flavours and fillings.
Betty Ng, Chi Yan Chan, Juan Minguez, and Katja Lam, COLLECTIVE
A graduate of Cornell University and Harvard University, Betty Ng was formerly Design Director at OMA Rotterdam prior to founding architectural practice COLLECTIVE. Headquartered in Hong Kong, with studios in Madrid and San Francisco, COLLECTIVE is helmed by four directors, Chi Yan Chan, Juan Minguez, and Katja Lam and Ng, whom have all previously practiced worldwide at Pritzker Prize winning studios of Rem Koolhaas/OMA and Herzog & de Meuron with senior positions. Driven by experimentation, research and a cross-disciplinary approach, COLLECTIVE’s projects span across architecture, interiors, exhibition and urban design. The studio has a strong focus in Arts & Culture, working with various museums and art institutions regionally and internationally including: Taipei Biennial 2020 (Taipei Fine Arts Museum with Bruno Latour and Martin Guinard); Shanghai Project (Shanghai Himalayas Museum with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Dr. Yongwoo Lee); Helsinki International Artist Program ( Levyhalli Hall with Dr. Yeewan Koon); K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong; M+, Hong Kong; Power Station of Art, Shanghai; Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textiles (CHAT), Hong Kong, among others. Recent notable design projects include the Opening Exhibition for Design and Architecture Galleries in the soon-to-be-opened M+ Museum, Hong Kong, a new Convention and Exhibition Centre in Malaysia with MIIM, a commercial development in Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong, and the outdoor event space at SKYCITY, a major integrated development project at the Hong Kong International Airport.
Marisa Yiu and Eric Schuldenfrei, ESKYIU
A multidisciplinary architecture and design studio with the objective of building communities at the heart of its projects, ESKYIU is the brainchild of architect-designer duo Marisa Yiu and Eric Schuldenfrei. Founded in 2005 in New York, and later establishing its current Hong Kong studio-office in 2007, ESKYIU’s projects are far from conventional. Collaboration, sustainability and community are driving forces in all of ESKYIU’s conceptualisations, often seeking innovative answers to problems arising from overpopulated urban living—a conundrum of many major cities worldwide. ESKYIU’s critically acclaimed proposals include solutions to combat high density living spaces and introducing linear landscapes amid the concrete metropolis. Worthy to note among ESKYIU’s expansive portfolio are the interior detailing created for K11 ATELIER King’s Road, such as “Rammed Earth”, a unique wall comprising the natural raw materials earth, chalk, lime, and gravel, which pays tribute to the power of nature and its organic structures. Expanding beyond architecture, the design studio has also executed various socially-minded projects including “ESKYIU PLAYKITS”, an exhibition and series of events that strove to generate exchange, play, and interaction among local communities.