Rocco Yim talks to Christie Lee about the idea behind the temporary art gallery he has designed at Landmark.
Even for an open-minded crowd, not looking at art from a horizontal plane can take some getting used to. Rocco Yim has taken on an impossible task during Art Basel this year – to conjure a three-channel gallery suspended in air in the Landmark atrium. Housed within are 14 artworks, including masterpieces by Peter Paul Rubens, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Salvador Dali and Chu Teh-Chun. We sat down with the revered Hong Kong architect before the opening on 21 March to find out more.
What was the most challenging aspect of creating a gallery in the Landmark atrium?
As a space where people come and go, the Landmark atrium is by nature a difficult place to put art in for people to appreciate. The challenge was to carve out a space for people to appreciate art without causing too much disruption to the normal functions of the atrium, which is, in a way, an extension of Hong Kong’s public realm.
And the solution was to have it suspended in air.
Yes, not only does it not occupy ground space, but the structure also captures and channels the movement without interfering with it. It [causes] the eye to look upwards.
And the arched construct?
I was reminded of a cathedral. That verticality naturally brings the eye upwards.
Landmark is a shopping mall, so there are obviously going to be a lot of distractions. How do you create a comfortable art-viewing experience?
The paintings would be hung against a fabric that, while translucent, filters out the unnecessary glitter and glitz associated with a shopping mall.
Could you tell us a bit more about the structure?
The frame itself is made of very fine, lightweight metal tubes that are composed in a series of triangulations. I want it to have an overall ephemeral look, so it doesn’t compete with the relative rigidness of the structure. At the same time, the ‘tunnel’ extends three ways, capturing the direction of the people coming in from the three entrances.
Whereas the earlier stage of your career is defined by highly successful commercial projects, that has since expanded to cultural projects such as the Yunnan Provincial Museum. Is Vision Tunnels part of that new focus?
Definitely, as they’re all about the viewer’s experience. In museums, it could be about creating that preparatory ambience in the lobby, while here, it’s about directing where the viewer should go next.
Which is your favourite art period?
Art from the 19th and 20th centuries are still the most revolutionary for me.
The Landmark was built in an era where ‘mall art’ was a foreign concept. Do you think that future malls would be designed with that mind, to the extent they would incorporate spaces dedicated to showing art?
Perhaps in China where they have a huge amount of space. I doubt the same would happen in Hong Kong, though I also think that is very much in our DNA. Hong Kong has always strived for efficiency – the idea of being resourceful, of creating space out of nothing – which is precisely what Vision Tunnels is. It allows you to look at art while you’re on the phone or on the way to a business meeting.
Do you have any cultural-related projects in the pipeline?
A cultural centre in Shenzhen. There’s also the East Kowloon Cultural Centre, which is opening in 2019.
Vision Tunnels is on display at Landmark from 21 March – 4 April 2016
Rocco Yim / Rocco Design Architects