Type: Competition | Architecture
Location: Shek Kip Mei, Hong Kong
Organizer: Hong Kong Institute of Architects
Year: 2015
Award: Shortlisted

Dear City Planner,

Life exists in parallels of duality: happiness contrasted by sadness, the public against the hidden. The same applies to light; by the brightest lights lives the darkest shadows. The interplays of light and shadow create a spectrum of ambiences for human habitation, filling spaces with varying patterns of tension and ease. Some activities have an infatuation with light while other activities need darkness to grow. Likewise, a society shares these same characteristics. A society consists of a myriad of alternative and traditional lifestyles, and it must cater to the growth of each to flourish in cadence and harmony. Through a manipulation of light, darkness, societal elements, lifestyle components, the proven and the experimental, I hope we can work together to fuel the emergence of a new urban space to act as the city’s living room.

I would like to introduce you to Lightly.hongkong, a proposed centre where tourists and locals can mingle to exchange and share their daily cultures. This tourist-cum-civic centre at the harbourfront will be the first ever community-driven gallery of everyday Hong Kong.

In the name, the word “Lightly” holds many symbolic meanings in terms of what I hope we can accomplish with this proposal. In addition to lightening up the city, this word suggests the imagery of one landing softly on the ground and this illustration is an accurate depiction of what an ordinary day in our city feels like. Celebrating everyday life, Lightly.hongkong encourages our city’s residents to feel pride in their inherited local culture and their unique lifestyles. Presenting our local wisdoms, crafts and ideas, we do not seek to impress the world with fancy facades or with the tallest skyscrapers. Instead, I hope Lightly.hongkong will be a genuine representation of the different groups in our local community, as well as a sincere source of support for those embracing our city’s lifestyles. Through Lightly.hongkong, I hope we can inspire the international audience and our own younger generations with what we have grown up with in our city.

The idea of this proposal is not to create a fixed site, but rather a fluid structure that will fill up the void spaces leftover from urban regeneration and development efforts along the harbourfront. A reactive and changeable composition, Lightly.hongkong will adapt to our city’s dynamics.

The design of this centre begins with modular blocks composed with internal structures of prefabricated steel, and a grid of 6m×6m steel post-and-beam systems will be laid out on the site as befit the current site environment. This grid is the holding framework for the modular blocks, as well as for the elevated platform that can be used by groups to host public activities and by individuals to view the cityscape from a stellar vantage point.

There are four types of modular blocks: the entrance and reception block, the rectangular workshop blocks, the squared gallery blocks and the facility blocks. Each block carries a different enclosure design, and is complete with distinctive lighting conditions that cater to each block’s specific use. As nighttime falls, the strong lights from the buildings surrounding the harbourfront provide environmentally-friendly lighting for the centre grounds, making the grounds relatively dark in order to facilitate activities such as nighttime walks, light art performances and experimentations, mushroom growing, skateboarding and graffiti artwork. The gallery blocks, scattered along the harbourfront for tranquil water views, are created with a dual purpose and are able to function as guesthouses at night for tourists.

The measurement of the success of the Lightly.hongkong centre is not simply contained to the architecture itself, but also hinges on the effective implementation of a bottom-up design process. This centre is to be a space curated by local community groups, with programs and collaborators invited by stakeholders through careful discussions. As a proposal, this bottom-up design process is still in a theoretical stage. But whether in theory or in practice, it emphasizes the extent of what architects can contribute through the whole architectural design process.

I believe that architects need to understand the needs of each stakeholder in an architectural design project, and a consensus for the most appropriate architectural solution must be reached across all stakeholders. As an architect, we work for the community, thus we should put in our best effort to cater to community life through architecture. What we do goes beyond building something physical, and extends to how we use the physical piece. With Lightly.hongkong, I hope we can use this centre to embrace the growth of the city dream: culture is about life, and life is about the moments shared under the same light. With architecture, we can create and facilitate opportunities for these moments to happen for people to enjoy.

I hope you will enjoy the following excerpts from our specially curated Lightly.lifestyle guide that will be placed in our harbourfront centre for future tourists and community member. Enjoy the Lightness and be proud of the lives we lead every day!


The Editor