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Groundwork Experiments With Playful Architecture At K11

The Fairyland Playscape installation was a mountainous playscape for all ages. We speak to Groundwork’s Manfred Yuen about why it’s important for architecture to be toy-like. Wynn A. Bay has the story.

Groundwork Experiments With Playful Architecture At K11

Can playgrounds be fun for adults as well as kids? It was a question for all visitors to contemplate inside the most recent curated playground by Groundwork Architects & Associates. Titled Fairyland Playscape, it was a creative project for the tenth anniversary of K11 mall – an art and lifestyle shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Manfred Yuen, the co-founder of Groundwork, was captivated by the beloved regional novel Journey to the West – the sixteenth-century story of a fantasy adventure to obtain Buddhist sacred sutras. This classical novel inspired him to transform the Chi K11 Art Space of over 200 square metres into a mountainous landscape of the ethereal Yushan (‘jade mountain’), but with translation through a playful language of an abstracted trompe l’oeil via a sexy zebra pattern. It was an en vogue fun fair for all ages to enjoy.


Manfred Yuen of Groundwork at Fairyland Playscape. Photo: K11

“Most visitors would tell us that they loved how the space gelled with the music composed by Eugene Leung, as well as the lighting,” says Yuen. He continues, “The lighting effect was quite important for the experience and the aesthetics of the ‘toy’ as architecture. They were laughing a lot, and they became part of the animated art work when seen from the MTR station. We had more visitors than expected, and it was quite risky to climb and bounce around the works, but fortunately nobody was injured and everyone had fun, I think.”


The colossal inflatable toy also raised a question about the quality of children’s development in one of the world’s densest cities. Yuen explains: “Groundwork was commissioned by K11 because they learned we had conducted 18 months of study on Hong Kong’s existing playgrounds for the Government. K11 has a long tradition of working with ‘up and coming’ local and international artists and they felt that our research might have a great potential to be translated into a playable art piece.”

Evidently, children need playgrounds to fill their imaginations and to understand and evaluate risk, but Hong Kong does not have enough playgrounds for children over the age of three years. The Fairyland Playscape was an encapsulation of the essence of socialisation and contemplation – a reflection of Groundwork’s belief that the future play space should be simple and abstract, adventurous and artistic. What’s more, it needs to be beautiful to play a part in civic pride.


Says Yuen, “The more we were engaged with the design of children’s spaces, the more that we realised how architecture should allow children to explore the world and create their own world view. Toys are exploratory apparatus for children; they are very important for kids’ development. Thus, can architecture be more exploratory? Social and humanistic designs are the core works of Groundwork, thus we feel obligated to be doing more for our future generation.”

Photography by Bao Jing (courtesy of Groundwork) unless otherwise stated.


Fairyland Playscape
Designer: Manfred Yuen of Groundwork Architects & Associates Ltd
Architectural Team: John Chan, Hebe Lee, Krystal Lung, Jonathan Lau, Howard Au, Clarissa Chau, Tiffany Chin, Zhina Zuo, CY Lau, Manfred Yuen
General Contractor: Wong Ka Hung
Inflatable structure contractor: AOQI Inflatables Limited

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