Tag Archives: china

I can not believe another month or maybe two months have passed! Oops! There was so much to do and so little time! In September I loved being in Shanghai again. I stayed at The Waterhouse Hotel – my favourite place to stay when in Shanghai. I wrote about how it had matured and grown since my last visit around the same time last year. My experiences were posted at Website.

View from The Waterhouse Hotel’s Rooftop Bar with Garden.

I stayed in a different room this time – The River Suite. Lush!

Exceptional fresh flavours at the Hotel’s restaurant One.’s Norman Johnson tucks in to a Beetroot and Goats Cheese Salad Starter!

I took to my preferred mode of transport-the bike and hit Shanghai Streets! It was great to see what had changed and what had remained constant at street level.

On my bike and loving Shanghai Streets

As part of I attended D.A.F.F. – The Design Art and Fashion Fair. There were some great local participants, and things to see and do.

A lesson in guerrilla marketing by fashion label Minirine – “the fashion-side expression of globetrotting mixed-media artist Marine Bigo”.

Close Up! Too Close!

So cute!

So cool!

As the sun sets on a glorious day in Shanghai!

Next Stop Cambodia!

Hong Kong Collage 01
Hong Kong Collage 02

Hong Kong! A beautiful mix of extreme topography, tall buildings, great shopping, exciting nightlife and business. I had a well deserved break while in Hong Kong walking through the shopping district, visiting roof top bars, and eating amazing cuisine… A massive thank you to my host Tracy Hansen!

SCAD’s amazing facilities; including break out areas featuring SCAD alumni’s work; green screen studios; and Court rooms adapted for lectures

We met with Grant Preisser, Associate Vice President of SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) Hong Kong. He guided us through SCAD’s new facilities focusing on works by SCAD students and alumni that lined the halls and public areas of the building.

The adaption of the Court House has made interesting spaces for SCAD students, especially installation artists, to explore their works

SCAD Hong Kong is housed in a heritage listed Court Building and so includes cells, court rooms and public spaces that have been sensitively adapted for their new function as a learning hub for creative careers such as drawing, photography, sculpture and digital imaging. SCAD believes in process led practice where intense studios encourage the medium to guide the experience and process of design and making in all of its forms.

Grant also walked us through Oceana at SCAD’s Moot Gallery, an exhibition of new photographic work by SCAD alumna Lisa M. Robinson. Her work beautifully captured the transformative nature of water (its shape, movement and mood during moments of becoming); during storm surges, changes of state from ice to fluid currents and vice versa. The work resonated with me and echoed the importance of nature’s role in the making of patterns. From early times to the ever-present nature continues to inform and inspire culture especially through art making.

Amazing Location: Tracy and Claire (Gallery Associate) at SCAD Central Gallery, Hong Kong

We made our way to SCAD Gallery in Central Hong Kong where we met with Claire Cheung, SCAD Gallery Associate and viewed work by Yeondoo Jung in the exhibition entitled The Mechanics of Invention.

Tracy and I at Sotheby’s HK Autumn Preview

Through Tracy Hansen’s role in Contemporary Art within Hong Kong we had special preview tickets to Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn Sales. This would be an opportunity to see some amazing traditional and contemporary works close up, as well as meet Artists and Gallery Representatives.

I spent a lot of time within Dragons and Silk from the Forbidden City a display featuring works from Teresa Coleman Fine Arts.  Here there were antique silk textiles and costumes from the Imperial Court of China. She had a beautiful collection of Formal Court Robes from The Forbidden City, including Dragon Robes (The Chi-fu) and Women’s Ceremonial Court robes (Women’s Chao-fu) that highlighted the Twelve Symbols of Authority.

Dragon Robe at Teresa Coleman Fine Arts display

The Dragon Robes’ overall design, in content and form, represents a diagram of the universe. The robe’s lower edge included a wave border represented by diagonal stripes edged above with rolling waves. Four peaks symbolize the earth and mountains with the four elements (air, earth, fire and water) each represented by a dragon. Dragons on a robe are a symbol of authority; good fortune and good luck as well as a symbol of the nature male vigor and vitality. The robe’s neck is the gate of Heaven with the symbolism only complete when the robe is worn; the wearer’s head represents the Heavens. The robe also includes cranes (for longevity) and the ‘Ji’ character (luck) together meaning ‘hope for life’.

The Twelve Symbols of Authority (from the Ming Dynasty) arranged on the Imperial Robes include: The Sun, The Moon, Constellations, Mountains, Pair of Dragons, Pheasant, Fu Symbol, Axe, Water Weeds, Liberation Cup, Flames and Millet. The symbols have specific form and meaning and are arranged in order around the neck, waist and knees. Together they make a complete message that the Emperor is blessed with a mandate from Heaven to govern over all creation.

The robes were displayed in a way that allowed close up experience. It was incredible to see the meticulous embroidery; intense colors and detailed patterns. One could gain an appreciation for the traditional embroidery and textile techniques used in these ancient times including peking knot stitch (da zi meaning ‘making seeds’ the small knots resemble seeds), couching and brocade as well as the brilliant colors achieved through natural dyes and pigments such as Indigo (Blue), Gardenia Flowers (Yellow) and Cinnibar (Vermillion).

Sotheby’s HK Autumn Preview

While at the Sotheby’s Preview Tracy also introduced me to painter Takahide Komatsu represented by Tezukayama Gallery, Japan; and Fiona Ho, Gallery Manager of The Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong.

L>R PolyU Design Staff Roger Ball, Scot Laughton and Martin Wong in front of student’s work

We met with Roger Ball (PHD) Director and Founder of the Size China Project and among other things is Assistant Professor at PolyU’s School of Design. As a co-founder of Paradox Design in Canada, he created high performance sports products for clients such as Itech Sport, Burton Snow boards, Brine Lacrosse, and Nike/Bauer.

Out on the snowfields he found that many of his Asian snowboarding companions removed their headgear frequently, even when descending a slope. They suffered headaches from their helmets. On further research he discovered that the majority of headgear proportions were based on a non-Asian set of standards. No one had mapped the Asian head! And so the Size China Project began; to map a digital database of Asian head and face sizes for use by manufacturers and designers internationally. It was the first such digital database of its kind.

Roger and Tina with Size China Standard Head Types (Male)

Through 3D digital scanning, measurement data was collected from males and females in six distinct areas on the Chinese mainland to ensure the patterns of features and differences were captured in the study. These areas included Guangzhou, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Langzhou, Beijing, and Shenyang. This process was undertaken in collaboration with Chinese universities and local industries with expertise in ergonomics.

While there Roger, Tina Yan Luximon ( PHD, Chief Scientist) and Janis Tsui Ka Man (Research Assistant; CAD Specialist) scanned my head for prosperity. They have a database of designers’ heads too which includes scans of Australian Designer Marc Newson’s and Architect Zaha Hadid’s head.

Janis prepares me for the scanning process

Roger gave a tour of PolyU’s School of Design where we saw some great work by Industrial and Product Design, Environment and Interior Design students and graduates. In 2012/13 PolyU Design will move into a new home, Innovation Tower, the first permanent architectural work in Hong Kong by Zaha Hadid. It will provide additional space to facilitate multidisciplinary collaboration.

I also met other members of the School of Design including Scot Laughton and Martin Wong. The team at PolyU Design was amazingly generous with their time and thoughts and I felt a special connection with their inquisitive and creative process, and forward thinking approach to the teaching of design.

Guangzhou Collage 01
Guangzhou Collage 02

The saying “If you build it they will come!” rings true for GuangzhouGuangzhou is a city that is becoming. There are a myriad of cranes working on the city skyline. Large public squares and buildings have been rapidly completed. The wide streets are eerily quiet before the expected influx of people/population. More tropical than any of the other Chinese cities I had visited to date, the boulevards lined with fig trees reminded me of my own hometown, Brisbane.

…the contents that sit within The Guangdong Museum treasure box? Treasures from the region of course. The region is recognized for its carving especially in wood, ivory and jade. Within the museum there were exquisite examples of these along with embroidery, painting and ceramics.

L > R Detail of Pine Tree within Chaozhou Embroidery, Late Qing Dynasty; Painted Enamel Bowl with Lid, Qing Dynasty; Top Detail of Engraved Ivory Tusk, Qing Dynasty

A highlight was the Chaozhou Woodcarving exhibition. Chaozhou Woodcarving is a folk woodcarving known for its detail, craftsmanship, and elaborate design. It has distinctive local characteristics that reflect the process, local customs, beliefs and way of life of the Chaozhou-Shantou people.

L > R Window Grill with Flowers incorporated in Geometric Design; Plank in openwork featuring pine and flowers, Qing Dynasty

Craftsman use the basic materials of wood, lacquer, pigment and foil. Woods used include camphor, chinafir, chinaberry, and rosewood. The works on display featured special techniques employed to make the screens, carvings and objects. These techniques included Intaglio, Relief, Altorelievo, and Openwork used individually or in combination. The actual carvings were setout using metric, perspectival and isometric composition techniques. Like in stone carving, Chaozhou Woodcarving uses the properties of each unique piece of wood to inform the carving technique, layering and composition type.

L > R Shrine door in openwork featuring pattern of Nine Bats delivering longevity; Detail of decorative panel in struck relief with patterns of dragons, phoenixes and The Eight Immortals on Ruyi heads background, Qing Dynasty; Complex plank work with figures and stories, The Republic of China 

The artisans had beautifully captured the essential features of local nature within the wood carvings. Most memorable were the peony flower and chrysanthemum; the structure and simplicity of the pine needles; as well as the detailed scales and feathers of the mythical beasts (dragons, phoenixes etc.) The works using simpler techniques such as Intaglio (carving into surface) used only a few marks to capture discerning features.

Combinations of more complex techniques created a special space to experience within the carving. Patterned openwork for background (often including simplified and varied arrangements of clouds) used with more dimensional techniques such as altorelievo (three-dimensional carving that can be observed from any angle) gave focus, depth and completeness.

A very beautiful and inspiring traditional craft.


Museum Facade
Pearl River side to the South
Main Entry Court

I made a brief stop in the sub-tropical city of Guangzhou (Canton) to visit The Guangdong Museum. The Guangdong Museum was designed by Hong Kong based Rocco Architects and completed in 2010. They won the project through an International design competition (by invitation only) held in 2004.

The project was originally conceived of as an Objet d’Art, such as a secret lacquered box or sacred bowl realised at the scale of the city. Over time it is not only envisioned to collect and reflect treasures but to also be accepted as a treasure and cultural icon by the people of the Pearl River Delta. Both the treatment of the main facade and the interior spatial arrangement and dynamism reference the ‘ivory puzzle ball’; a treasured multilayered and concentrically cut orb. The objects on display in the museum show the local history of the province and aim to strengthen cultural identity.

On arrival, the most surprising thing was that the main entry court did not face the Pearl River. After visiting the river it made sense. At the point where the Museum adjoins the River there is an island that blocks clear access and views. The entry court addresses the main visual axis that runs through the city to the water, broken physically by a number of major cross roads and a Sports Centre. At the water’s end of the axis is a large public park and court lined with major cultural landmark buildings including the Guangdong Museum (Rocco Architects) and the Guangzhou Opera House (Zaha Hadid).

Visitors entering the Museum are limited to 3000 per day and so on busy days the wait can be quite lengthy.

The Museum Undercroft framing the development and base of the Canton Tower to the South. Check out the number of cranes!
Inside: The Central Atrium
Perforated screen defining central atrium

Once inside I really enjoyed the feeling of being in the central atrium space. It was light, airy and beautifully layered. The break out alcoves adjacent to the entry points to the main gallery spaces were also a joy. They offered a new perspective of this city of Ghangzhou. Through perforated screens, cut outs and framing one could get a sense of the immensity of the new city rapidly exploding on the skyline.

Screens to the City
The Waterhouse Hotel’s exterior
Materiality Detail: Small crushed glass sparkles in the daylight
Entry and Foyer

While in Shanghai I stayed at The (elegantly raw) Waterhouse Hotel; designed by Shanghai founded Neri & Hu Design and Research Office (NHDRP).

The Waterhouse affords a unique vantage point in time and of place. The hotel is located on the banks of the Hungpu River in South Bund, and with the constant cycle of ships passing, one is reminded of South Bund’s history as a dockland and Shanghai’s role as a major port. The Hotel acts as a frame for both South Bund and Shanghai; with their momentum of change and future potential revealed at an important moment between its present and past.

Physically the design preserves the language, materiality and scale of the original warehouse in which the hotel is housed. The story of the building’s previous life remains within the marks, layers of paint and imperfections preserved everywhere in its walls, surfaces and apertures. Patches of raw concrete and brickwork are uncovered with pulleys, brackets, machinery and floors removed. The new function of ‘residing’ is interlaced in this context along with a carefully considered palette of glass, mirror, Corten steel, light timber, smooth unfinished concrete and text.

The saying ‘No-thing is New’ reverberates through my head as I look at the interiors furnished with designer sofas, lights and seats all sitting so comfortably within this context. This is because their own design and materiality are informed by the language and process of the industrial.

The Central Courtyard: with mirror lined shutters
The intriguing set of three stairways adjacent to my room that let light flood through a series of voids. Quotes were scattered along the ascent of stairwells

My Bund Junior Room with views to Pudong's skyscrapers and Hungpu River

The Waterhouse was truly Shanghai cool and I felt relaxed, comfortable and connected during my stay. It was a joy to come home to this counterpoint each night after intense days at the Shanghai Museum.

Up to the Rooftop Herb Garden and Bar to enjoy the view of Shanghai

One wonders how much of the history of Shanghai will still be evident within its city fabric, once the latest cycle of development has occurred. And how comfortably will it sit with new China and modern demands? The Waterhouse at least is a benchmark that shows the unique opportunity and potential of local design and understanding at this moment.