Since founding the firm in 1980, Bosco Ho has led the Hong Kong architecture firm to produce landmark projects both locally and beyond. Here he talks about milestone moments and plans for the future.
3 April, 2013
The projects you do are highly diversified and in different scales. Is there a common thread among them?
We have a wealth of experience in large-scale and small-scale projects alike, from residential and commercial architecture to mixed-use complexes, public institutions, master layout planning and more.
Although the nature and objectives of each project may be different, there is a common principle amongst our designs. On one hand, we respect our clients’ needs, and on the other hand, we go for designs that reflect the spirit of our time, and that respect and reflect local culture and customs. That is why we always try to use locally sourced materials as much as possible for our buildings – supporting the ecosystem without compromising quality.
Joint University Research Archive (JURA), Hong Kong. Expected completion date: 2016
I can give you examples like the Jinlin Peninsula in Chengdu, China, and the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong S.A.R.. The former is a residential project while the latter is a public institutional office development. While the design language for each is contemporary, both are designed and built to reflect and project each city’s different cultural and historical significance. We are trying to re-define the boundaries of Contemporary Chinese Architecture.
The Ka Wai Chuen public housing development, one of hpa’s earliest projects
One of hpa’s first projects was a public housing development called Ka Wai Chuen. Can you describe its significance?
The project consisted of several thousand units, and the design and redevelopment process was quite challenging – it was the most significant urban redevelopment project at the time in Hong Kong.
The Ka Wai Chuen estate is composed of both public rental housing and home ownership buildings together with shops, youth and elderly centres, kindergartens and other recreation facilities, with building infrastructure formed as a wall village wrapped around a communal central park where residents can rest and relax. It eliminates the problem of easy escape for perpetrators compared to a conventional layout. The inward circulation of traffic not only assists public safety, but also cultivates a sense of belonging and neighbourly relationships in the housing estate.
Ka Wai Chuen
With two generations of residents living in the same district for years, the desire to improve the living environment co-existed with the resistance to redevelopment and possible relocation. With these considerations, innovative localised redevelopment was arranged through a process of phased ’in-situ decanting’, whereby to start with a new residential tower was built on a basketball playground for residents to occupy Phase 1 while the old buildings were torn down.
Ka Wai Chuen
I’m especially interested in designing large-scale housing projects because it affects the daily lives of a great number of people.
In the Ka Wai Chuen project, I spent a lot of time personally doing family visits and talking to the housing management staff and security guards to obtain an insight into their problems and expectations, concerns and difficulties.
Early public housing estates were frequent targets of criminal activities, and people expressed their concerns about home safety. So security considerations were prioritised in the early stages of design with the aim of making the estate physically secure and safe. Inspired by the classical Chinese ’walled village’ and European castles, we designed a defensive architecture with three guarded entrance/exit points only.
Yunda International City, Changsha, China. Expected completion date: 2015
The firm has completed many projects over the years. Which ones would you describe as key milestones?
The Ka Wai Chuen public housing estate is definitely a key milestone project for hpa. During the ’90s, a television station in Hong Kong conducted a survey on crime rates in all public housing estates in the urban area of Hong Kong and found Ka Wai Chuen to be the safest. The effectiveness of the humanistic and people orientated approach to design was truly proven.
Then there is the Meilin Reservoir City in Shenzhen, China – a large residential community project that was commissioned by the Shenzhen Housing Bureau. The project was awarded to hpa after an international design competition. The design and construction was studied by many Mainland authorities and academics, and was visited by former Premier Zhu Rongji and Wen Jiabao, who both paid high compliments. The project also won the Excellent Planning Design Award for Architectural Consultant issued by Shenzhen’s Housing Bureau and the Most Desirable Living Estate by the United Nations.
The Liaison Office Tower of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong S.A.R and the Hong Kong Baptist University are also our milestone projects. Both are iconic landmarks in the city.
Yunda International City
How would you say Hong Kong’s architectural landscape has changed since the time that hpa was first established?
The Hong Kong architectural landscape is mainly shaped by market and consumer demands. The Hong Kong market has matured a great deal in terms of the quality of building design, construction and the use of material. Over the past three decades, there have been a lot of improvements in these aspects, visible also within our own projects. It must be noted though, that years ago, the design quality and the detailing of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong S.A.R. and the Hong Kong Baptist University were good examples.
Super D Technology Centre, Shenzhen, China. Expected completion date: 2014
Can you describe hpa’s growth in China?
hpa was one of the first architecture firms to enter into China. We started our operations in China the same year that the firm set up in 1980.
Over the years, we have completed the Master Layout Planning for second and third-tier cities such as the planning for the Government Headquarters at Guyuan, Ningxia Autonomous Region, China, and the Central Business District & Logistics Centre in Afar City, Xinjian Uygur Autonomous Region, China. Concurrently, hpa has also been appointed for a lot of commercial and public development projects, like the newly launched Zhongwei Cultural Complex in Ningxia, and the Super D Technology Centre in Shenzhen.
Zhongwei Cultural Complex, Ningxia, China (2011)
Is hpa seeking to expand its business, and if so, where to?
Sprouting from the headquarters in Hong Kong, hpa at one point had 10 offices around the world – in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Bangkok, New Delhi, Singapore and Hong Kong. In order to maintain our high standard of quality control however, the firm decided to consolidate its work into three core places, which are today in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
In 2013, hpa’s strategy is to reinforce its foothold in China and Hong Kong and to further expand its presence in Southeast Asia.
Zhongwei Swimming Centre – the most recently completed project in the Zhongwei Cultural Complex development
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