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AD+RG: Building Communities

Bernard Lim, founding principal of AD+RG tells Christie Lee about the importance of architecture as a platform to foster communities.

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BY Janice Seow

May 28th, 2015


Top: Bernard Lim. Photo: AD+RG

A pioneer of urban design in Hong Kong, AD+RG’s founding principal, Bernard Lim, was born in the same era as Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei and Oscar Niemeyer. Like most architects, the 58-year-old is obsessed with space and how it can be manipulated to different effects.

However, the Hong Kong born and bred architect believes that today’s master builders should always look past their egos to construct spaces conducive for community building. “I’m personally not a fan of iconic architecture,” says Lim, who also founded the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design in 2010. AD+RG’s Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Elderly Care Home, where dark woods combine with warm, yellow lighting to create a sense of homeliness is a case in point.

Lim is currently an adjunct Professor at the School of Architecture in the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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Was architecture a very different discipline back in the 80s? 

Definitely. People held quite an elitist view of architecture in the 80s, where architects generally regard themselves as ‘artists’, with the ability to create whatever that is on their minds. I think architects today are more concerned with the role architecture plays in community-building. Technology has also aid in the development of sustainable design in the past two decades.

Master-Layout-Plan-for-Hai-Tan-Street--Kweilin-Street-&-Pei-Ho-Street-Development-Scheme
Master Layout Plan for Hai Tan Street, Kweilin-Street & Pei Ho Street Development Scheme. Photo: AD+RG

Could you give us an example?

The curtain wall was devised in the 1960s to diminish the weight of a building, and that worked marvellously, until people realised what an energy consuming technique it was.

Does that mean architects are playing a bigger role now in urban planning?

Yes, since iconic architecture are now being criticised rather than celebrated. Rather than to focus on that one building, architects are now more mindful of how that one building interacts with surrounding infrastructure, and thus how building it in a certain way will aid ventilation and sunlight penetration

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Shanghai Qingpu District Metro Development. Photo: AD+RG

I’m guessing you don’t have a signature style then?

I’m not interested in form making as a style. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to talk to the end-users, find out what they want and apply the technique that makes the most sense.

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Hong Kong Street Project at the Waterfront, Ocean Park. Photo: AD+RG

Are Hong Kong architects playing a big enough role in urban planning?

There is not enough cohesion between all the different parties who are involved in city planning. The environmental consultants aren’t communicating with the traffic inspectors, who aren’t talking to the urban planners. Nobody is looking at the picture as a whole. All this bureaucracy have diminished the role of the architect as urban planner.

Are there any cities we can look to?

Hong Kong signed a memorandum of understanding on urban planning with the city of Barcelona in 2012. There are a lot we can learn from Barcelona. For one, designing attractive waterfronts.

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Revitalisation Scheme YHA Mei Ho House Youth Hostel. Photo: AD+RG

Tell us about your interest in elderly care facilities?

I’m advocating for inclusive architecture, where people from all ages, including the elderly and the youth, can interact. The aim is to design modern health care facilities that are welcoming. I call it a medical mall, where there are restaurants, cafes, a shopping atrium and etc. Everyone deserves to live out the rest of their lives with dignity.

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Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Elderly Care Home. Photo: AD+RG

Are you adapting this philosophy to any of your upcoming projects?

We’re adapting this to the new extension of the Haven of Hope hospital in Tseung Kwan O.

Unlike other hospitals, where it’s often so cold and barren, we are using timber to project a sense of warmth of homeliness. There’d also ample of natural light pouring in from the large windows.

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Expansion of Haven of Hope Hospital. Photo: AD+RG

What are the major challenges confronting revitalisation projects?

To make full use of the existing infrastructure but also to cater to changing needs. Take the revitalisation of the Bridges Street Market into the Hong Kong News Expo as an example. It is located in quite a hilly area so entrances need to be carefully placed, and lifts properly installed to maximise users’ experience.

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