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A HONG KONG PERSPECTIVE

by Adrian Ho on Mar 13, 2013 in Architecture , Interiors
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On his 90th visit to Hong Kong, Thomas Heatherwick talks with Perspective about his affections for the city

Thomas Heatherwick is no stranger to Hong Kong. During his frequent stays, the London-based designer splits his time between his local office, Pacific Place (the site of his current project) and, usually, attending seminars. For him, Hong Kong is unique – a mix of distinct qualities which both fascinate and, at times, irritate him. We met up with Heatherwick after he had spoken to an audience of 900 people at the recent Make a Difference (MaD) event, when he offered his unique takes on Hong Kong’s social phenomena… and why he loves to be here.

So what do you love about Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has phenomenal dynamism and energy, which are contained by jungle-covered mountains. The tallest towers are held together by a belt of mountains. In some of the cities in North America, it’s hard to tell where they begin and end, and it feels like the city can go on forever.

Does the density of Hong Kong bother you?
I love it. I think the wonderful thing about density is that it allows you to feel protected, but you can also have incredible privacy. If you live in a village, everybody sees what you do and knows what you are doing. In some sense you can have the greatest calm and be in your own thoughts in the city. I love the countryside deeply, but I think cities are incredible things. I think density allows that lovely chemistry of people bumping into each other. When they interact with each other, ideas happen; developments happen. The amazing ideas in the world happen in cities in general.

Besides your Pacific Place project, we know you have a hotel project in Sheung Wan too. How did the texture of Sheung Wan inspire your design?
When we were first asked to look at that site, I found an astonishing smell – the smell of all the dried, extraordinary creatures that once lived in the sea. There was an overwhelming sense of texture. I was aware that buildings can easily come in and kill that by being too smooth, too flat, too shiny and too ‘inhuman’.
The greatest respect you can pay to a site is to try to do your best work for that point of space. Just try to be specific. Because normally an interior and a hotel exterior are done separately, so we’re interested in making the interior and exterior at the same time. You can let the interior be the exterior. You know, at the UK Pavilion in Shanghai, you were seeing the interior when you look at the exterior.

** Images show Heatherwick’s new RouteMaster bus for London, and the UK Pavilion for the Shanghai Expo in 2010 (c) Iwan Baan **

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