One of the many finished projects featured in the book is the somewhat recently completed Shàng-Xí restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel, Shanghai. Its a good example of the level of detail and refinement in their designs and the selection of unusual and luxurious materials. Its been forever since I was last in Shanghai, and its definitely on my list of places to return…so I might just have to make a special trip to check this place out…
Its not often you come across someone who has pretty much crystallized every seemingly disparate thought you’ve ever had into something profound and meaningful. I had that moment last week though when I heard architect Daniel Libeskind present and had the opportunity to interview him.
I think it was Goethe who said “I call architecture frozen music”, and had he been alive today he may have been referring to the work of Studio Libeskind. Polish-born Libeskind was actually a virtuoso musician before he became an architect. He believes both art forms share a great deal in common, being crafted with perceptible and imperceptible human energy, and being partly ethereal.
His studio is responsible for some of the most iconic urban landmarks worldwide, including; the ground zero master plan NYC, the military history museum in Dresden, Jewish museum in Berlin, the Run Run Shaw creative media centre in Hong Kong, and numerous other commercial, residential and cultural buildings.
Libeskind’s presentation covered seven of his projects under segments entitled; Hand, Expressive, Heritage, Sculpture, Dialogue, Diversity and Rebirth. But it was during the group interview that he impressed me the most. Libeskind is an artist, a poet, and a philosopher. And I would have liked to have sat and talked with him for hours.
He touched upon a topic that has been on my mind a lot recently, that the built environment has a great impact on the mental health and well being of it’s occupants. We are living in an age where we are becoming more and more aware and concerned about our health, our food and where it comes from, and its nutritional content. I can only hope that in the future far greater importance will be placed on the impact of our physical surroundings. Where we live, where we work, and how we get around.
When asked about Hong Kong specifically, Libeskind called it a “daring” city, and suggested that its planners and designers needed also be daring. That the city should not just be a portfolio piece for starchitects, but that it needs to be more inventive, and perhaps a take some risks. Hong Kong is no long a city that trades goods, it now trades ideas, so a quantum shift is perhaps needed to get us into a new era, adding that cities that don’t make space for creative people have no future…
Crawford’s presentation is entitled “Why Interiors Matter” and she talks to the audience for 30mins about how a good interior can, and should, change how we behave and feel. Interiors are a microcosm of society, a frame, a world unto themselves and have a profound effect on our mental outlook, health and behaviour, but are often overlooked, or the left to the end when there is insufficient budget.
At the end, a question from the audience sparked an almost rhetorical response from Crawford. Everyone these days thinks they’re an interior designer. (Personally, if I have one more person tell me they think they have a calling just because they like to rearrange their furniture, or because they’ve helped a friend buy cushions, I’m going to quit, or give them a job!) Crawford’s insight: everyone thinks they’re an expert in interiors. But do we tell the chef in a restaurant to change things more to our liking? Do we tell a lawyer we didn’t like their closing statement? Better yet, do we argue with a doctors verdict? Disagree with a structural engineer? (Or try and negotiate with any of these other service providers on their fees?). It’s a good point.
The success of Studio Ilse’s latest project in Hong Kong, a low rise residential development – 226 Hollywood Rd (which I posted about here) – in my opinion, is a victory for all Hong Kongers. In a city where most residential developments are quite homogenous, hyper dense and high rise, 226 is a shining beacon. The developers – Blake’s – took a risk. They are the new kids on the property development block, and apparently several other old-school developers who are mentors told them it would never work. All of the apartments sold within weeks. Admittedly there were only half a dozen or so, but I think it still proves a point. That there is room for differentiation in a city like Hong Kong.
Crawford reiterated that a designer can only be as good as their client allows, and hopefully the courage and tenacity of this developer will be an example to other property developers around the world. To take risks, to do something out of the norm, and to help play their part in making our cities more livable and more attractive, for us and future generations. Buildings last a long time.
Eclectic Cool, G/F 58 Po Hing Fong, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Open 12-6 Wed – Sun.
While the inspirations for the collection are a bit eclectic (they vary from 1930s and 40s French moderne design up to the 1970s and more contemporary in style) the pieces are united by the quality of their materials and their manufacture. Locally-sourced materials (including cast bronze, solid marble, exotic skins, lacquer work and local hardwoods) that give a luxurious feel to each piece, are brought together by the hands of skilled artisans reviving skills that not long ago were dying. Each piece is individually crafted, so every piece is a one of a kind and can be customized in size and material if so desired. I hope you like!