Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

The man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of ar­chi­tec­ture and in­te­rior de­sign firm CL3, Wil­liam Lim holds a va­ri­ety of aca­demic posts in Hong Kong and abroad. He is a mem­ber of var­i­ous in­dus­try bodies, in­clud­ing the Ar­chi­tects Reg­is­tra­tion Board, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ar­chi­tec­tural Prac­tices, the Hong Kong De­sign­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, the Hong Kong In­te­rior De­sign As­so­ci­a­tion and the Hong Kong In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects.

What’s re­ally struck me since the han­dover is how cul­ture and ar­chi­tec­ture have be­come so in­ter­con­nected in Hong Kong.

Look at the West Kowloon Cul­tural Dis­trict, which was first con­ceived in 1998. A project of that scale would have been un­fath­omable 30 years ago. Hong Kong was only seen as a fi­nan­cial hub back then; the arts weren’t in the pic­ture. Now the whole dis­trict is about to be­come re­al­ity. I think that’s the most ex­cit­ing thing to have hap­pened to the city, ar­chi­tec­turally.

Be­fore the han­dover, it was all about new malls, new struc­tures, new com­plexes.

New was ev­ery­one’s favourite word. Con­ser­va­tion ef­forts re­ally be­gan tak­ing shape af­ter 1997 and are now one of the lead­ing forces of the city’s ur­ban de­vel­op­ment. Take PMQ, or the for­mer Cen­tral Po­lice Sta­tion com­pound on Hol­ly­wood Road. Stan­ley, too, has seen some of that: Mur­ray House, which was built in Cen­tral in 1844, was moved there in the 2000s and re­vi­talised. Blake Pier was also re­lo­cated from Cen­tral in the mid-2000s, dis­man­tled brick by brick and then re­assem­bled.

There’s a will to pre­serve our past and her­itage

while in­ject­ing it with new life— turn­ing venues into clus­ters for cre­ativ­ity, de­sign and en­ter­tain­ment. I think it’s a way to as­sert our iden­tity as Hongkongers.

Colo­nial­ism may not have been the most glo­ri­ous part of our his­tory, but peo­ple have de­vel­oped an al­most nos­tal­gic af­fec­tion to­wards it.

It’s a sen­ti­ment that has emerged over the past 20 years; an at­tempt to re­claim our place in the world.

Look­ing at Hong Kong’s ur­ban fab­ric, the past 20 years have been noth­ing but stim­u­lat­ing.

So much of the city tex­ture has changed. Soho started post-han­dover, LKF reached peak re­nais­sance and it’s still evolv­ing. Then you have Poho and the whole West­ern Dis­trict, which has taken off with a com­plete new iden­tity since the open­ing of the MTR ex­ten­sion. You have gal­leries, top din­ing spots, bou­tiques. And this in ar­eas where there was re­ally noth­ing. That’s now hap­pen­ing also in Wong Chuk Hang—again, be­cause of the MTR.

In the ’90s, de­vel­op­ers wouldn’t take risks.

They wouldn’t try things that hadn’t been done be­fore. The gen­eral at­ti­tude to­wards ar­chi­tec­ture was re­ally quite con­ser­va­tive. If you were build­ing a ho­tel, you’d be asked to make it look like the Grand Hy­att. I es­tab­lished CL3 in 1992 and, for the first 15 years, barely had any projects in Hong Kong be­cause no one wanted to ex­per­i­ment. Now the whole sec­tor is a lot more for­ward-think­ing; peo­ple are keen to push the bound­aries in new ways. The H Queen’s build­ing, which I am cur­rently work­ing on, is a case in point. The mere no­tion of it—the idea of tak­ing an of­fice build­ing and turn­ing it into an arts and gallery space—would have been com­pletely out of the ques­tion 20 years ago.

Peo­ple are in­creas­ingly think­ing green.

Get­ting their projects Leed-cer­ti­fied [a mea­sure of en­vi­ron­men­tal friend­li­ness] is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant for de­vel­op­ers. There’s an aware­ness to­wards sus­tain­abil­ity that’s re­ally be­come no­tice­able over the past decade or so, es­pe­cially as far as res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ments go.

Soon enough, Hong Kong will stop mov­ing up­wards.

I think we’ll see a shift to­wards a more prim­i­tive way of look­ing at build­ings. It sounds im­prob­a­ble right now, but I re­ally be­lieve ar­chi­tec­ture will move away from tech and futuristic trends, and re­dis­cover the plea­sure of hav­ing pas­sive build­ing sys­tems— you know, struc­tures where you can ac­tu­ally open the win­dows. We need less glass and more breath­able space. It goes hand in hand with ris­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness.

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