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.