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In Conversation with Alexander Wong

Last year was a big year for Alexander Wong Architects: the firm and the founder won 10 awards between them. The designer talks to Tamsin Bradshaw about the wins, film, time travel and more.

In Conversation with Alexander Wong

Expect the unexpected with Alexander Wong. A conversation with the architect and founder of Hong Kong-based Alexander Wong Architects always goes in fascinating and unanticipated directions: you might be talking about architecture and then suddenly find yourself in a discussion about King Henry VIII, Marilyn Monroe or wormholes, and you may wonder how you got there.

For Wong, however, many of these things are interlinked. Rest assured that every project Wong works on is multi-layered, with hidden messages and level upon level of meaning that comes back to films like Avatar, Interstellar, As Tears Go By and Ex Machina, or to hypnosis, mind control or significant moments in history.

Alexander Wong ArchitectsThe always-dapper Alexander Wong

Even if you just take his works at face value, they are technically precise, creative and unique. No wonder, then, that his firm received four awards at the prestigious International Property Awards 2015 in London: Golden Eye, a residence in China for Henderson Land, won Best International Interior Design Show Home and Best Interior Design Show Home Asia Pacific; the Hong Kong De Rucci Bespoke store won Best International Retail Interior and Best Retail Interior Asia Pacific. The firm was also named one of Hong Kong’s Most Valuable Companies at Mediazone’s awards, and AD China listed it as one of the Top 100 Architectural and Design Talents in Asia.

Alexander Wong ArchitectsHidden meaning abounds in the interiors of Golden Eye, a show home Alexander Wong Architects created for Henderson Land

But Wong isn’t one to rest on his laurels: he and his tireless team are hard at work on new projects in China, India and elsewhere. Here, Wong talks about what’s on the cards for 2016 and beyond.

Congratulations on all the awards you won last year. What do they mean to you?
It’s an indicator that our work has reached a certain standard on the international arena, and particularly in real estate. There were at least 200 firms at the awards in London. Because of my background, and because we are from Hong Kong – where the focus is on finance and law and real estate – I feel these awards actually strengthens our position in the design world.

Alexander Wong ArchitectsThe Hong Kong De Rucci Bespoke store won two awards at the International Property Awards 2015

What’s your firm’s USP?
There are a lot of hidden messages in our work, and it’s about mind control. We’re promoting innovation in our firm: we do innovation with sensuality and practicality. I think we’re also quite different because we don’t buy into postcolonialism… or at least, we repackage and consider what that’s all about.

Last year, you also worked on SOGO CLUB for SOGO department store in Causeway Bay – tell us about that project.
It consists of rows of hanging shelves. We used katana shelves because they bend like the katana sword [Japanese sword historically used by samurai].

This project is actually called Interstellar – it’s about time travel. It’s inspired by the tesseract fifth-dimension scene in the film Interstellar – that set wasn’t CGI. It was the most expensive set, they built the whole structure, and it was a really complicated piece of filming.

Alexander Wong ArchitectsSOGO CLUB, which Alexander Wong Architects redesigned as part of SOGO department store’s 30th anniversary Style Evolution programme

That film was really quite clever. But when Cooper arrived at that planet, seeing Amelia Brand, how old would he have been? And how old would she be? They never answered that question. It depends on the gravitational force of the planet. But if the g [gravitational force] were very high, your body would collapse. Our bone structure would not be able to withstand that.

Tell us about the cinema projects you’re working on off the back of Cinema Futura.
Before, our clients were a bit scared of the idea. Now they’re beginning to understand what it is [about]. They like the extreme design of it – it’s a theme park.

Alexander Wong ArchitectsCinema Futura references James Cameron’s Avatar

We’ve also done Cinema Carmen Future in Mongkok – people really seem to respond to this one. It’s based on the films of Wong Kar-wai, particularly As Tears Go By, or Mongkok Carmen, with Andy Lau. The cinema is all about hypnosis, you can see the numbers: 3, 2, 1… wake up.

Alexander Wong ArchitectsHypnotic design at Cinema Carmen Futura

We’re about to complete Cinema Beyond Future in Wuhan, Cinema Exotica in Shanghai, and Cinema White Futura in Shanghai. For Cinema Beyond Future, we sought out the feel of Ex Machina. We did a lot of research to create this look. [One thing I like about it is] this big mirror on the wall, it’s broken up by the pi symbol. Pi is also how you divide all the segments of the mirror.

What else are you working on?
We’re doing a mega exhibition hall in Heng Qin, near Macau, for Lai Sun Group. And we’re upgrading all the bathrooms at Pacific Place’s offices. For that project, we spent a lot of time working out this system that is functional, futuristic, stylish and practical. Everything is dimensionally coordinated, and everything is made using man-made materials, which can easily be cleaned.

Alexander Wong Architects

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