ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “HKAPA

OASES IN THE CULTURAL DESERT, Hong Kong Arts Centre (香港藝術中心) & Academy of Performing Arts (香港演藝學院), Wan Chai (灣仔), Hong Kong

When I was a kid, my parents used to take me to the children art workshops at Hong Kong Arts Centre (香港藝術中心) in Wanchai. I don’t remember much about my earliest ”artworks”, but I do remember bits and pieces about the Arts Centre building in the 1980’s: ceiling consisted of small triangles, exposed yellow air ducts, staircase with yellow handrails spiraling up the atrium which took me forever to climb. Today, after series of renovations, the iconic yellow ductwork and stair handrails are gone, but the Arts Centre remains as a prominent non-government institution for art exhibitions, theatre shows, film screenings, and children workshops. As a competitive commercial city where people spent most of their time working to earn a living, Hong Kong is reputed for being a cultural desert. In the 1970’s, some Hongkongers tried to do something to advocate the development of art and culture, including the late architect Tao Ho (何弢). Graduated from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Ho studied and worked under Walter Gropius, the master of Modernist architecture and founder of the Bauhaus School in prewar Germany. Tao Ho returned to Hong Kong and established TaoHo Design Architects in 1968. In 1971, Tao Ho, Bill Bailey and King-man Lo came together to form the organization Hong Kong Arts Centre. After negotiations with the government and series of fundraising campaigns, construction of the building began in 1975 and completed in 1977. As chief architect, Tao Ho’s challenge was enormous. In a 10,000sf triangular site, Ho needed to incorporate galleries, theatre, rehearsal rooms, auditoriums, classrooms, restaurants, offices, and a four-storey atrium plus disabled facilities (first in Hong Kong) within a 16-storey building, all under a limited budget from donors. A triangular system was adopted from spatial planning, structural modules to facade treatment. From the use of functional forms, simple colour scheme, industrial materials, holistic design language, to incorporating geometric shapes into architecture, the spirit of Bauhaus is clearly shown. Since opening, Hong Kong Arts Centre has become a cultural icon in the city, exhibiting works by masters like Paul Klee and Zao Wou Ki as well as supporting the local art scenes. Before his death in 2019, Tao Ho was also responsible for a number of design projects in Hong Kong and China, including Hong Kong Pavilion for the 1986 World Expo in Vancouver, Tsuen Wan MTR Station, renovation of Hong Kong Governor House, Panda Pavilion in Ocean Park, Wing Kwong Pentecostal church, the Bauhinia emblem and the Hong Kong flag, etc.

In 2019, we finally got a chance to visit Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts (HKAPA-香港演藝學院) to watch 887, a solo play by renowned playwright, actor and stage director Robert Lepage from Quebec. Before the show, we wandered a little bit in the atrium hall, where a model of the building complex was on display, showing the two triangular blocks: the academy and theatre blocks separated by a driveway. Serving as both the main campus for performing arts education and a venue for theatre performances, the HKAPA has been a prominent establishment in Hong Kong since 1985. It was founded as the city’s only place that offers professional education on music, dance, drama, technical arts, film and television. Equipped with state of the art acoustics and stage equipment, its Lyric Theatre and other performance halls have served the audience well throughout the last three decades. Like the Arts Centre across the street, HKAPA was conceptualized during the reformative decade of Governor Murray MacLehose (麥理浩), who dramatically improved the social welfare of Hongkongers by introducing new ordinances and policies, and boldly transformed the city into a diverse metropolis with a wide range of public projects, from the metro system to satellite towns, country parks to the Ocean Park (amusement park), Jubilee Sport Centre to the HKAPA. In 1981, architect Simon Kwan (關善明) won the design competition for HKAPA. Restricted by underground utilities, Kwan uses a driveway to break the complex into two triangular volumes, academy and administrative block on one side and theatre block on the other.

The bold geometry, prominent outlines, functional planning, industrial materials, and modular structure of the Arts Centre can be traced back to the Bauhaus. [2022]
After 45 years, Hong Kong Arts Centre remains as a non-government establishment that promotes arts in the city. [2021]
Architect Tao Ho stacked a wide range of spaces including theatre, classrooms and galleries into a 16 storey building. [2021]
Despite the yellow vertical ductwork and handrails are long gone, the 4-storey atrium remains as the prominent point of arrival. [2021]
The atrium stair of the Arts Centre also serves as an exhibition space. [2021]
Many choose to climb the stairs over taking the lifts at the Arts Centre. [2021]
The triangular waffle slabs and light fixtures are pretty unique in Hong Kong. [2021]
Despite land reclamation in recent years, the Arts Centre still enjoys fine views of Victoria Harbour. [2021]
Comparing to the government managed Hong Kong Museum of Art, exhibitions at the Arts Centre are more catered for art lovers, instead of families or couples looking for selfie opportunities. [2021]
The Arts Centre building is like an artwork of architect Tao Ho, where visitors are free to explore spatially. [2021]

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Along Gloucester Road, windows of the teaching rooms and structural bracing of the Academy Block create a geometric presence to the urban scenery of Wan Chai. [2022]
At the age of curtain walls, the simple, solid and geometric beauty of HKAPA stands as a unique example of Late Modernist architecture in Hong Kong. [2022]
Bamboos go well with the verticality of the wall cladding of HKAPA. [2022]
Bold lines on the facade and soft tree shadows form the basic aesthetics for the building elevation. [2022]
Since 1980’s, HKAPA becomes a humble beginning for many successful actors, directors, playwrights and all kinds of theatre professionals in the city. [2022]
Interlocking triangular volumes form the basis of the architectural massing of HKAPA. [2022]
A grand atrium provides a sense of arrival in the theatre block of HKAPA. [2021]
Most theatre visitors would take the escalators up to the performance halls. [2019]
At the atrium, a stone plaque says “The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts was funded and built by the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club on land granted by the Hong Kong Government.” [2021]
Three glass elevators stand as the focal point in the atrium of the theatre block. [2021]