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Sensing Spaces: Great by Design exhibition

The new Great by Design: British Architecture – Asian Vision exhibition at The Fringe charts the way by which British architects have left their mark on the Asian architectural scene. Christie Lee reports.

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BY Stephanie Peh

April 9th, 2015


Images: Virgile S Bertrand

Comprising architectural models, images, information sheets and a three-screen video installation, the Great by Design: British Architecture – Asian Vision exhibition at The Fringe Club, organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and presented as part of the Great by Britain campaign, highlights the British architects who have illuminated the Asian architectural landscape in their own ways.

Great by Design: British Architecture

Images and information sheets are tacked onto Oriented strand boards with removable gel pads and short pins, to emphasise the stringent brainstorming process that goes into every successful piece of architecture but also as a fitting response to The Fringe’s gritty aesthetic. All in all, the exhibition was more educational than trying to present a romantic vision of the grandeur of British architecture.

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When it was first built in 1985, the HSBC Building – or ‘Robots Building’ as locals affectionately calls it – caused ripples in the Hong Kong scene and beyond. Aside from the exuberant cost (US$1 billion), it also put in place Sir Norman Foster’s desire to break away from models of previous bank architecture, with the inclusion of an open square on the ground floor where the public can traverse and gather at whim.

Looming over the Hong Kong island, Farrell’s Peak Tower is easily recognisable to those who often have friends visiting from out of town. The Peak is still the top go-to place for tourists, and has long been regarded as a symbol of the post-modernist movement, with the jutting eaves paying tribute to traditional Chinese architectural feature. Also on display are models of buildings erected by Zaha Hadid Architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, David Chipperfield Architects, Heatherwick Studio and Benoy.

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At the back of the room, a three-screen video installation shows “The Brits Who Built the Modern World”, the BBC documentary which inspired the inaugural London exhibition last year. The moving images bounce off on a two-way mirror – a metaphor perhaps, for the dilemma that today’s architects face.

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Earlier in the day, a public forum saw Ben Warner, Christopher Law, Matt Brook and Stefan Krummeck battled wits over issues pertaining to the architectural scenes in Hong Kong and Britain today. Curated by RIBA President Stephen Hodden, key issues explored include how one establishes his or herself locally, and ways by which cultural differences have influenced the creative and building process. The latter especially, saw the four architects agree on one point – the lack of regulations in the Chinese architectural industry have created a vacuum for architects to explore new materials and tools, especially for British architects who normally work under well-defined sets of regulations. The forum was preceded by a speech given by Colin Fournier, a visiting professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The Great by Design: British Architecture – Asian Vision exhibition runs at The Fringe Club until April 11.