The Hong Kong based studio sees architecture as a framework for life to happen. Jessica Niles DeHoff has this report.
July 10th, 2013
“We never intended to establish a design manifesto or a design language as we do believe that every project has to react to its individual challenges and context,” begins the architect Christoph Vogl, partner (along with Judy Cheung) in the young firm Cheungvogl.
Aesop Hong Kong
The design practice is based in Hong Kong, with satellite offices in Mainland China and Germany, and has an international approach to design. But there is something that links the work across settings and scales. “The common thread is the way we look at architecture as a framework for life to happen, similar to a stage set that provides the audience with an open interpretation for the play itself. Architecture only begins as it starts to evolve, transform and inspire people and its communities around it,” says Vogl.
Aesop Hong Kong
The office has tackled everything from small-scale residential work to large institutional projects, but in Hong Kong the designers are perhaps known best for their retail environments for Australian natural-cosmetics company Aesop (see our Aesop story here).
Vogl believes that even a retail space can become an extension of public space. “Retail generally occupies the spaces around the most frequented public areas in our cities,” says Vogl, “This omnipresence also means that retail holds a responsibility for contribution to quality of life in these public spaces. In these means, retail should not be exclusive, but open and inviting. The visit to a store should not make someone feel obliged to buy a product, but provide the opportunity to see, feel and touch.”
Benetton flagship in Tehran
Other notable retail work includes the Benetton flagship in Tehran, where Cheungvogl used a translucent wrapper to hint at the veils worn by Iranian women. “We investigate and analyse all aspects and facets of the brand’s specific characteristics as a ‘personality’,” Vogl says. This helps to balance the aesthetic desires of the client with those of the architect. “With this understanding we like to show our clients new ways to communicate and engage with their customers to enhance the brand’s identity. In successful retail design, architecture is more to be seen as a communication tool, where we enhance the brand’s language with our own vocabulary.”
In projects for institutional clients, particularly in the arts, Cheungvogl has enjoyed more freedom for tectonic expression. A recent concept for the exhibition venue Dubai 7 is a stripped modernist presence with traditionalism at its heart. Vogl explains that it makes “a strong reference to traditional Arabic architecture; the exhibition space is formed around an undulating vertical landscape that provides filtered light into the interior spaces as a reinterpretation of the organisation of traditional Arabic courtyard houses”. Yet the building’s concrete mass also uses contemporary solar technology for cooling.
Shinjuku Gardens in Tokyo, Japan
Meanwhile the concrete structure of Shinjuku Gardens, a parking garage and gallery space in Tokyo, is masked by greenery. Vogl clarifies the aesthetic and functional logic of the decision: “Rather than simply leaving the facades open for natural ventilation to avoid the cost of mechanical ventilation, we introduced a living enclosure of grass. The green curtain does not only create a barrier between the parked cars and the outside, but the changing appearance throughout the seasons also enhances its neighborhood with a green oasis amongst the dense urban context.”
Shinjuku Gardens, interior
The generosity of the urban gesture is typical of the office’s projects, all of which seek to use architecture as a tool for improving everyday life for the building’s users as well as for neighbours and passersby. Vogl phrases it in terms of responsibility: “As architects we have the possibility to create change, rather than to only have our opinion or talk about it.”
Cheungvogl has just completed a master plan in Chengdu, China and the office is currently working on other projects in China as well as Southeast Asia and Europe.
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