Sunday, 22 September 2013

Innovation Tower – The future is difference

“Our designs dissolved the classic typography of tower and podium to create a seamlessly fluid new structure - establishing a vision for future achievements and referencing the university’s rich tradition.”

Zaha Hadid on Innovation Tower, Polytechnic University Hong Kong

Photogenic mug-shot of the massive building in the campus surrounding.

It looks like a giant sailing boat marshalling in a sea of docile red-brick buildings.  The opportunity was there, albeit lost chances in the past, to rescue the campus from a humdrum of forced homogeneity.  On this course Zaha Hadid, chosen for the task to break the mould or any mould, has a track record of successes.

As in most of her works, the public attention on the design school is measured by the degree of how disparate it appears in its immediate context and beyond.  The plastic volumes, intersecting profiles and sleek bandings applied are conducive to a forward-looking expression, so positive that there requires a mandatory disconnection with learned experiences and cultures.  To expand further, the school is a visual hagiography of optimism, not much different from the utopian visions of Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil of the 1960s and only comparable to the upbeat commercials of digital gadgets penned by advertising executives in our cyber age.

Futuristic buildings - a description shunned by Hadid on her works but used by most people nonetheless, are hard to relate.  Their purveyors operate on the belief in the future; and for this reason they must distance themselves from the past including established conventions and values.  Metaphor-making on these works can be tricky because they are inherently “progressive” in appearance, any mind-mapping must be equally progressive to be favourable.  Therefore, it is easy to make a joke on them metaphorically, but difficult on a commendation.  Along this lead, most people fail, me included.  With embarrassment, my best shot of a “giant sailing boat” is pathetically old-world.

The followings are some observations from a recent visit and published drawings.

 The building is heavily bandaged with 
remedial works all-round.

Aerial photograph showing the solid roof above the wedge-shaped entrance.  Whoever has the common sense to relinquish roof glazing at the entrance is a good deed against energy-wasting and greenhouse discomfort. 

Original design with full glazing sensibly scraped finally.

There is not much logic to where the sun-breakers (white bands) are located.  Many of them even wrap around the north side.

Series of white banding and awkward massing
 exacerbate visual distortions.

The building looks clumsy at the road side.  The same misgiving occurs in some of Hadid’s works in which broad-brush approach to volumetric handling seems to dictate over attempts on refinement.

The other trademark with her buildings is the fact that the roofs join the walls without gutters separating them.  This lack of detailing is hell on weathering performance; in simple terms, the dust collected on horizontal surfaces will create strands of stain on walls.  For cyber-tech works including this, smeared surfaces are signs of weakness and pessimism.  They are an irritation that keeps coming back.  See the same problems on the Ordrupgaard Extension below:

Floor Plan (+18m from ground)

Floor Plan (+38m from ground)

It is not sure why the lecture theatres are located at the middle section of the tower except an urge to be different is too overwhelming.  This is inefficient spatial organization and is inflexible for possible overhaul in future.

Longitudinal Section 
(above drawings and renderingZaha Hadid Architects)

Apart from the unconventional location of lecture theatres, it is strange to find that some internal walls are slanted on this drawing.

(interior imagespurple li@

These dramatic interiors are no ordinary learning spaces.  Furnishing for the interiors is difficult as stylistic concerns always get in the way of pragmatic needs.

未來就是異樣 哈廸之賽馬會創新大廈   〈中文摘要〉





Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Bruce Lee – Visionary Punches

Rushed to the hospital from an actress’s home and died at the height of his film career, Bruce Lee (1941-73) is a classic Shakespearean tragic-hero who is still a legend since his demise on 20 July, 1973.  He is an epiphany of a typical high school drop-out, winning Cha-cha dancer, charismatic actor, teacher and sportsman all rolled into one.

The organizers disallow photo-taking in the venue, 
hence the photos taken hastily are less than desirable.

The exhibition, set to run for five years, is an unprecedented result of a joint effort pulled together by the Bruce Lee Foundation, curators and individual bodies.  A large collection of memorabilia has been amassed from various sources to reveal different stages of his extraordinary life.  In the aftermath of recent bickering over a permanent venue dedicated to Lee sadly turned sour in Hong Kong, this is the best effort yet in a worldwide level.

Lee did not simply leave a lasting impact on martial arts forty years after his death.  His integrated adaptation of boxing, karate, Wing-Chun and other schools of fighting is a cross-discipline forth-runner of selecting the most effective means to achieve a goal.  In other words, it is the pursuit of efficiency, unbounded by doctrines, so highly valued in contemporary problem-solving process. 

The yellow jersey, not related to the Tour de France, is the iconic costume worn by Lee in the half-finished film – The Game of Death.

The mirrored wall from “Enter the Dragon” is reconstructed though without much vibe.  The China-town impression, blindly adopted by local curators, makes one feel tight-fisted with anger.  On the side note, I would recommend “Fist of Fury” for those who have not seen his films.  Honestly most of his other films should be viewed solely for personality-following purpose.

Two sketches among many by Lee explored the possibilities of fighting sequence in his films.  More daunting is his scribble of physical exercises to be taken on an hourly basis (not shown here). His dedication to body fitness put most people into shadow.

A toy-sized burial ground intended as a joke for a friend.  The inscription reads: In memory of a once fluid man crammed and distorted by the classical mess.  It is still a relevant guard against bigotry and self-righteousness.  To me, this is the essential contribution of Lee that stands the test of time.

The big-budgeted exhibition setting is largely based on the actor’s childhood home.  The deco is a bit nostalgic for liking yet the result is not as cheesy as imagined.

A more contemporary throw near the exit focuses on the play with Lee’s quotations through interactive means.  One of them says: “Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. Like water.”

Bruce Lee: Kung Fu-Art-Life is held at Hong Kong Heritage Museum from 20 July 2013 to 20 July 2018.  Check the official website for film showing time prior to visit:

「武.藝.人生 李小龍」   〈中文摘要〉