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2015 Bi-City Biennale for Urbanism/Architecture (Hong Kong)

Head Curator Christine Hawley tells us what we can expect at the upcoming edition of the Bi-City Biennale for Urbanism/Architecture (Hong Kong). Christie Lee reports.

2015 Bi-City Biennale for Urbanism/Architecture (Hong Kong)

Top image: WHS Columbarium

Titled “VISIONS 2050 – Lifestyle and the City”, the 2015 Bi-City Biennale for Urbanism/Architecture (Hong Kong) is set to play host to 60 exhibitors coming from the fields of architecture, design, fashion, film and music. The exhibits will be located across the sprawling Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui, and will be anchored by a central pavilion at the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre. Organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects Biennale Foundation, the exhibition will run from 11 December 2015 to 28 February 2016. Head curator Christine Hawley, who is a professor at Bartlett UCL, tells us more.

Wetland Park

How did you get involved with the 2015 Bi-City Biennale for Urbanism/Architecture?

I’ve been coming to Hong Kong on and off for the last 30 years, and when they [the Biennale committee] asked, I immediately said yes. We had very little time – I was approached in April this year, so we had to do everything from that point through September. If you look at any biennale elsewhere in the world, the lead-in time is usually two years. Unlike the Shenzhen biennale, where they have a substantial amount of people involved, we have very few people.

What differentiates the Bi-City Biennale for Urbanism/Architecture (Hong Kong) from its counterparts?

We’re the only biennale in the region that deals with urbanism issues. One thing that differentiates the Hong Kong biennale from the one in Shenzhen is that it is an open-call, so it’s a much more democratic process.

Red Dress

Could you elaborate on the theme for this year’s biennale?

We’re asking the younger generation of designers – not just architects I hasten to add, but also those in fashion – [and creatives in] film and music to submit their thoughts of city living. One’s experience of a city is not limited to buildings, rather it is a mosaic of the things that are happening around you, as well as the things you see and touch.

What spurred the decision to engage not only architects and interior designers but also those working in fashion, film and music?

I’m interested in how much we as designers share with one another. If you talk to a composer, the language he or she uses is similar to that of an architect. The technology being used in fashion design might be applied to architecture.

Sarah Choi

Would you say there is also a high degree of segregation between the various fields you mentioned?

Yes, but I also think there is more of a conscious effort to work with people who are in associated fields. I work in a big university and one of the things we are able to do is to work with people outside our own fields.

Could you give us a sneak peek into the entries for this year’s biennale?

Some are very serious, some are very political, and some are quite poetic. What we’re trying to provide is a very public platform for them [designers] to voice their opinion. It might be a small opportunity but with the dissemination of views, it will hopefully act as a catalyst for something bigger.

Sarah Choi

What is the demographic of exhibitors like?

There will be a high proportion of designers from Hong Kong, but if you look at the entire cross section, it’s international, from Korea and Australia to South America and Europe

Every metropolitan city shares similar problems, such as the shortage of housing, the erosion of the environment and so forth. What issues are unique to Hong Kong?

It’s one of the densest cities in the world, as such, the apartment sizes are much smaller than anywhere else in the world. You’ve learnt to live in a harmonious way in quite tight circumstances. The raft of people coming in is obviously of extreme political sensitivity, but also one that needs to be addressed by people working in architecture or fashion.

Jimmy Ho

What is good architecture?

Aesthetics and functionality are important, but they [buildings] should also say something about historical context [in which] they are situated. A well-designed building needs to have public language as well as private functionality.

In your curatorial brief, you state that man and nature must coexist. How could this be achieved in a dense city like Hong Kong?

There is always the orthodox description, where nature means your national park, but it also means the smaller, incidental spaces between buildings, up on walls, or atop roofs. One thing I notice about Hong Kong is there is so much concrete surface. Why not consider creating a cooler environment by planting more trees? An architectural firm in Singapore has actually said that for every footprint they are building on, there would be the same amount of greenery.

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