Refreshing interpretations: Architects work to celebrate classical and modern traditions in Hong Kong
Partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects discusses the challenges facing green building and sustainable development
Grant Marani has been a partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects since 2000. He discusses the challenges facing green buildings and sustainable development in Hong Kong.
How can overseas architects such as Robert A.M. Stern bring new architectural designs and concepts to Hong Kong?
Hong Kong prides itself on its modernity so there’s always something “new,” but what I think is interesting about our firm’s approach is our ability to bring something old – or, more precisely, refreshing contemporary interpretations of historic traditions. Hong Kong presents a blend of Western influence and Chinese culture as few other places do, and in among the late 20th-century glass-and-metal towers, there are many handsome and cherished classically-inspired buildings, some from the Edwardian era. So there is a strong, if somewhat hidden, classical tradition in Hong Kong alongside the modernity, and we work to celebrate both.
Do you think Hong Kong is on par or trailing when it comes to green-building development? What are some of the challenges facing green buildings and sustainable development in Hong Kong?
We, along with our clients and associate architects, work very hard to achieve the greenest possible buildings that achieve the highest levels of sustainability, given the realities of the marketplace and the climate. Summer months in Hong Kong can be hot and humid; in this climate, it’s counter-intuitive to [cover the] face [of] buildings completely in glass when resource efficiency should be an objective. One of the many reasons we choose stone for our building’s façades is that stone reduces heat gain on the interiors. We also place windows to take advantage of solar gain during the winter months, and consider how buildings are oriented to capture prevailing breezes.
Hong Kong is a densely populated city. Going green and upwards is the most feasible way to creative sustainable living. How do your designs and plans incorporate it?
We applaud Hong Kong’s density, which in itself is inherently green, and how that density enables the city to conserve its dramatic natural landscape – such a dramatic juxtaposition is evident at our building The Morgan at 31 Conduit Road. Everyone’s iconic image of Hong Kong is density, density, density. Because there’s so little land available to build on, Hong Kong also embraces the other extreme with places you can go and have no sense that there’s a city nearby. I recently travelled over a land bridge across the Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir and the sense of isolation in the landscape was astonishing, with no buildings to be seen. For a similar reason we created a green wall on the street façade of The Morgan, to communicate the building’s sustainability and also to symbolise the beautiful natural landscape of the Peak rising on the other side of our building.
Robert A.M. Stern Architects has designed many award-winning and landmark projects in Hong Kong and Asia. Which projects are you most proud of and why?
We don’t choose favourites among our family of buildings, but we’re very proud of the success of our houses at Mount Nicholson, our office building at 50 Connaught Road, as well as The Morgan on Conduit Road and other projects now under way that we’ll be able to talk about in the near future.