Travel restrictions won’t stop some of the brightest creative minds contributing ideas to this year’s Business of Design Week (BODW) in Hong Kong, which is being held in a virtual format for the first time.
Anchored by the BODW Summit (December 3-5), the event is an annual festival of design-related events that aims to foster collaboration among creators, businesses and community organisations. In its online format, the summit will be simulcast live on television and social media, with selected sessions streamed on BODW’s customised ViuTV channel.
Under the theme Vision 20/21, the event will gauges future trends by tapping the insights of more than 70 leading global figures in the fields of design, innovation and brands.
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Among the guest speakers is London-based Sadie Morgan, a founding director of Stirling Prize-winning dRMM Architects, who will ponder the nature of work in the post-Covid-19 era, which she believes will take greater account of the needs and desires of individuals.
In the short term, Morgan expects more greening of city buildings, with internal and external living walls, initiatives such as bee-keeping, as well as the provision of informal spaces that encourage social interaction, and mobile apps that keep occupants up to date with social activities.
In interiors conducive to health, happiness and productivity, Morgan sees acoustically engineered “serene” spaces devoid of visual clutter, with ample daylight and natural views, where stairwells are prioritised over lifts and inside spaces link to the outside wherever possible.
“The sustainability of the building – both in design and operation – will also be a measure of quality in the post-Covid-19 world,” says Morgan. “Awareness of embedded carbon, the circular economy, eco-materials, is at an all-time high. We will make choices based on ethics as much as money.”
Duangrit Bunnag, the Thai architect credited with redesigning modern Bangkok (with creative hub The Jam Factory and many award-winning hotels), notes the relationship between context and creativity. In his BODW presentation, Duangrit, founder of Duangrit Bunnag Architect, will consider how changes in societies affect the context side of that equation. The economic fallout from Covid-19 is one example.
“We shall see how that will soon change everything about the significance of design like we have never understood before,” he says.
Martha Thorne, dean of the IE School of Architecture and Design, part of the innovative IE University in Madrid/Segovia, Spain, sees solutions for making environments more humane, even in dense cities like Hong Kong.
“The great advantage of dense cities is (their ability to make) effective use of resources, agglomeration to support innovation and economic activity, and a generous offering of urban services,” she says. “To make healthy environments, we need to avoid single-use buildings, and also have accessible spaces where people can go to see nature, be alone and enjoy the outdoors.”
Such concepts negate old ideas about segregating parts of cities based on their functions, Thorne says. “Many uses are compatible with each other. Having different services and spaces close at hand means we are not forced to travel great distances to meet our needs.
“Cities are also more vibrant if there are activities throughout the day and evening, seven days a week. Having diversity in our neighbourhoods also helps us to feel connected to our community, which in turn relates to quality of life in cities.”
For Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, whose nature-inspired urban designs include L’Arbre Blanc (The White Tree), a 17-storey tree-shaped tower block in Montpellier, France, bringing more nature into urban environments is a basic condition for architecture in the coming era.
“Now that respect for diverse lifestyles and consideration for the global environment are becoming commonplace, it is increasingly necessary to consider a new form of fusion between nature and man-made objects,” says Fujimoto, director of Sou Fujimoto Architects Inc.
While greening of cities is the first step, he says people should understand they cannot control everything, and that there is meaning, enjoyment, inspiration and life to be had in things that are beyond their intentions or unexpected.
Hong Kong architect Sarah Mui, co-founder and creative director of One Bite Design Studio, will speak on creative placemaking (a collaborative process to shape public spaces) in Asia. “Architecture creates the space; people create the place,” she says. “We use the process of each project to engage with the people at different stages, allowing the sense of place to grow.”
Collaboration is key to creating shared value in a community, Mui adds, citing her firm’s revamp of a rooftop play area in Tuen Mun in the city’s New Territories, in which workshops were held with schoolchildren to co-design feature walls.
“Our projects not only bring the hardware of space, but also the software side of community life,” she says.
Hong Kong textile weaver and designer Elaine Yan Ling Ng, founder of The Fabrick Lab and now chief material innovator at Nature Squared, a British company working to upcycle natural and discarded materials, will discuss CArrele, a new range of eco-friendly wall tiles made from eggshell.
The products, first released in The Calcium Brick Collection, are the result of Ng’s research on transforming sustainably sourced bio waste into handmade, bespoke design surfaces for architects and designers, using Nature Squared’s artisan skills and technical expertise.
Ed Ng, co-founder and principal of AB Concept, will look at post-Covid-19 hospitality design. Whereas hotels for the past five to 10 years have trended towards a more relaxed, informal vibe, Ng senses a push back against what he calls “Covid-19 style”.
With so much time spent at home this year – enabling the slack work-from-home dress code – people “have been casual for too long”, he believes. “We need moments of celebration – and more visual stimulation,” says Ng, whose latest projects include a revamp of the Four Seasons Hong Kong hotel.
This could mean a return of the grand entrance – the kind of bling, marble and chandeliers that people can show on Instagram – he says.
BODW is co-organised by Hong Kong Design Centre and Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Concurrent events run under the BODW CityProg banner from November 28 – December 6. Details: bodw.com
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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