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Architecture of Ephemera

ESKYIU designs a lounge to be perceived in motion at Art Basel in Hong Kong. Sylvia Chan takes a tour.

Architecture of Ephemera

Set up at the public concourse of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center as the corporate lounge of Swire Properties during the recent Art Basel in Hong Kong, Ephemera, designed by local architecture firm ESKYIU, was a structure to be perceived in motion.

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Echoing the movements of the patrons and observers enjoying the arts feast, as well as the movements of the city, Ephemera comprised 52 lightweight wooden archways intricately connected with each other through specifically designed three-dimensional joints. The archways, with heights varying from 3.7 metres to 4.4 metres, defined the 1,050 square feet lounge space and gave it a sculpture form. Walking around the structure, one could at times perceive Ephemera as a simple structure that offered a clear visual corridor directing towards Wan Chai, while at other times see the complex network of geometries formed by the archways.

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“We wanted to allow freedom for the passers-by to move through and explore the structure. Ephemera is both an energetic, dynamic space and a reflective, quiet space,” says Marisa Yiu, founding partner of ESKYIU. Eric Schuldenfrei, another founding partner of the office, adds that Ephemera is not a work that could be fully captured by a static image.

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Ephemera was inspired by the public arcades in Paris, which were famously described by Water Benjamin as the essential habitat for the modern observer of urban life, or the flâneur. Marisa Yiu explains, ”Hong Kong has a very rich and dynamic urban experience. Often times, we frame and see the city through the lens of a moving person, a stroller, or a flâneur, who have their own speeds and rhythms of perception. We wanted to recreate this multi-dimensional way of looking.”

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Image courtesy of ESKYIU

Ephemera was the venue for a series of talks, moving screenings, and cocktail parties during the art fair. The lounge was also a resting space for the public when not in use for specific activities. Schuldenfrei says, “The archways defined the space but did not confine it, and the geometries formed by the archways directed the focus of the audience to the speakers. The space at the same time offered openness and inclusiveness.”

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The structure was installed on site in one day, but the construction of the 52 archways took two months and involved collaboration with artisans in China. ESKYIU provided accurate drawings to the artisans in China, who bent the plywood to the required degrees with a machine designed to form the archways. Schuldenfrei says, “It was critical that the structure was buildable within a tight timeframe. The archways were lightweight and flat. They could be transported and assembled quickly.”

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Also incorporated into Ephemera was an interactive installation: a digital screen captured the movement of any visitor in front of it; it then transformed the movement into a digital artwork with customised programming. The interactive piece echoes with the idea of creating urban culture by the flâneur. “We hope individuals can partake more in the creation and collaboration of urban life,” says Yiu and Schuldenfrei.

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Ephemera has been dismantled after Art Basel in Hong Kong, but ESKYIU is in discussions with Swire Properties to have the structure erected again at a different location. And together with its future visitors, the interactive structure will capture again the dynamics of the city.

Images courtesy of Swire Properties. Photography: Inga Beckmann (unless otherwise stated)


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