Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
WING Loft in Chai Wan, Hong Kong by Laboratory for Explorative Architecture & Design Ltd
May 1st, 2015 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Laboratory for Explorative Architecture & Design Ltd
Hong Kong’s neighbourhood Chai Wan is the next up-and-coming cultural hub on the island. As industrial activities are slowly disappearing from the area, the rough post-industrial urban fabric leaves behind a unique range of spaces and places that form the backdrop for an innovative creative scene. WING is the latest addition to what Chai Wan has on offer. Located on the top of a large waterfront industrial complex, this spacious loft / performance space is a versatile and flexible venue for contemporary dance, exhibitions, performances and events,which simultaneously allows for an instant conversion into office spaces and/or residence. By packing this multifaceted programme in a relatively small area in a derelict industrial warehouse, the project voices a strong critique to Hong Kong’s extreme housing situation, lack of cultural facilities, and its and negligence of its industrial heritage.
A battery of industrial elevators bring visitor up in a nondescript industrial building to the loft’s 21stfloorentrance corridor. Here, an elegantly curving brass sign wraps and folds around white exhibition walls to draw visitors to the front door. Upon entry of the loft one arrives at the crossing of the venue’s two main wings. Both wings house a performance stage, open up onto a large corner terrace, and are connected with one another via the brass kitchen element.
The left wing of the venue houses a large dark-wooden stage area that is flanked by a broad window offering stunning views of the Hong Kong skyline. A swooping brushed brass volume forms the stage’s backdrop and houses both a library and a window to the bar/kitchen area. A large open space in front of the stage forms the visitor’s meeting area, which opens up directly onto the terrace and can function as a dining area as well. Inside the brass volume sanitary units, a kitchen, and storage spaces are embedded. A horizontal roller shutter allows the brass volume to be sealed off completely, or to operate as a bar open to the performance spaces.
The right wing of the loft houses a second stage and the venue’s operational spaces. Sliding walls and partitions allow for flexible subdivision in various configurations with different atmospheres. The stage is placed in the darkest corner of the space, is slightly lifted from the spectator’s area in front, and has built-in lighting and adjacent storage. It directly connects to a backstage area which has mosaic-tiled changing rooms and make-up facilities for performers. Sliding doors allow the stage to be separated from the spectator’s area in front, which can be transformed into a meeting room or lounge area.
On the street-side of the right wing three brightly lit staff offices are located, all of which have deep views into Chai Wan. These offices can be interconnected with or separated from one another via pin-board / blackboard sliding doors, and are separately accessible via the archive corridor. The archive corridor is the central access way to all the functions of the right wing. It is built from a back-lit wooden lattice structure behind which storage spaces and sanitary units are concealed.
All spaces in the right wing of the loft can be separated and sealed off from the rest of the loft via an ArtWall. This ArtWall forms the key feature of the project and consists of a ten meter long, foldable wooden screen that has milled into it an abstract artwork symbolizing the dynamic motion of the performances the loft is to house. The wall operates as a lantern-like space divider that mediates between the bright outward oriented space in front and the intimate rooms behind. It is fabricated using a computer controlled router that milled a carefully composed drawing into layers of differently coloured wood and acrylic, revealing the image through different levels of colour and transparency. The wall panels can be folded together in pairs to give access to the performance space, archive, and offices behind.
Both left and right wings of the venue open up and meet onto an outside terrace. Clad in light-coloured natural stone, and surrounded by colourful green, this space bathes in light and offers a beautiful view of the surroundings. A large rotating wooden table, benches with built-in storage, and a built-in barbecue give programmatic flexibility to the space, while a big triangular white awning offers shade from the sub-tropical sun.
Finally, from the entrance corridor a separate fire staircase gives access to a semi-private rooftop area. This place houses a third performance stage. Entirely clad in hardwood, and surrounded by greenery, the rooftop area opens up entirely to the Island’s magnificent scenery.
Hidden where one would least expect it, high in a corner of an old industrial building, WING offers Hong Kong a rare place for creative expression. Typical of this bustling city where space is scarce, hyper-flexibility and spatial efficiency are pushed to the maximum to allow the project’s ambitious programme. Careful selection of materials, geometries, craft and techniques gives the space its unique, warm and charismatic identity. With frequent events scheduled throughout the year WING aims to facilitate and stimulate Hong Kong’s creativity.