Architect Bing Thom dies aged 75 during visit to Hong Kong birthplace

Tributes flow to brains behind the Xiqu Centre Opera House being built at the city’s cultural complex in West Kowloon

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2016, 9:34pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2016, 10:45pm

Hong Kong-born architect Bing Thom, who migrated to Canada as a child, has died of a brain aneurysm during a visit to the city.

He died on Tuesday at the age of 75 before seeing the completion of his “homecoming” project – the Xiqu Centre Opera House at the West Kowloon Cultural District.

“It’s a shame that he could not see the completion of his project,” Ivan Ho, a board member of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, said.

Ho noted that Thom was an expert on “water engineering”, having provided advice on how the waterfront of Hong Kong could be revitalised.

Bryant Lu, vice-chairman of Ronald Lu and Partners, who worked with Thom on the opera house project, said he had learned a lot from the experience.

“We have lost a great architect, teacher and mentor ... I have learnt a great deal from Thom over the last three years through our collaboration on the Xiqu project,” Lu told the Post. “He called the Xiqu project a homecoming project. That shows how committed he was to his birth place.

“He is one of the most influential Chinese architects of our era and we miss him dearly.”

The president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, Vincent Ng Wing-shun, praised Thom as “a very dedicated and passionate architect as well as a kind man ... He gave many advice and ideas on how to improve the public space in Hong Kong”.

Architect Bing Thom realises homecoming dream with cultural contract

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing also paid tribute to Thom in a Facebook post. “Bing was born in Hong Kong and his heart was with Hong Kong ... [I will] forever miss this master architect,” Wong wrote.

Thom studied architecture at the University of British Columbia in Canada and received his master of architecture degree from the University of California at Berkeley. He worked in the offices of Fumihiko Maki and Arthur Erickson before opening his own firm in Vancouver in 1982.

Bing Thom Architects’ commissions covered the globe, from the Expo’ 92 Canada Pavilion in Seville, Spain, to the Arena Stage Theatre in Washington DC, the Binhai Cultural District of Tianjin, in mainland China, and the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia.

His portfolio also includes the University of Chicago Centre in Hong Kong, in the western part of Kennedy Town, which has not been built yet.

Thom, who was seen as a groundbreaking architect for his generation of Chinese-Canadians, received numerous honours, including the RAIC Gold Medal, which is considered the highest honour given to a Canadian architect.

Additional reporting by Peace Chiu