Hong Kong interior design

The Hong Kong development that marries architecture and Japanese tradition

The Pavilia Hill on Tin Hau Temple Road brings the aesthetic of wabi-sabi to Hong Kong with natural elements and a garden designed by a Zen priest/architect

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2016, 12:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2016, 2:57pm

With Hong Kong residential property prices on the slide, developers are determined to make billion-dollar projects more attractive to increasingly cautious buyers. New World Development’s recently completed property on Tin Hau Temple Road, The Pavilia Hill, has embraced high concept design and in particular the Japanese tradition of wabi-sabi to appeal to an increasingly design-savvy clientele.

To get noticed, Hong Kong developers have used a variety of methods, from bringing in star architects – the Frank Gehry-designed 53 Stubbs Road perhaps the most notable example – to cheap mortgage packages. With The Pavilia Hill, New World has taken a different tack, pushing a design-heavy development

Featuring five 31-storey towers, the 358-unit The Pavilia Hill complex, outwardly at least, could be dismissed as another characterless elite development. On closer inspection, however, New World has sought to create a living space that incorporates esoteric design concepts that seek to foster a sense of serenity in one of the busiest cities in the world.

Under the The Artisanal Movement brand, New World engaged wabi-sabi practitioner and Zen priest Shunmyo Masuno to design the gardens and Singapore-based architect Koichiro Ikebuchi to design the clubhouse at The Pavilia Hill.

What exactly is wabi-sabi? “It is a Japanese aesthetic concept with a long history,” says Masuno, the architect in charge of the landscape design. “It encourages people to live in the moment, to embrace the beauty of imperfection and to appreciate the natural cycle.”

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Having studied Japanese art and culture in Kyoto, Adrian Cheng, executive vice-chairman and joint general manager of New World, sought out Ikebuchi and Masuno to work on the development and bring to Hong Kong some of the aesthetics concepts he had experienced in Japan. He describes wabi-sabi “as the beauty of the incomplete” and says it helps us “acknowledge three realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect”.

The Pavilia Hill is the first large-scale project for The Artisanal Movement and the focus on wabi-sabi follows on from an exhibition Cheng initiated in Hong Kong titled “Serenity Above”. The 2014 show featured Masuno’s landscape sculptures juxtaposed with Chinese ink paintings by Zheng Chongbin.

As well as being an architect, designer and professor at Tama Art University, Masuno is the 18th-generation head priest of Kenkohji Temple in Japan. It is this technical and spiritual background that he brings to the gardens he creates.

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“Adrian and I hope to bring in traditional Japanese aesthetics so as to help reduce the distance between human and mother nature, and hence elicit thorough calmness and relaxation in residents’ mind and soul,” says Masuno, who is fond of speaking in abstract terms.

In practice, Masuno created Zen gardens between the buildings incorporating undulating hills, where straight lines become curves and with lots of greenery to offset the concrete jungle that surrounds the development. Masuno’s centrepiece for the gardens is five stone sculptures representing “mountain, water, existence, purity and sounds”. All were handpicked by Masuno from Mount Gokenzan in Kagawa prefecture.

Similarly, Ikebuchi’s clubhouse uses natural materials, intentionally preserving the original textures to emphasise natural beauty and simplicity. The pool, also designed by Ikebuchi, references Japanese onsens to create communal intimacy.

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With the exhibition and recently opened The Pavilia Hill, Cheng hopes that wabi-sabi will take root in Hong Kong, as he believes that “it is not just an aesthetic concept, it is also a very wise way to appreciate the world”.