International news: Mar 2016

International news: Mar 2016


The View from Hong Kong

Report by International Chapter Councillor Vui Choong


Hong Kong is experiencing the hiccups of the Chinese economy, and as a result, the residential property prices in HK are on the downward trend. International Architecture practices that have relied heavily on mainland Chinese projects have seen heavy reductions in staff numbers, although infrastructural and cultural projects have remained strong. Such projects include:

  • The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, connecting the cities on the western bank of the Pearl River Delta (PRD)
  • Hong Kong Border Crossing facility on a man-made island near Hong Kong airport
  • The High-Speed Railway (HSR) Station connecting the Chinese HSR network is progressing, despite being severely over-budgeted
  • Recently announced extension of the MTR railway network within the territory
  • Proposed third runway and terminal extension of Hong Kong International airport
  • Upcoming development within the former Kai Tak airport vicinity
  • West Kowloon cultural district with M+ gallery designed by Herzog and De Meuron and Xiqu Chinese Theatre designed by Canadian architect Bing Thom

A few years ago, the Hong Kong government announced the intention to reclaim land from the sea to stabilise the land and property demand, but no further details have emerged.

Meanwhile on mainland China, with the recent anti-corruption measures and the downward trend of the Chinese economy, many International companies in China are finding it tough, and as a result, many of them have either exited China or reduced their practice size.  China is also in a transition phase. Where previously local architects and clients have relied heavily on western practices for conceptual design, with the Local Design Institute (LDI) fulfilling the task of documenting the buildings, the new model is that many LDIs are applying to become fully fledged architectural practices, taking on the task of Conceptual Design right through to Contract Administration. This has the impact of reducing the need for foreign architects.

Internally, the market is tough as many practices are now competing against each other for projects that are low on volume, through reduced fees.  While property prices remained strong in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, other second- or third-tier cities have fallen considerably.

Vui Choong is a registered architect and works for HASSELL, Hong Kong.



Le Corbusier – What moves us?

Report by International Chapter Council Vice President, Janine Campbell


Australian Architect and Urban Designer, Glenn Harper recently presented a paper at the international conference ‘Le Corbusier – What moves us…?’. This took place at Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark on 19-20 November 2015. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Swiss Architect’s death and the birth of Aarhus School of Architecture, the conference focussed on Le Corbusier’s reception of his works and theories in Scandinavia. Glenn’s paper, titled ‘A Graphic Trist: Le Corbusier, Utzon and The Sydney Opera House 1957-1966’ further considered Le Corbusier’s influence on Jørn Utzon and his graphic imagery for The Sydney Opera House.

Glenn’s paper argued that when working on the Sydney Opera House, Jørn Utzon sought inspiration in the graphic imagery of Le Corbusier. This manifested in the limited publication of three oblong folios: the Red Book (1958), the Yellow Book (1962) and the unofficial Blue Book (1962). In each of these Utzon applied various graphic techniques ‘learnt’ from Le Corbusier (notice, for example, that the illustrated front cover of the Red Book had a cut-out silhouette of the building on a background of vermillion, both a technique and a colour much used by Le Corbusier). When in Sydney, Utzon would continue to be inspired by Le Corbusier and the importation of a left-hand drive ‘Citroen’ was of no coincidence. From Utzon’s various encounters with Le Corbusier, Glenn argues that Utzon was able to find new allegorical and ‘graphic transgressions’ in the representation of his Sydney Opera House.

Glenn Harper is a Senior Associate at PTW and previously worked for Peter Myers Architect in Sydney. In London, Glenn had the opportunity to work on the design of the British Library for Colin St John Wilson and Partners. Glenn is a long term member of the RAIA (NSW Chapter) Heritage Committee and is a current recipient of the Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship.