Published: 10:37, May 19, 2023 | Updated: 18:27, May 22, 2023
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The architects of Hong Kong’s future
By Mariella Radaelli

Sarah Lee, Yutaka Yano and Hendrik Tieben, co-curators of Transformative Hong Kong, a collateral event at the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2023. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Arguably the world’s most distinguished exhibition of contemporary building design, the Venice Biennale of Architecture opens on Saturday, with Transformative Hong Kong among the collateral events.

Jointly organized by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and Hong Kong Institute of Architects Biennale Foundation, Transformative takes its cue from the upcoming biennale’s theme — the laboratory of the future. 

 “The exhibition features a diverse range of architects, designers and academics collaborating in this time of transformation, and tackles what is important for our future,” explains Yutaka Yano, who, with Sarah Lee Kwok-yan and Hendrik Tieben, has curated Transformative. Yano and Lee are the founders of Sky Yutaka, a Hong Kong-based, multidisciplinary design studio.  

The exhibition’s three sections — Territorial Transformations, Architectural Transformations, and Public Space Transformations — explore themes like Hong Kong’s integration into the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, sustainability, climate change, technology, and energy and resource management. 

As Hong Kong stands at the threshold of mega-scale, sustainability-driven renewal — with territorial-scale projects in the planning or implementation phases — the curators are thrilled to mark this pivotal moment by bringing Transformative to a global audience. They say it’s a great opportunity, the biennale being an excellent platform to promote Hong Kong architecture, foster future collaboration, engage in critical reflections about the future, and learn from others.

The showcase features 11 site-specific installations representing transformative moments in the life of a city committed to — among other things — a Climate Action Plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. 

A mock-up of a section of the Hong Kong exhibition at the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2023.(PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The milestones of Hong Kong design on display include mega projects such as the MTR Northern Link and East Lantau Metropolis. 

The Rocco Design Architects site provides a visual timeline of the ways in which the city’s look has changed over the years. Highlights include the story of the under-construction East Kowloon Cultural Centre (EKCC), a venue adaptable to the staging of multiple art forms. Some of the time-tested features of the Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate, which had to make way for the construction of the EKCC, have been incorporated into the design of this community-oriented cultural center. The open, public spaces in the compound, for instance, lend themselves to hosting traditional-performance art forms, such as the Chinese opera during the Hungry Ghost Festival.

When it comes to eco-designing the Hong Kong of the future, it is necessary to “integrate community engagement into the design process or create a community-centric environment,” Tieben, Transformative’s co-curator and director of the School of Architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, explains. It is his mission to make cities more healthy and inclusive.

Another Transformative highlight is the reimagining of Victoria Harbour, a resilient symbol of Hong Kong since 1888. The display demonstrates how local design studio Lead8 has been hosting workshops to come up with innovative ideas on connecting the two halves of the port lying on either side of the Lei Yue Mun channel.

“Ongoing mega-projects and a recently initiated territorial planning framework will profoundly transform the city,” points out Tieben. “Although the complexity and depth of the subjects extend far beyond the scope of this exhibition, and a fluid transitional phase is often difficult to capture, the show provides unique insights into critical urban issues facing Hong Kong in the near future.” 

If you go

Venice Biennale of Architecture: Transformative Hong Kong

Dates: May 20 through Nov 26

Venue: Campo della Tana, Castello 2126, 30122 Venice, Italy