Lost landmarks of Hong Kong resurrected in architectural exhibition

Kowloon Walled City and old Peak Tower feature in latest exhibition of items from West Kowloon's future museum of visual culture

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 January, 2014, 3:13am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 January, 2014, 3:13am

Organisers hope a new exhibition juxtaposing models "resurrecting" lost Hong Kong buildings with designs by Western architects in Asia can inspire Hongkongers to think creatively about architecture.

The "Building M+: The Museum and Architecture Collection" exhibition is also intended to address housing problems in Hong Kong and the effects of economic and political pressure on architecture in the city, said exhibition curator Aric Chen. The exhibition at ArtisTree in Taikoo Place, Quarry Bay, is the latest venture by M+, the museum of visual culture due to open at the West Kowloon Cultural District in 2017.

"Hong Kong people have the strongest sense of architecture," said Chen, M+'s design and architecture curator. "They might not think about it consciously, but we are confronted and interacting with architecture 24 hours a day. We hope to prompt people to think."

The exhibition includes Hong Kong works from the 1960s to the 1980s, designs from the mainland and works by foreign architects in Asia, including design drawings for Tokyo's famous Imperial Hotel by Frank Lloyd Wright from the 1920s. Works by Hong Kong architects abroad include Rocco Yim Sen-kee's entry for the design competition for the Bastille Opera in Paris in 1983.

The museum has also created models of demolished buildings, such as the old Peak Tower, built in 1969. Some 90 minutes of footage from the Kowloon Walled City will be on show, while works by Hong Kong artists' collective MAP Office and Dutch architect Aernout Mik will serve as a critique of living conditions in Hong Kong. A steel model of artistactivist Ai Weiwei's studio in Beijing also features.

Chen said the exhibition included about 100 of M+'s 1,000 architectural pieces, including exhibits demonstrating how politics shape architecture.

For example, correspondence between artist-architect Dr Tao Ho and the government dating to the 1990s will be on show. Ho designed the flag of the Special Administrative Region, but wound up in a disagreement with the authorities after building an office in Kowloon Tong from shipping containers. The government ordered him to demolish it.

The museum was looking to expand its local architecture collection, but had hit an architectural problem. "People [in Hong Kong] don't keep things because of the space issue," he said.

While museums in the West had strong architectural collections, Chen said M+ was positioning itself as the first museum in Asia to collect such materials.

The exhibition will also showcase the design of M+'s future home, an inverted-T structure by Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron. Models of some losing designs shortlisted in the competition to build M+ will be shown in public for the first time.

Ascan Mergenthaler, senior partner at Herzog & de Meuron, said the building's construction budget was being tightly controlled, and that his team would move to Hong Kong from the middle of this year until the project was finished.

The free exhibition runs from today until February 9.