Setting the trend for design excellence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 12:00am

An impressive list of awards reflects the ongoing effort to give the community projects of architectural distinction

The Housing Department's development and construction branch has made significant achievements in planning and architecture over the past 50 years.

It has received a string of awards from various international and local professional bodies.

'It is important that professional building institutions have award programmes to promote and encourage innovations in design,' says Patrick Lau Sau-shing, professor at the Department of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong.

'This process recognises the work of designers and communicates new ideas to the public.

'Architectural competitions provide another forum for architects to experiment with new ideas and innovations. Not only are they a good way of providing opportunities for designers to come forward with the best solutions, the eventual winner-built projects often become landmarks in the urban setting, setting off new trends in architecture.'

According to Professor Lau, the Housing Department received an Honourable Mention in the Sir Robert Matthew Prize for improving the quality of human settlements, at the International Union of Architects (UIA) congress in Beijing in 1999.

'The international award is normally given to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the development of a place,' he says.

'This was the first time the union decided to give an award to a group, for the efforts of the development and construction branch of the Housing Department in public housing.'

The award recognised that the rapid transformation of Hong Kong in past decades had had a tremendous impact on its economy, population growth and the pace of land development.

The Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA) has also recognised architects for their excellence in design by giving awards for completed building projects in Hong Kong since 1965.

To date, the Housing Department has been awarded the Silver Medal, the highest honour of the year, three times.

It has also received three Certificates of Merit and one Special Architectural Award in heritage conservation.

The award winning projects are the 1982 HKIA Certificate of Merit, for Mei Lam Estate Phase I; the 1985 HKIA Silver Medal, for Siu Hong Court; the 1987 HKIA Silver Medal, for Mei Lam Indoor Recreation Centre; the 1989 HKIA Certificate of Merit, for Heng On Estate Commercial Centre and Central Garden; the 1990 HKIA Silver Medal, for the Housing Authority headquarters; the 1992 HKIA Certificate of Merit, for Kwong Yuen Estate Commercial Centre; and the 2001 HKIA Special Architectural Award - Heritage, for Murray House.

In 2001, the Housing Department won the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) Special Award for Kai Tin Commercial Centre.

The centre was a large-scale commercial complex intended to form an inviting gateway and urban interchange in Lam Tin. It consists of a five-storey building with a total gross floor area of 20,760 square metres.

The project had two key design and construction goals: to provide a comfortable environment for pedestrians by creating a spacious, open atmosphere, and to maintain during the construction period the normal services of a 16-metre-wide estate road, with existing underground utilities serving the Lam Tin region inside the site area.

Both goals were accomplished with the use of various structures, thus introducing new challenges to conventional structural designs.

This year, the Housing Department was awarded the HKIE Merit Award for Sau Mau Ping Shopping Centre.

The project was designed to link the space between the inner atrium and the outer plaza, and synchronise the ascending topographical platforms of the whole estate in the atrium.

In order to develop and meet these aims, the structure of the building was carefully articulated with the effective use of dedicated structural systems and materials.

The department received the Shui Chuen O Architectural Design Competition's third prize in 2001. The competition is an important event in the new era. The jurors look for architectural ideas that will improve the quality of life in communities and identify entries that lead the way towards better public housing design.

Consequently, designers have put much thought into energy conservation, a building's relationship to nature, and appropriate building sequence and construction details. The jury believed the submission made a contribution towards future efforts to improve the quality of public housing.

Last year, the Housing Department was granted the Hong Kong Designers Association Bronze Award; the Hong Kong Interior Design Association Asia-Pacific Interior Design Award; and the American Institute of Architects' Hong Kong Chapter Merit Award, for the Housing Authority Exhibition Centre.

The centre's design was considered to have gone beyond the conventional static exhibition by introducing multimedia and interactive displays to communicate the works of the Housing Authority in a dynamic and exciting fashion.

This year, the department was awarded the Hong Kong Institute of Planners Annual Award, for Upper Ngau Tau Kok Estate Phases 2 and 3. The adjudicators commented that the design team had adopted a holistic approach to arrive at a good design solution for a highly constrained site.

The team was given credit for the thoroughness of its analysis of the site constraints and opportunities, which covered aspects such as the pedestrian environment, the social composition of the neighbourhood, wind tunnels and ventilation, environmental impact, landscaping and green linkages.

The project was a good example of a sustainable approach to planning and design.