New Twists for Public Parks

New Twists for Public Parks

ArtAlive@Park 2010 student designers Gordon Chak, Toby Cheung, Jacqui Cheung, Lawson Lai, and supervisor Jason Carlow (2nd from left)  
Pixel Wall in Tuen Mun Park, 2010
Fence Off, Tuen Mun Park, 2010

Two projects involving students and staff of the Faculty of Architecture helped to introduce new ideas on the use of public space in Hong Kong's parks.

The projects, part of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) programme, "ArtAlive@Park", included installations such as metal fences that twist into park benches to transform urban barricades into areas for seating; a reflective wall that gave visitors a view of the skyline or themselves depending on the angle of view; and fabric walls that could be zipped opened and closed so people could play with the idea of forming and breaking down barriers.

A total of eight installations were created for two ArtAlive@Park exhibitions, in 2010 and 2012, each lasting three months. The success of HKU's participation in the first session helped to change the nature of the event, which originally focused more on art installations, according to Jason Carlow, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Architecture.

"We take as a positive comment the fact that after the 2010 installations, the LCSD decided that instead of having arts students install these projects, they would invite more architecture programs from other universities in Hong Kong to participate," he said.

The first exhibition was held at Tuen Mun Park and focused on transcending borders and barriers in the park. Students designed and built their installations under the supervision of teachers in the faculty, and they worked with local builders, fabricators and park management on their construction. They also designed pamphlets about the projects and led public tours of the installations, thus further enhancing the knowledge exchange.

The second exhibition was held at a coastal park near Victoria Harbour in East Tsim Sha Tsui and provided students with an opportunity to experiment with the interplay between the Hong Kong skyline, the harbour and the land. That event also brought extensive local media coverage and students were interviewed about their work.

"These projects have been important to demonstrate alternative ideas about public space and architecture to Hong Kong park management and the LCSD. They have also been a very potent mechanism for the exchange of ideas between academia, the professional design community, the public, and the officials who regulate Hong Kong's public spaces," Mr Carlow said.

The projects were also a learning experience for the students, who were guided by Mr Carlow, Professor Wang Weijen and other members of the faculty. Further support was provided from the HKU Community Project Workshop and project manager, Inascio Chan Ping-chi. An HKU alumnus even got into the act, too: recent Masters of Architecture graduate Ricci Wong, who now has his own design and fabrication firm, returned to help out as a consultant and a project manager on site.

Mr Jason Carlow received the Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award 2013 of the Faculty of Architecture for the 'ArtAlive@Park 2010' and 'ArtAlive@Park 2012'.