Designs on a greener Hong Kong
As a design hub for Asia with top-quality education, premium talent, plenty of reputable design firms and opportunities galore, Hong Kong is a very convenient place for potential architects and interior designers to hone their skills.
Highlighting a key advantage of the Hong Kong interior design and architecture industry, the award-winning designer Karr Yip says that the combination of traditional cultural spirit and international vision generates designers with unique taste and talent. He adds that the schooling system is well-developed and multicultural, with the available work in the design industry being equally diversified.
"Most tutors in design and architecture schools are from different parts of the world, which gives students an international vision and knowledge. Hong Kong is involved in design projects all over the world, which helps designers and architects develop their skills on various types of projects in a variety of areas and cultures," says Yip.
Raymond Fung, a professor and architect who worked on the temporary West Kowloon waterfront and the Wetland Park, says the high salaries and the new lifestyle movement currently in vogue locally are among the benefits of the interior design and architecture industry.
"Hong Kong has some of the best employment rates in the world, and job opportunities are out there for most young architects and designers who are likely to have equivalent - or perhaps higher - pay than in other cities," Fung says.
The government is also doing its bit to make Hong Kong a better place for designers and architects, with different events, conventions and talks regularly held throughout the year. One of the more prominent is the 2012 Hong Kong Design Year, a programme that aims to develop the city's thinking on the subject, while promoting and enhancing understanding of its values in business and society.
However, although there is a healthy environment for interior designers and architects here, there are still limitations such as heavy regulations and guidelines put in place by the government.
Yip points out that although the intentions are good - and that practical designs can sometimes come out of them - the rules can usually be an obstacle to young designers or those from other countries who may not understand the spirit of the regulations or how to work with them.
Fung also believes that the regulations impede architects.
"Hong Kong is a place overly driven by commercial values, so architects have little chance to explore new options, especially under the constraints of laymen marketing managers and strict building codes. The city is largely overwhelmed by stereotypically garish residential developments which limit new ideas and skills," Fung says.
He thinks that practitioners should take a "less is more" green outdoor approach to urban planning, as Hong Kong is lacking in genuine open space for the enjoyment of the public.
Yip concurs, adding that designers should not only fight to put more greenery into the city, but also further integrate nature and the city at the planning level. Hopefully, this is what the designers of tomorrow will achieve.