When Nature Meets Urban: Shigeru Uchida’s Archetype for Modern Living

View of Fleur Pavilia
View of Fleur Pavilia
View of Fleur Pavilia.
View of Fleur Pavilia
View of Fleur Pavilia
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Video Art Asia by COBOSocial.com

A new artisanal residential project blends modern living with minimal beauty and innovative design, sparking fresh life into old Hong Kong.

TEXT: Denise Tsui
IMAGES: Courtesy of Fleur Pavilia

View of Fleur Pavilia

 

Set against luscious green mountains in North Point, a true part of old Hong Kong with a living history deeply rooted in the many stories and memories of former and current residents, has bared witness to the city’s extensive urban developments. Nearby, the well-known Tsat Tsz Mui Road (literally “Seven Sisters Road”), once a tranquil beach prior to the 1910s, hides a murky, dark tale that has almost become urban legend. Reclamation projects expanded the original coastline of North Point further into Victoria Harbour. A thriving area in its former glory, Kai Yuen Street and Kai Yuen Terrace attracted many of the rich and famous to call it home including several notable cultural figures—among them, prominent Shanghainese writer Eileen Chang and painter Zhang Daqian. Today, just walking along its streets, the sounds, sights and smells of local Hong Kong engulf one’s senses.

Winding slowly up the steep Kai Yuen Street, the air becomes cleaner, the sounds quieter. Soon a striking residential complex comes into view. Fleur Pavilia, the latest in The Artisanal Movement projects under New World Development, is a breathtaking work of urban design and art. Created by the late Japanese master designer Shigeru Uchida (1943-2016) and his team, Fleur Pavilia endeavours to expand the horizons of modern living with its breakthrough concept of blending the boundaries between exterior and interior space. Three residential towers on the upper deck encircle a clubhouse and outdoor garden below—the heart of Fleur Pavilia. A specially commissioned sculpture titled Seven Knees by Shanghai-based artist Yu Ji stands at the axis of a spiralling staircase connecting the two. Catching rays of sunlight on its highly polished stainless steel surface, Seven Knees draws its inspiration from the three key floral elements underpinning all of Fleur Pavilia; that of pine, bamboo and plum blossom. Chosen for their abilities to thrive in the wintertime, pine and bamboo are evergreen while plum blossoms bloom in the cold, bringing the garden of Fleur Pavilia year-round vitality.

Upon entering the grandiose entrance from Kai Yuen Street, one is met with splashes of light ostensibly bouncing off the wall. A cleverly crafted illusion of water and lights, the sculptural installation, appropriately titled Dancing Water, generates an instant atmosphere of serenity and calm, creating a striking divorce from the outside hustle.

Helmed by entrepreneur, designer and K11 founder Adrian Cheng, The Artisanal Movement seeks to inspire a new culture for modern living, one that instils creativity and arts into the everyday. With several similarly focused residential projects already under its belt, Fleur Pavilia may just well become its most notable yet. It is the last project to be personally designed by Uchida, who passed away in late 2016 shortly after finalising the design concepts. His team, led by Uchida Design Inc. Director, Kihoshi Hasebe, carried forth the spirit of Uchida’s design and completed the project. When asked how he plans to continue Uchida’s legacy and bring his design spirit into future works, Hasebe quietly points to Uchida’s published books musing, “We always have to adapt as time goes by, but we will do so by continuing to follow his philosophies. In this way we can succeed and carry on Uchida’s spirit of design.”

 

View of Fleur Pavilia

 

Concerned with nature, human and society, Uchida’s design philosophy concerns itself with, as Uchida himself once put it, “something beyond the visible or touchable”. The elegance of minimal beauty is the aesthetic core of Fleur Pavilia’s design. “In Japanese culture, the space itself is very modest and minimal, so [for Fleur Pavilia] we didn’t try to make an exaggerated space with gorgeous materials, we sought to follow Japanese culture for a modest space.” Hasebe further explains, “We aren’t trying to be fashionable. The most important issue for us is that the residents feel comfortable, live pleasantly,  and can feel nature and its elements.”

In Uchida’s pursuit of a modern living space that provides serenity away from the over dense city life, no small detail is overlooked. Bespoke furniture specially designed by Uchida fill areas of the clubhouse. The outdoor and indoor pools are separated by glass sporting a waterfall, thus enhancing the feeling of blending inside and outside spaces. Deliberate intertwining of light and shadow amplifies the space while the emphasis on the panoramic landscape juxtaposed with vertical structural features magnifies the sensation of height.

 

View of Fleur Pavilia.

 

Celebrated for his conceptualisation of Japanese chashitsu (“tea room”), Uchida infused the essence and principles of chashitsu design throughout the interiors of Fleur Pavilia. Woven, gridded screens are employed to partition the various rooms within the clubhouse, creating an interior that emanates both an intimate sense of privacy and the warmth of shared coexistence. The screens, handmade out of bamboo wood and washi paper by Japanese artisans, cast glowing, patterned shadows that further enhance the play of light and the amplification of space. Laced with delicately placed ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), be that as a ceiling fixture, wall feature or table decoration, the clubhouse reflects the outside garden within its glass doors creating a unified ambience between indoors and outdoors.

The architectural triumph of Uchida’s team, this seamless merging of exterior and interior is the pinnacle of Fleur Pavilia’s design, inspired by another traditional Japanese architectural concept, the engawa, which, as Hasebe explains is “the ambiguous space, neither inside, nor outside, rather, the neutral space.” While urban architecture typically considers how we are surrounded by the landscape, Uchida’s design reverses the roles, turning the human-nature relationship upside down where the garden is the centre and the urban is enveloping nature. Crafted by renowned landscape design firm Ohtori Consultants Co. Ltd., the signature garden—dubbed Fleur Island—is the nucleus of the residential towers which orbit around it. Fleur Island features a medley of flora and precious blooms, accompanied with a soft stream of water whose gentle sound brings forth a meditative ambience. The element of water, promoting healing and tranquillity, is found throughout the spaces of Fleur Pavilia, imbuing a sense of calm, and encouraging quiet stillness and reflection.

 

View of Fleur Pavilia
View of Fleur Pavilia

 

Taking the spiral staircase in the middle of the garden to the upper deck, one is met with an expanse of open space, a real special treat in a city where real estate prices are among the world’s highest. Bamboos—planted with the hopes they will grow taller over time—draw our attention up to the sky. As North Point’s old buildings peek through the spaces between the residential towers, the contrast of Fleur Pavilia’s new buildings appear somewhat jarring to the eyes. Hardly a new or unseen phenomenon however, in a city whose history of urban developments is long and unstopping. The sight of old and new together is a gentle reminder of Fleur Pavilia’s status as a luxury development within an area of Hong Kong holding onto its strong provenance and cultural ties. As a work of architecture and design, it strikes reconsideration of how we can best utilise space where space is scarce. Fleur Pavilia, from the perspective of art, is a living archetype of modern design and a flourishing legacy of a Japanese designer whose innovation and philosophies inspired many.

 

 


 

Denise Tsui is a Hong Kong-born Aussie with an addiction to coffee. Her research interests are primarily in the art scene of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, as well as the study of exhibition models, from fairs and festivals to biennales and triennials. Previously she was an editor for ArtAsiaPacific and curator for a private collection of Australian and New Zealand art. A condensed version of her postgraduate curatorial thesis on contemporary Indonesian art was published in the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies in 2015. She is currently also the media manager for Parkview Art Hong Kong.

 

 

 
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