Always on the go, interior designer Joyce Wang prefers to be on site rather than sitting behind a desk removed from the construction process. Even while eight months' pregnant, she has chosen to be intereviewed at the site of her newest commission. The project is a Chinese restaurant called Mott 32 by Maximal Concepts - the group behind Blue Butcher - in the basement of the Central headquarters of Standard Chartered. "The site is really unique and a challenge," says Wang, who is no stranger to coming up with creative solutions. Wang is perhaps best known for the restaurant Ammo, in Admiralty, where she created a striking space by incorporating dramatic furniture and fixtures, such as staircase chandeliers made from plumbing. "We make a lot of our own furniture. Ninety per cent of it is custom-designed and custom-made." Wang says Hong Kong is a great place for younger designers such as herself. "They get opportunities they don't get in other cities around the world. Your opinion - however young you are - goes a long way."
Giovanni Alessi Anghini
“We must never forget we are living in one of the most incredible eras of humankind,” says Giovanni Alessi. “We have tremendous tools at our disposal and, thanks to them, the opportunity to shape our future. My work celebrates our generation and modern times.” As CEO of the studio he founded, GAA Design Farm, and creative consultant for Alessi, the company his great-grandfather formed in 1921, Giovanni Alessi is producing some of the most innovative kitchen appliances, light fixtures and furniture on the market. The award-winning designer’s work is represented in the permanent collection of the Museum of Architecture and Design in Chicago. “Design transforms lives – we are changing the way we eat, drink, communicate, love, everything, thanks to products,” Alessi says. His personal goal is to make his parents cry with joy at the beauty of his pieces – and he succeeded with MooM, a plastic bowl dedicated to his mother that incorporates a wine-glass holder, allowing the conviviality of an Italian family dinner to be enjoyed on the sofa. Alessi recently moved from Milan to Hong Kong and is already an ardent fan of his new home. “I love the enthusiasm and the melting pot of cultures of this place. I keep meeting people with amazing stories I want to bring to life.”
Marisa Yiu and Eric Schuldenfrei
ESKYIU, a studio that explores how architecture transforms the cultural landscape, media consumption and education, was founded by New Yorkers Marisa Yiu and Eric Schuldenfrei in 2005. The creative duo moved to Hong Kong and opened the local branch in 2007. Since then they have curated the 2009 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, exhibited at the Venice Biennale and won the Architectural League Prize. “This is a very exciting and dynamic time,” says Yiu. “Locally, Hong Kong has a great design community and many talents. Globally, changing social structures are forcing us to question the role of the architect as a citizen, social connector and spatial designer.” Recent ESKYIU projects include a proposal to camouflage Hong Kong’s highways with lush vegetation; Industrial Forest, an installation of 320 long metal rods that move like bamboo in the wind; and an innovative stage set for the Ido Portal movement workshop at Shaw Studios. “We use design as a way to ask questions on public space, and learn more about demographics,” says Yiu. “Design is not a service; it’s a responsibility in contemporary society. We want to make a better, positive and more productive future for our city.”
Architecture and art are separated by a thin line, says award-winning architect and installation artist William Lim. Co-chairman of Para/Site Art Space and managing director of design firm CL3, Lim’s projects include Hong Kong’s Hotel Icon, the Shangri-La Hotel Shenzhen, and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. When Lim is not designing buildings, he’s designing art installations. These include Lantern Wonderland, a sculpture made of lanterns commissioned for the 2011 Mid-Autumn Festival, and a bamboo pavilion for Very Hong Kong, an outdoor performing arts event in December 2013. “I started approaching it as temporary architecture,” Lim says of installation projects. “From a design point of view, it’s a good way to experiment and see the result very quickly.” Lim is excited about a building he’s working on in Central, which he says will be quite sculptural, unusual for Hong Kong. “We hope galleries will be interested in moving into it,” he says, but it won’t be finished for a few years yet. Lim sounds a warning about the state of the local creative climate, fearing Hong Kong could fall behind mainland cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen. “If we get complacent and think we’re still better than others, in a few years I’m not sure if we can still hold on.”