Category: Hong Kong

Business of Design Week – Day 3

Charles Landry is probably not a name many of my readers would be familiar with – he is not a designer, rather an advocate of great cities. I myself had not heard of him until I stumbled upon his latest book at the BoDW bookstore and found that he was a keynote speaker the next day. Getting up early on a Saturday morning to listen to someone speak about urban development and “city making” may not sound exciting to some but I thought it was well worth the effort.

Landry’s work with the company Comedia that he founded in Britain in 1978 has spanned the globe and while you may not have been familiar with his name before today, I’m sure that many of us around the world have benefited from his experience.

Landry is championing the idea of the cultural city – the creative city. He put forth the question: “Rather than ask what is the value in thinking culturally, ask instead what is the cost of not thinking culturally”.

Coming from Melbourne, a city which is widely regarded as the cultural capital of Australia, and now living in Hong Kong, regarded by some as a cultural wasteland, this is a subject that is of particular interest to me. It is particularly pertinent now as Hong Kong embarks on the planning and development of the new West Kowloon Cultural District which some hope will be the panacea of Hong Kong’s issues. Personally, I think more needs to change here in people’s attitudes about education, public spaces and preserving local historical relics before a project of this size and cost will actually work in this city. But of course, that is just my humble opinion.

Landry’s latest publication, The Art of City Making. I picked up a copy at the forum and am finding it a fascinating read so far. If you are interested in urban development click the link above and get yourself a copy. More articles are available for download for a small fee from his website. If anyone out there has read any of Landry’s other books I’d love to hear what you thought of them.

Business of Design Week – Day 2, part 2

A quick glance at Patrick Blanc and you could be forgiven for wondering who the crazy looking little green-haired man was…a leprechaun?

In actual fact, Blanc is the botanist and designer who pioneered the use of vertical gardens in urban settings…and his presentation at BoDW was riveting.

The history of cities and modern urban development is a subject that is of great interest to me…I love cities and the built environment, which is definitely where my love of Architecture and Interior Design stems from. So Blanc’s discussion of the use of botanicals in cities to help purify the air is a subject also close to my heart, as well as many many others – a staggering 50% of the worlds population are now city dwellers!

Blanc has developed a system in which plants can be attached to a vertical structure without soil. Since the structure is so light they can be used for interior or exterior features of almost any size. Irrigation and fertilization is built in with the system and requires infrequent maintenance, the only catch is interior walls need artificial lighting.

The benefits of these lush and beautiful walls for everyone that inhabits or visits the city they are in are numerous. Not only do they look lovely (and often incorporate native species of the location) they, and the microorganisms that inhabit them, help improve the air quality by absorbing Carbon Dioxide and Volatile Organic Compounds. The system has been taken one step further and can even be setup for the plants to be irrigated by the recycled water waste from air-conditioners within the building.

Green was already my favorite colour, and while I’m not sure I’ll take Blanc’s lead and change my hair colour, I would absolutely love to see more of this colour in the form of vegetation in cities around the world – especially the concrete jungle that I currently call home.

An exterior facade – or “vegetal wall” on a Jean Nouvel building in Paris. Incidentally, Nouvel was the first architect to approach Blanc to use his vertical gardens on exterior building facades.

Another example of Blanc’s work, an interior vertical garden in the Sydney Qantas Lounge designed by Marc Newson.

Business of Design Week – Day 2, part 1

In my humble opinion, there were several very interesting speakers on Day 2 of BoDW – one standout in my mind was definitely Tony Chambers, Editor in Chief of Wallpaper* magazine.
Chambers presentation was entitled “Brand Spanking” and posited that magazines and newspapers are not dead, print media is just no longer enough. This is a subject close to my heart, and I’m guessing quite a few of you out there, as it seems that bloggers and blog readers are also magazine junkies. Chambers spoke at length about the work that has been done to revive Wallpaper since founder Tyler Brûlé left the helm, and how they are dealing with not only the financial crisis, but avoiding ending up in the ever growing magazine graveyard. Making Wallpaper a brand is the strategy that Chambers feels will differentiate it from other printed “products”. With the development of its online presence, and the Wallpaper city guides, it seems they have been quite successful so far.

But to me, the most innovative ideas they have shown are the one-off designer covers on special editions that will really make each issue a “product” worth keeping, rather than just a piece of information. Some of the most interesting covers of late use special technology that he admitted “costs a bomb”. He also divulged that they have a contingency fund, which I think he referred to as the bankruptcy account, that allows them to invest in special covers every now and then. Some of my favorites were:

In the same month readers were given a choice between a strip tease cover by Karl Lagerfeld – peel away cover to reveal Karls’ favorite model a la natural – or a flip animation by Philippe Starck.

Lenticular technology was used on this cover featuring a dress design by Hussein Chalayan that moved as you turned the cover.

Zaha Hadid’s cover involved die cutting may pages of the magazine to form a 3D sculpture inside the magazine.

Some of my other favorite ideas were the glow in the dark cover, and the use of invisible ink (some of the type on the cover was only visible when the ink was exposed to the light). Pure genius.
Chambers touched lightly on the subject of online media, and said he felt it would not be the death of magazines, that instead it needs to enhance the readers experience. I really wanted to ask him about whether he felt blogs, twitter and facebook would play any role in their online presence, but they were running out of time. What would you have asked him given the chance?

Business of Design Week – Day 1

What a week it has been in Hong Kong! Business of Design Week, the 5th year that I’ve had the pleasure of attending, was fantastic with so many interesting speakers this year. Its been a bit of a whirlwind with so many product launches (everyone was taking advantage of the fact so many designers were in town), showroom openings and Xmas parties. I took a few notes from the presentations that I thought were most interesting, and will endeavour to share those with you over the next few days. Here goes…

For me the highlight of Day 1 was multi-disciplinary French designer Jean-Marie Massaud. Sometimes the designers that are most interesting to me are not necessarily the ones whose work I already admired, but who are the most adept at entertaining and engaging the audience. And Massaud did just that, making me laugh out loud several times, and grin from ear to ear just listening to his French accent – he was utterly charming.

For anyone who is not already familiar with his work, Massaud has designed products as diverse as vases, tap ware (for Axor), furniture (for Poltrona Frau & B&B Italia), and a massive futuristic Zeppelin in the shape of a giant whale!

Daybed for B&B Italia

Bathware collection for Axor

However, it was not his work that Massaud enthralled the audience with, rather it was his philosophies and his vision for the future of design. Massaud espoused a utopian vision of the future where our current over-consumption of goods will end and quantity will become quality – through sheer necessity. He foresees a major shift occurring in the market and therefore our ideals, where “to have” will become “to be”. A world where more becomes better, status becomes value, appearance becomes meaning and matter becomes energy. Like I said, utopian, but this value shift does need to happen, and soon, because as we all know the world and lifestyle we are all living is simply not sustainable. Particularly important for us designers as we need to remember that we simply cannot just design products for the sake of it. I think this particular piece of advice is valid for all of us though, don’t you think?

The Upper House

Last week I had the pleasure of checking out the fairly recently opened The Upper House establishment in Hong Kong- the second installment by Swire hotels (they opened The Opposite House in Beijing late last year). Designed by local rising star Andre Fu of AFSO (who will be speaking at BoDW later this week), the spaces are done in a modern Asian style that is simple, elegant and luxurious. I haven’t seen the guest rooms yet, but the public spaces are lovely. When I checked out Cafe Gray for both mid-afternoon coffee and a late night cocktail it was jam packed. News travels fast in this city. I have to say though I especially loved the Living Room….complete with an open fireplace (a bit of a rarity in this city) that might just have to be added to my favorites list, see previous post on fireplaces here. What you can’t see in this photo is during the day when the drapes are drawn there is an enviable view of green mountain side. What a great place to curl up with a book – any time of the day!

Photo taken by a fabulous photographer, and friend, Haf Saba (click to enlarge).

Detour & Pecha Kucha

Saturday night was the latest Pechua Kucha night in Hong Kong, one of the Detour satellite events to the BoDW this year. I don’t think I could have thought of a better venue for it myself – the old Police force married quarters. While these buildings have been gutted and are probably ready for demolition (they are on prime land after all…) – thankfully someone realised their potential as gallery space in their current state. While the Pecha Kucha speakers were doing their thing, an interesting crowd of people listened on either from the sandy “lawn” below complete with beach balls, or from the balconies of the apartments which housed a wide range of student and local artist installations. It’s nights like these, organised by forward thinking individuals, that will help this city reach its full potential and set it apart from the rest of Asia.
Here a few random photos I took of the evening…

HK happenings…

The annual preeminent design festival in Asia, Hong Kong’s Business of Design Week, starts next week and I’m excited. You may remember me jumping up and down about it last year when they announced their design partner country was France. Speakers this year include Calvin Tsao (who of course, is not French), Jean Nouvel, Toyo Ito (also, not French), Patrick Jouin, Jean-Marie Massaud, Mathieu Lehanneur, Matali Crasset, and local rising star Andre Fu – to name but a few. The festivities actually kick off today with the DETOUR satellite events happening in locations all around the city – so check out the websites for further details!

Architecture is Art

“The mother of art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

The quote above is incredibly apt for the city of Hong Kong, which is no doubt why it became the tag line for the recent Architecture is Art Festival. While I didn’t make it to any of this years events I have to say that festivals like this are so important to a city where architecture and design has become such a commodity and so far removed from something that is an essential part of our everyday existence as humans. Quality of life and living is ignored in favour of controlled land releases, inflated prices per square foot and space “efficiency”. “We don’t look at architecture as art anymore, we only look at it as some kind of investment,” says Mathias Woo, the Artistic Director for the event. “All the buildings in Hong Kong are anti-architectural. Architecture is about community… Hong Kong is like an expensive prison.”

We can only hope that events like this one will start a much needed dialogue between the community and the decision makers…..

Photo taken by me from my street looking towards IFC2.


I’ve been a fan of French designer François Champsaur‘s interior design work for some time. I waited patiently for his website to be updated…and updated it was, with many lovely new images. And now, it seems my patience has been rewarded ten fold because not only is there a new website dedicated to his new furniture collection – HC28 – there is also a store in Hong Kong! I had the pleasure of checking out the recently opened store yesterday, and it was a real treat.

Above, a mix of residential and commercial projects, from Champsaur’s website. And below, just a few pieces from the collection that I saw in store yesterday. Most of the collection is very Asian inspired with simple lines and bright high-gloss lacquer, which is just stunning in person. There are quite a few other more versatile pieces like the sofas that would work in almost any home.

The Bel Air Sofa

Palm Beach Chair

Toy stools – these were available in almost any colour, really fun and versatile

Tree table

Xiang Desk

So folks, if you are in Hong Kong, the next time you are in Ap Lei Chau (yes, I know, a pain to get there) head into the HC28 showroom if you like what you see!

Green with envy

Is this not the perfect shade of green? Am I right, or am I right? I so want those walls in my bedroom! If Gambrel keeps this up, I’ll give up now and move to NY to join his bottega…

The posts from me might be a little on the light side for the coming weeks while I finish up my full-time job and some other exciting things, so this will have to do you for a while…I promise I’ll let you know whats happening when I can! I do plan to get a website together by the end of the year with some project photos, and this blog will be a part of it.

Oh, and in breaking news, my friends Alex & Ellis’ new shop ‘Moustache’ just got a write up in the NY Times T Magazine – how exciting! I attending the shop opening on Wednesday night (such a cute space). So check out their store if you are ever in Hong Kong, or you can also buy online!

Hong Kong Happenings

So I’ve been back a few days, and it seems like my trip to Melbourne was already a million years ago. It never ceases to amaze me how busy Hong Kong always is. And now that the weather is warming up the city is abuzz with events…

Thursday night saw the launch of David Ng’s new furniture collection launch at Wittgenstein Design – a gorgeous showroom in SOHO that also showcases the work of Christian Liaigre. The new collection of hand crafted contemporary Chinese designs will be in store until June 13th, so you still have time to check it out if you are in HK.

Friday night was the VIP, invitation only, launch of the 2 week event “Boutique Boulevarde: So Central, So Chic”. Lots of fun and frivolity in the city with music, wine and gourmet hors d’oeuvres – I think it was the retailers way of plying us with alcohol to get the credit cards out – but in HK you never really need a excuse to shop! Check out the website for further details of some of the other events that are open to everyone, including fashion and lifestyle workshops and poetry readings.

And Saturday I went along with my VIP pass to the Hong Kong Art Fair – and was definitely not disappointed! The fair closed yesterday, so if you missed out this year, make sure you pencil it into your calender for next year – it is definitely a must see for Hong Kongers. The range of international art, and the quality is unsurpassed in this city so far.

A crowd of people around the limited edition Damien Hirst works on paper – these were quite well priced, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they all sold within the first day.
People gathered in front of one of the LED pieces by Julian Opie.

One of a few pieces on display by the Lalanne’s – it was a real treat for me to see this up close.

Phew, busy week for me. I’ll hopefully be back to posting normally next week!

Business of Design Week 2008

Well, Business of Design Week in Hong Kong is over for another year. I’m not sure I have the time to do a lengthy write up on all the speakers I saw like I did last year, but I will give you a bit of a re-cap. Holland was the partner country this year, so there was plenty of local and Dutch talent in the city this week. Amongst many others I saw Hella Jongerius, Michael Young, and Rem Koolhaas. Unfortunately I missed out on seeing Marcel Wanders and Renny Ramakers of Droog Design. Rem Koolhaas was incredible, and my writing talents can not do justice to his words. What I will say, is that anyone interested in architecture, town planning or the cities of the future should jump at an opportunity to hear him speak. He truly is a visionary.

Apart from Koolhaas, I found Hella Jongerius’ talk interesting and a great insight into her working process – in particular, her explanation of how the Polder Sofa for Vitra came about. Jongerius background and specialisation is ceramics so she was a little confused to say the least when Vitra approached her to design a sofa. She almost turned down the commission! She told them she didn’t want to to design a sofa because she didn’t like them and actually didn’t even own one herself (not sure what she sat on instead!). So Vitra turned around and told her she should design a sofa that she would want at home, and so the gauntlet was laid. This funky shape is the result of a 6 month long design and mock-up process.

The most distinguishing features of the “Polder” sofa is the use of fabrics that are 4 different tones of the same colour, and oddly miss-matched buttons. Jongerius explained the reason for choosing so many different colours on one piece was to make it easier for people to fit this within their home – that it would be easier to “match” the colours with items in their existing interior. As someone who spent the beginning of my career working in fabric showrooms helping clients select fabrics for their furniture – I can personally say that this is a genius idea. I’m just not sure why nobody thought of it sooner. I found myself nodding my head knowingly as she spoke about how it is impossible to carry colour in your memory, and how hard it is to find just the right shade of (whatever colour it is that you’re looking for) green, red etc. to work with your (insert other decorative items here) carpet, curtains etc. Time and time again its such simple ideas that make the greatest innovations!

** Oops, I almost forgot to mention that the organisers of BODW announced the new partner country for 2009….FRANCE! Can you guess who is just a little bit excited???

Art Sunday!

Starting this Sunday!

“Hong Kong’s art and cultural landscape has recently undergone a renaissance, from the art auction rooms to the international acclaim of local artists. Galleries are blossoming and a sense of excitement, long associated with just the hallowed streets of downtown New York, is gathering locally and internationally about Hong Kong’s potential as Asia’s art capital.Now, Hong Kong art galleries in Central have come together to bring a sense of community, education and easy accessibility back into art. Beginning Sunday 7th December, art galleries in Central will open from 11am – 5pm for Art Sunday. This free event will allow families, friends, neighbours and those out for a leisurely Sunday afternoon, to engage with art, chat to their local gallerists, and listen to talks about art and artwork. Children will be able to participate in creative workshops and learn about art in a fun and interactive environment. Local cafes and restaurants will join in sponsoring the event, providing brunch and drinks for local participating galleries. With over 20 galleries and a number of local restaurants participating, Art Sunday guarantees something for everyone and is a wonderful way to support Hong Kong’s art community.”

Further dates for 2009 have already been set – February 8th, March 15th, and April 5th. See you there!

Carrie Chau at Times Square

Carrie Chau – one of my favorite Hong Kong artists – has a temporary exhibition/installation in the public space in front of Causeway Bay’s Times Square.

Starting today until the end of December, this will be on display. If you’re in Hong Kong, go check it out!


If you live in Hong Kong, get down to the Manks sale this weekend. They have a lovely showroom full of wonderful treasures that are rare in Hong Kong. I’ll definitely be there!