In conversation with seven Hong Kong Architecture and Design Associations

by on May 20, 2019 in Architecture , Interiors , Top Story
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There are numerous professional bodies for those in the architecture and design industry, from local associations to chapters of international organisations. To learn more, Perspective talked to the heads of seven Hong Kong architecture and design associations 

Kevin Lim is president of the American Institute of Architects Hong Kong Chapter (AIA Hong Kong)

DSC_4937How long has the chapter been operating and how did it come about?
AIA Hong Kong was established in 1997 and was the third overseas chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Several AIA-member architects in Hong Kong formed the chapter under the leadership of professor Nelson Chen, FAIA, the founding president. It now has nearly 400 professional and affiliate members, promoting public awareness of issues on the built environment in Hong Kong, China and Asia.

I was introduced to AIA HK by my father, William Lim, FAIA. He held the role of president; I had attended a number of events and thought, 'I'd like to be a part of this organisation'. As president, I hope to help grow our local component and provide more resources for fellow architects, to continue giving back to the community.

What is the main purpose of the Hong Kong Chapter?
In my opinion, the most important purpose is to provide a resource and hub for our members. We help facilitate these needs by offering a range of activities to our local members, and acting as a liaison to AIA Nationals.

We provide programmes for our members that include building tours, technical seminars, study sessions, educational seminars and social events. Most popular are the building tours, as they give us all the chance to walk through a significant project with the architects, contractors, and developers who brought it to life. We are also very proud of our annual Honors & Awards competition; it's a great opportunity to showcase the really exceptional works our members are putting out in the world.

How do the AIA National and the Hong Kong chapter communicate?
As face-to-face interaction is limited to two or three annual conferences, we regularly receive emails regarding changes and updates to the greater AIA community. Additionally, we have monthly conference calls with representatives from AIA Nationals and other International Components. There is also an International Region Component now, which helps us take advantage of seeing how other chapters operate and allow them to learn from how we operate.

What do you hope to achieve during your tenure as president?
Mentorship creates additional opportunities for our emerging architects to learn about what's going on. Collaborative events open dialogues for cross-industry and cross-cultural discussions, which leads to more innovation that we all can take back to our work. Joint events between the three professional architectural associations (with HKIA and RIBA Hong Kong) allow for a broader reachfor the exchange of ideas and knowledge in our industry. The tours provide our members with an opportunity to learn about heritage buildings and educate visitors about the important role that architects play in historical preservation and adaptive reuse projects.

Tell us about your collaborations with other bodies.
There are so many events and tours throughout the year that benefit from our collaborations with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Institute of Architects, Royal Institute of British Architects, Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, Design Trust, Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design and many other friends and colleagues in Hong Kong and beyond.

Which issues are of particular interest to you at the moment?
There are several issues the AIA focuses on each year. For the past couple of years, two of the biggest have been sustainability and diversity. These are very broad topics, but they inform a lot of discussions. More specifically, though, there are many conversations around sustainability through energy efficiency, and school safety from a design perspective.

What advice do you have for young architects?
The most important advice is to be passionate about the industry and always stay hungry to learn. With the industry evolving at a fast pace, the best way to stay updated is to attend seminars or reach out to professional organisations.

Felix Li, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA), strives to uphold the industry's professionalism and hopes to create a less intimidating image for its members and the public

DSC_1684What major challenges currently face Hong Kong architects?
Many new building technologies, design trends and contract-administration initiatives have been introduced over the past years. When the new BIM three-dimensional drawing system from the government came suddenly into force last year, a deep impact was felt, as it affects not just architects but also engineers, surveyors and even facility management. With the Design for Manufacturing and Assembling (DFMA) policy, the prefabrication process becomes volumetric, meaning everything is factory-produced, with new contractual concepts such as National Engineering Contract (NEC). All these prompt us to change our professional CPD (Continuing Professional Development) programmes to introduce new technologies and seminars to our members [with programmes] such as BIM accreditation training.

Another concern is the legislation for the Competition Ordinance which affects new members who have set up new companies. There used to be a reference for architects in proposing a fee for projects. Now the legislation leads to declining consultation fees, inevitably compromising the quality of service of consultants and prospects of young architects.

What frustrations are young members now encountering?
There are not enough outlets for rising talents and 'starchitects' to be discovered. Companies tend to be conservative, hiring experienced architects or larger firms rather than aspiring youngsters. Unlike overseas, there are virtually no design competitions for civil design projects here. And competitions do not always result in actual built projects. We are lobbying government officials to encourage them to get those projects built by young architects: it's important to give them a hand.

How do you communicate HKIA's message to society in general?
For industry and society, I'm prepared to embrace and be actively involved in new policies, for both government and professional bodies, in the early stages before it's too late. An example is the Greater Bay Area development. I'm also ready to drive public engagement to promote design excellence and the role of HKIA.

What about the institute and members? How do you plan to improve communication with them?
One thing I've learned is a completely different medium of communication, as the young are more smartphone-centric. That's why we've introduced Facebook live chat to create an open platform for them to ask questions or even complain. Another thing is a completely refreshed website, to be launched in the second quarter.AAR_2995What do you hope to achieve during your two years of presidency?
Some [aims] are ongoing, such as how to build a liveable city, lobbying the government on major policies. The most important thing is to engage with members. I hope to do this sooner rather than later. Government policies and new technologies are rolling out fast and we hope to know about them way  ahead of them being implemented. I hope to answer this by restructuring our CPD programmes. It's also my goal to build a groundwork for the next term to tackle the decrease in fees, while ensuring the quality of work and public safety. We can create a new image for HKIA to avoid being too professional to the members and the public. It's good to be able to take risks.

How do you get a consensus for the voice of HKIA?
We try to target the member stakeholders. For issues such as building technologies, we speak to company members and get the right opinion. Our council members are all elected, so they are representative enough to speak for the institute. For major policies such as the Lantau development plan, we set up a task force that includes the voice of young members. The government may think we are the most independent-thinking professional body, as we will not take sides.

The Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors' (HKIS) president Tony Leung reflects on the latest direction of the body and his mission to mentor the younger generation

DSC_1754What are your goals for 2019?
We are celebrating our 35th anniversary this year with a string of events (starting with a cocktail reception on April 26) and each of our [six] divisions will celebrate with its own events. Our task force is focused to plan a series of events under the theme of '35 Years of Surveying' including our first family-oriented 10km marathon.

We also unveiled our outline for the "One Belt, One Road" initiative earlier, where we see a lot of opportunities for youngsters in Hong Kong. We're going to speed up and strengthen communication with them.

How will you enhance engagement with your members, particularly the younger ones?
We have a Young Surveyors Group (for members, probationers and students below 40) that actively participates in many sporting activities such as dragonboat races, football, basketball – there's even a surveyors' band. We also started a mentor system last year where our seniors volunteer to nurture young members at seminars, hoping to strengthen their cognition in surveying and sense of belonging. We also encourage them to join the task force to express their views on land and housing policies.

What is the role of HKIS in the public sphere?
As HKIS is the only professional association in the surveying sector governed by ordinance, we hope to play an advisory role to the government and give our professional opinion on major policies such as the Lantau initiative and Greater Bay Area development. We will be more active in advising, rather than 'blindly supporting', now that the government is more aggressive in policy implementation.cyd 2018 ceremonyWhen our General Council has agreed on something, such as the government's motion for funding to study the Lantau reclamation project, we immediately send the message to our members before sending a letter to the Development Bureau. We do not necessarily support the reclamation but hope the study will look at how to build a sustainable and liveable city.

What does HKIS do to educate the public about the surveying profession?
We are driven to increase public engagement. Last year we initiated a promotional campaign in Wan Chai and organised competitions in schools, teaching the public about our profession.

What is your mission for your tenure in 2019?
I pledge to nurture our young members and promote our institute to the next level. It's important to pass on our inheritance to the next generation. Our task force is also working to organise an award that can represent HKIS as a whole next year.

Joey Ho, chairman of the Hong Kong Interior Designers Association (HKIDA), points to the increasing significance of the interior design industry and its popularity as a profession

What is HKIDA's role?
DSC_1895As a professional body, HKIDA brings design and project talents together to benefit both businesses and consumers and develop long-term relationships between our members. We continue to develop and improve professional standards of designers, contractors and suppliers with an updated code of conduct, while keeping up standards of creativity, workmanship and technical innovation.

The association has always been active not only regionally, but also in the international arena, engaging in learning programmes and exchange sessions with international associations. At the same time, we also nurture young design talents by providing support and a platform to showcase their work.

How do you engage members?
Our members include a vibrant community of interior designers, contractors, suppliers, students and other professional practitioners in interior design. [We run] public events, such as conferences, exhibitions, and a series of workshops supported by government funds. We [have] an exhibition coming up in Bangkok in October. Every year, we have the "East Gathering", with interior design organisations in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore taking turn to host cross-cultural events and exhibitions.

What are your plans for 2019?
Starting this year, HKIDA encourages members to achieve continuing professional development (CPD) every year. Local practitioners can update their professional knowledge and skills through participating in CPD courses, conferences and other professional activities in Hong Kong, China and overseas. We will continue to promote professional standards by the issuance of certificates for HKIDA-certified interior designers. Externally, we will continue enhancing our partnerships and collaborations with other international organisations.

Where do you think Hong Kong's interior design industry is heading?
Interior design is getting more popular. The demand for Hong Kong's high-end design services is rising in light of a flourishing China market. Recent research [estimates the] number of interior design firms will increase from 350 to 1,650 within the next four years.

What are the challenges?
There is a missing link between education and current practice in Hong Kong. Design education has to be updated and connected with what is happening right now, and prepare students for the new code of practice. That is why we encourage CPD among practising designers. We are glad the government is starting to notice what we are doing, and is providing more funding to support the growth of our industry.

Hong Kong's design industry has always held a reputation for high standards. But the world of design is constantly shape-shifting and we have to learn to change our perspective. Who is your competition and where do you stand? We have to learn to see the bigger picture.

Design education has to be updated and connected with what is happening right now, and prepare students for the new code of practice

To a certain extent I think Hong Kong still has that flair, but I've noticed a tendency to take things for granted. I always tell young designers how when [the older generations of designers] started, we really worked like hell. That's why we were able to earn this prestige – it's a process of sweat and tears. Sometimes I think we've become too pampered. There's something missing: it's not talent, it's the willingness to be dedicated and to persevere.

Karr Yip, chairman of the Hong Kong Designers Association, hopes to foster more collaboration between the design and technology sectors – a pet project he's been working on for years

DSC_1602How did you get involved with the association?
I started as a fine art student and then [decided] I wanted to study architecture so I did both degrees in five years. I've been a member of the association for years. I won the first Hong Kong Young Design Talent Award in 2005, which led to me being invited to join HKDA. However, for nearly 10 years I wasn't really involved in the organisation.

I came to realise this association is a very useful platform for local designers, because it reaches out to a large spectrum of practitioners, including interior, space, product, UX and architecture. I took the position thinking that it would be a good chance to promote tech in the design industry.

What do you wish to achieve during your tenure?
It has been a busy few months. I started a DXT programme (Design X Technology) a few months ago that aims to connect local design talent with tech companies. I believe this can enhance the quality of innovative products. Hong Kong designers are among the best in the world, and we should bring this talent to another level. The combination of design and technology can bring about positive impact to both industries.

We are also working on establishing an online service platform to connect Hong Kong designers with the mainland Chinese market. China's domestic demand for quality design has grown significantly, yet I hear complaints about inconsistency in the quality of mainland designers; [mainland customers] are more in favour of the calibre delivered by Hong Kong designers. We hope this platform can leverage the credibility of local design to help designers reach quality customers and large-scale projects.

There is our annual Global Design Awards to look forward to. This flagship event of the association has been running since 1975. We're happy to see recognition for the awards increasing internationally. Not only are the judges internationally recognised designers, but the quality of the submitted projects is also getting higher and higher. The number of entries is the highest among all the design competitions in Hong Kong, with over 2,000 entries in 2018. Through this competition, Hong Kong designers can reach out to internationally outstanding designers and hone their strength.

What does good design mean to you?
My work revolves around creative thinking, with spatial design at its core. My work also revolves heavily around arts and culture-related and mostly NGO-related projects. I hope this design thinking will help to bring designers forward and allow design thinking to be advocated to a greater degree in the public realm.

Successful design is not based on the level of lavishness, but an accurate understanding of the client's needs and goals, coupled with appropriate brand positioning, visual effects and spatial design.

The 'design experience' will take a very important [role] in the future development of design. I'm currently working on a wuxia-themed (Chinese martial arts) hotel in mainland China. I am unable to disclose the exact location but what I can say is that I and my design team have put a lot of emphasis on the overall hotel experience. It is not just about aesthetics. I've incorporated tech and multimedia elements, and fun touches such as wuxia character staff costumes that will make the whole hospitality experience worthwhile. The design solution should be complete, that's what makes a design unique.

Roger Wu, chairman of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Hong Kong, reflects on the chapter's seven years of operation and his final year at the helm

DSC_4957How long have you been involved with the chapter?
At the end of 2012, a group of us got together with the blessing of the then president of RIBA, Angela Brady, and started RIBA Hong Kong. There were about 12 of us. John Campbell was instrumental in setting it up, he was the first chairman and he's still involved. [RIBA has] about 800-900 members who live and work in Hong Kong and we thought this group of people have a lot of knowledge and common interests, and [needed] opportunities to network, to promote skill sets. It's a case of making the most of our RIBA members in Hong Kong. It is the third biggest city, in terms of concentration [of RIBA members], outside London and Manchester.

What is the main purpose of the chapter?
The [chapter] was set up to promote the skills and abilities of this group of people, and to network and share. About 95 percent of what we do is open to anybody, even nonarchitects. We're not just serving our members, but the architectural community in Hong Kong.

How do you communicate with RIBA in London?
Being 6,000 miles away it's very difficult, with the time difference, for any kind of real live connection, there are pros and cons with that. The pros: a lot of the time we're left to our own devices and we're quite flexible and agile in that sense. We don't need to have the blessing from HQ on every decision. We know the RIBA brand and how we want to protect it, it is mutual trust on that front.

We were very quickly able to demonstrate that even left to our own devices, we could deliver results and once they saw that they were happy for us to carry on and do what we believe necessary. Compared with other institutions [that may have a more] rigid structure, we're agile and able to respond to opportunities almost immediately. That's opened up a lot of different avenues.

What is your message to members and the public?
As architects, the message is we think that what we do is connected to everybody on a day-to-day basis – creating buildings, and design spaces and so on. Our goal is to make what we do more accessible to people. Not just physically, but how we talk about architecture, how we talk about urban issues. That's why a lot of what we do is open to the public (non-members and non-architects) to encourage cross-fertilisation of ideas. The message is to keep that dialogue open.DSC_4822How often do you meet?
There isn't a schedule. A lot is opportunity driven. We think we should meet at least once a month and on top of that, organise more focused events, be it sharing sessions or competitions. We often don't necessarily, because we are volunteers doing this outside of work, but we try to achieve as much as we can.

What are your plans for 2019?
What we've got cooking is building up to the end of the year, towards BODW (Business of Design Week) because the partner country is the UK. A lot of things are happening behind the scenes; we're working with the British Council to gather our resources together. Last year, we had a big joint symposium. Hopefully this year we'll have the opportunity to do that. We're already talking to [HKIA and AIA HK], so watch this space.

Iris Hoi, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects (HKILA) was first inspired by the classical landscapes of China. She now focuses on connecting people with nature

DSC_1723What is landscape architecture?
Personally, I believe it's wrong to think of landscape architecture as a subsidiary of architecture; it's a completely different field of work. Architects work with buildings; landscape architecture is a combination of geography, science and art. We work with landscape to make it livable for human beings. It's not just about urbanisation or gentrification, it's about adding social elements to a place, putting into consideration history and living habits. Take the pyramids of Egypt as an example. The desert of Giza would look just as stunning without the pyramids, but with them, it proves human existence and tells a story of culture and history.

What inspired you to become a landscape architect?
I was born in Tianjin and grew up near Beijing, where there were huge constructions and beautiful hutong areas. I grew up surrounded by this big urban playground and was blown away by the beautiful garden designs in the Imperial Palace. Then I moved to Canada and was exposed to a completely different landscape of huge mountains, lakes, forests… I started pondering questions like how do you connect with nature when you live in the city? Thus began my career in landscape architecture.

What aspects of Hong Kong's landscape pulled you in?
Contrary to general perception, the high population density in Hong Kong – while being extremely challenging – poses a huge opportunity. Because of the high density of buildings, we have to be more creative when it comes to ergonomic designs and sustainable developments. It allows us to build on ground level and at an elevation. It's also interesting to think about enhancing and adding greenery in the limited space we have. It's something Singapore has been doing for a long time. I think Hong Kong has huge potential to do it even better.

What is in the works for 2019?
We have two main events this year. One is our annual HKILA Landscape Awards, which are treated as almost a peer review of our members' projects. We've recently started receiving award entries from mainland China as well, which is exciting.

The other event, which is a monumental project, is our collaboration with the Greater Bay Area. Currently 90 percent of Hong Kong's plant materials are imported from Guangdong Province. But planting regulations in Hong Kong are completely different from those of mainland China.

Hong Kong's soft-landscape specifications originated in the West while China has its own history of landscape and garden design guidelines. We are looking to unify China and Hong Kong's plant material standards this year, and working closely with the Guangdong Landscape Society to rewrite the soft-landscape specifications.

What is the future for landscape architecture in Hong Kong?
There is an increasing awareness of outdoor living space and environmental sustainability. I hope the association will play a more active role in Hong Kong's public land developments, like the harbourfront and, more importantly, housing developments. Landscape architects have always been consulted in private property projects, but [it is just as important that] public housing has quality outdoor spaces for social interaction. I want our profession to be more involved in these aspects.






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