5 best new design spaces in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s design scene has never enjoyed so much public attention, with popular events like Detour and Business of Design Week attracting ever greater crowds each year. Now designers are reaching out to the public in other ways too, by actually inviting them into their spaces.
Canadian-born Geoff Tsui has worked as a designer in Hong Kong for more than a decade, but he has always felt something was missing from the city’s design scene.
“Everything is so fast-paced, so commercial, that we wanted our own space, a cultural and communal space where people can work and just hang out,” he says. The result is Konzepp, formerly known as Hatch, which is a combination workspace, boutique, café, design incubator and party venue.
On the shelves is a rotating and sharply-curated collection of products from emerging designers -- “almost like an exhibition,” says Tsui -- and a collection of good design books and magazines. A large communal table is well-stocked with cookies and a rotating cast of friends and strangers who come to work and share ideas.
Basically, says Tsui, “it’s a space where you can just jam with us.”
50 Tung St., Sheung Wan, +852 2803 0339
2. R&C Design Library
Though it’s a somewhat strange concept to invite the public into your company’s office, it has worked out quite well for R&C Design, which runs a café, shop, library and gallery in its Tin Hau workspace.
Opened late last year by Rosita Wan and Corey Chow (hence the R&C), the generously-proportioned space includes a cluster of comfortable sofas, a large work table and a bar that serves coffee, tea, juice and simple snacks.
There are racks of clothes made by independent local designers and a large collection of design books and magazines that are free for visitors to browse. There’s also an exhibition space next door used for occasional design shows.
With a bit of Japanese bossa nova on the stereo and the quiet energy of productive designers in the air, R&C is, not surprisingly, a good place to bring a laptop and get some work done.
1/F, Sun Ying Mansion, 43 King’s Road, Tin Hau, +852 2570 8880
3. Unar Coffee Company/Feelsogood Design
For years, the handsome stone shophouse at the corner of Ormsby and Shepherd Streets in Tai Hang stood sadly neglected, a vacant autobody shop on the ground floor and two empty flats above. Most residents in the neighborhood assumed it would be torn down and redeveloped like so many other old buildings.
Late last year, though, the interior design company Feelsogood rented and restored the building. Its design studio now occupies most of the space and the back of the building is now home to the Unar Coffee Company, a smartly-designed place that makes brilliant use of the adjacent alleyway, which it covered with an awning and transformed into an outdoor living room.
4 Second Lane, Tai Hang, +852 2838 5231
4. Tai Lung Fung/Wan Chai Visual Archive
The Wan Chai Visual Archive is a community art and design space located on the first floor of an old tong lau that has been converted into serviced apartments.
Masterminded by property developer Carl Guow and Polytechnic University design professor Alvin Yip, the Archive is now playing host to an opening exhibition featuring works by photographer Martin Cheung and a group of students from Strelka, the Moscow design school founded by Rem Koolhaas.
What takes the Archive one step beyond your usual exhibition space is the ground-floor bar, Tai Lung Fung. The food is good, the decor is old-school Hong Kong -- vintage public service posters on the wall, a pink neon sign out front -- and the service relaxed.
“The point of the bar is not to make a lot of money,” says co-owner Pat Chan. “What we want to do is to make a space where everyone from around the neighborhood can gather.”
5 Hing Wan St., Wan Chai, +852 2572 0055 (Tai Lung Fun) 2891 5900 (archive)
5. Hammer Gallery/Café Loisl
When Sirkka Hammer moved her fine jewellery gallery and graphic design studio from Soho to an obscure corner of Sheung Wan, she ended up with an unexpected windfall.
“We had twice as much space as before,” she says. What to do with it? “My husband is from Austria and he always wanted to open a Vienna-style café.”
Now she and her beau, Andreas Aigner, have done just that, by opening a gallery and workspace on one side and Hong Kong’s only Viennese café on the other.
Though Loisl is but a scale model of the large, lavish and venerable cafés of the Austrian capital, it is still a pleasant space, with dark wood furniture, a lovely tiled floor and a range of coffee and sweets, including strudel and sachertorte.
Australian-trained, bow-tied barista Franck Chan spent months mastering traditional Viennese coffee such as melange, which is similar to a cappuccino. Every coffee is served, Vienna-style, with a glass of cold water and a chocolate.
8 Tai On Terrace, Sheung Wan, +852 9179 0209 (café) 9166 3757 (gallery)