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The Dream of Making Gardens

LI&Co presents a retrospective of its work at PMQ. Managing Director Johnny Li gives us a tour.

The Dream of Making Gardens

It’s a fitting time for LI&Co to celebrate their work so far with an exhibition at PMQ. On show from 1 to 15 March, their exhibition runs almost concurrently with L’École Van Cleef & Arpels, whose Hong Kong home was conceived by the same design firm.

The design for “L’École” – as its President, Marie Vallanet-Delhom, and other staff call it – was inspired by gardens and bamboo; elements that have infused much of LI&Co’s work over the years. “Our work is inspired by gardens, not in the literal sense, but more as an abstract tool we use for design,” says Johnny Li, Managing Director of LI&Co. “It’s about the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water.”

Dream of Gardens
A visual tour of LI&Co’s past projects

This theme is central to the design studio’s two-week exhibition at PMQ, which is a showcase of photographs of past work, along with three-dimensional models, a video providing a sensory view of LI&Co’s philosophy, and a work of art made up of paper lanterns that hangs from the ceiling. “I was a fine arts major as well,” says Li, explaining the place art has in this setting.

The works on show at The Dream of Making Gardens include a private house LI&Co worked on in Repulse Bay, a series of serviced apartments, a store for Puyi and a concept for Blanc de Chine’s New York flagship. Of course, L’École features prominently here, too.

Dream of Gardens, LI&Co
A model on show at LI&Co’s exhibition

Li and his team were brought on board to create the mobile version of the school for the 2014 edition in Hong Kong. The school has a permanent home in Paris, where it runs classes and courses on everything from gemstones and lacquer techniques to the history of jewellery and etiquette. “The Maison [Van Cleef & Arpels] is a patron of L’École, but they are separate entities,” explains Vallanet-Delhom. “L’École is dedicated to education, and to understanding the world of jewellery.”

Looking at the school all set up at PMQ, it’s hard to believe it’s not a permanent fixture here. Everything looks firmly in place: there are the understatedly luxe sofas in cream, a long, slim reception desk, a soaring veil between public and private areas, and beautiful, panelled floors. The key material Li used here was bamboo, its lightweight, durable nature making it a perfect choice for a mobile venue, as well as giving a nod to the gardens Li so loves.

L'Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels by LI&Co
The peaceful lounge area at L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels

Adding to the calm, garden feel are the carpet, which represents a lake with fish in it, and the potted trees here and there – some are framed by windows, and others are merely glimpsed for a moment. As with so many other LI&Co projects, L’École is a sensory experience, tapping into scent, sound, sight, touch and thought.

“Johnny understood the spirit of L’École perfectly,” says Vallanet-Delhom. “The French tradition of a school in 18th-century Paris is perfectly embodied here. It’s something different, but the spirit is the same.”

The Dream of Making Gardens is on at S403, PMQ, daily from 1 to 8pm until 15 March 2016. L’École Van Cleef & Arpels runs until 14 March 2016 at The Cube, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central.


L’École Van Cleef & Arpels


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