Design Dialogue

Is There Room for Architecture?


deTour Cafe



Architecture plays many essential roles in the fabric of the built environment, but it seems that Hong Kong favours more the efficient and economic building solutions that can be ultimately measured. When it comes to the discourse of architecture in cities, there are two distinct paradigms that the discussion often follows. It goes either to the persistent intentions of architectural strategies that address the issues and problems, while most of the time not raising heads above the parapet of ideology; or it goes to the blame of the wider socio-political and economic issues as core of problems and not architecture itself, hence end of discussion.

Hong Kong appears to have fallen into the latter paradigm with less willingness in pursuing architectural ideologies. In the contrary, the first tier cities in Mainland China, i.e. Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, which have probably tighter socio-political and economic constrains, increasingly exhibit more courage in practising architectural ideologies and crediting innovation, despite that Hong Kong should have more international architects with wider visions. Hong Kong has become a city that is essentially characterised by relentless accumulation of uncharacteristic buildings. Is it because that the stakeholders have little interest in delivering the unmeasurable quality of architecture? Or the statutory regulations are so stringent that they eliminate most possible creation of architectural alternatives? Maybe architecture in Hong Kong isn’t what it appears to be, but have architectural intelligence deeply buried under the uniformed outlook?
If it’s not architecture, then what is the problem? We accuse obstacles in the way of architects in implementing designs in full because ideology and cash flow never seem to get along well. After all, without architecture, buildings simply can’t be enjoyed. What is architecture’s role therein making the city of Hong Kong? It sounds like a redundant question, but this is the question we need to be contemplating, so that we can exploit “the room for architecture”.

John Campbell
Corrin Chan
Peter W. Ferretto
Yan Gao
Anderson Lee
Nasrine Seraji
Thomas Tsang

Conducted in English

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About John Campbell

John Campbell is currently Chair of both the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) HK Chapter, having set it up in 2012, and the Society of Façade Engineering HK Branch. He is an Architect and Expert Witness with over 35 years’ experience in construction and almost 25 years of that spent part time and full time principally in Hong Kong and China. John was Technical Director at TFP Farrells and worked on a number of high profile buildings including Kowlooon Station, The Peak Tower, KK 100 Tower in Shenzhen, Beijing and Guangzhou South High Speed Rail Stations.

About Peter W. Ferreto

Peter W. Ferretto, studied architecture at the University of Cambridge and the University of Liverpool. He taught at the Architectural Association in London and Seoul National University in Korea, and in 2014 was appointed Associate Professor of Architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

He has a wide range of professional experience, working for several international architectural practices including Herzog & de Meuron, where he was responsible for numerous projects including CaixaForum Madrid.  Between 2009-2014 he ran his architectural practice PWFERRETTO winning several international architectural competitions including Busan Opera House.

His recent publications include "Place/ Seoul" (2015), an urban study of Seoul's background architecture and "Architect's Notes" (2014), a book about demystifying the design process. His current research focuses on two interrelated fields: Urban Background Architecture and Adaptive Architectural Design.

About Yan GAO

Mr. Gao is Assistant Professor of architecture at The University of Hong Kong (HKU), teaching M.Arch seminars of creative computational design and BIM and a design studio. He is the programme director for Digital Practice: Hong Kong and supervising M.Arch thesis students. He is also the programme director of the AA Beijing Visiting School (2010-2012), to be hosted at Tsinghua University, visiting lecturer at University of Saint Joseph Macau. He has taught in AA Design and Research Lab (2008-2009) and AA Shanghai Visiting School (2007-2009) and a number of parametric workshops in China. In 2006, he co-founded NoDE (Network of Design Emergence) to push the boundary of architectural discipline, theories and techniques based upon cutting edge digital means. In 2010, he was appointed as the Consulting Creative Director of dotA Architectural Design Ltd Beijing, where he has led various projects and competitions with a range from interior to urban scale.

About Anderson Lee

Anderson founded Index Architecture Limited in 2000. The office has been participating in a wide range of exhibitions and design forums which included the 2007 and 2009 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennale, the “40 under 40” exhibition in Shanghai, China PRC (2007), Asia Design Forum (2004), etc. The works of Index are also featured in design periodicals and journals frequently such as the SCMP, Area, Domus, Elle Decoration, Perspective, d+a, Hinge, Time+Architecture, etc. The practice has received multiple design awards from The American Institution of Architects (AIA), HKIA and Perspective magazine. Anderson has been teaching at the Faculty of Architecture, the University of Hong Kong since 2003. Currently he is the Academic Director of the HKU Shanghai Study Centre and the Program Director of the Career Discovery Program. He also served as invited guest critic at Princeton University, Yale University, Cornell University and Meiji University, etc. Anderson was appointed as Chief Curator of the 2011 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennale, and was the recipient of the HKU Faculty Outstanding Teaching Award in 2014. Anderson received his Master of Architecture degree from Princeton University. He is a Registered Architect in Hong Kong and the State of New York; also he is a member of The Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA) and the American Institute of Architects (A.I.A).

About Nasrine SERAJI

In 1989, Seraji established her studio in Paris where architecture is treated as both a cultural debate and a practice. Seraji taught at, at the Architectural Association, Columbia University, Princeton University, and Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, as Professor of Ecology, Sustainability and Conservation, as well as Head of the Institute for Art and Architecture. She was a Professor and Chair of the Department of Architecture at Cornell University. In 2006, she became Dean of the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture Paris-Malaquais (formerly the École des Beaux-Arts) by Presidential and Ministerial appointment. Awarded "Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur," one of the highest degrees of honour in France, and "Medaille d’Argent by the French Academy of Architecture" for her contribution to academic endeavours in architecture. In May 2016, she was honoured and promoted to the rank of "officer" in the national order of the merit (officier dans l’Ordre National du Mérit.)

About Thomas TSANG

Trained in art and architecture at Cooper Union, worked as artist and curator based in Hong Kong, and founder of DEHOW PROJECTS. His work integrates artistic practice with architecture in installations and exhibitions. His curatorial projects include Cloud of Unknowing: A City with Seven Streets (2014) at Taipei Fine Arts Museum (with Roan Ching-yueh), Grand Opening Projects (2013–2015) at Miniature Museum, Beijing, and Mobile Biennale (2016). He is recipient of numerous awards, including the Shinkenchiku-sha Prize, a Graham Foundation award, and the Rome Prize by American Academy in Rome, Civitella Ranieri Fellowship, and Mellon Visiting Artist at the Susan and Donald Newhouse Center for the Humanities at Wellesley College. His publications include On the Edge: Ten Architects from China (2007), and he is MoMA symposium on the publication Open City: An Existential Approach (2015) with Diane Lewis. Taught at the Cooper Union and China Academy of Art, and currently an Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong. Recently awarded HKU Interdisciplinary Knowledge Exchange Funding with Jose Vicente Neglia (Music) and Deborah Waugh (Music) for Sounding Architecture.