Frank Gehry's first China project: 'The building designed itself'

Frank Gehry's first China project: 'The building designed itself'

Hong Kong is getting its own Gehry landmark and it's going to have a helluva price tag
Frank Gehry The Opus in Hong Kong
OPUS HONG KONG at 53 Stubbs Road has been cited as the city's hottest new address.

Canadian-American Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry's first building in Hong Kong is almost complete. Dubbed OPUS HONG KONG, the 12-story residential block's design was inspired by its unparalleled location at 53 Stubbs Road.

"I couldn't believe that sites like this were still available," says Gehry, recalling the first time he visited the location. "The building kind of designed itself because of the beautiful site. You could almost just put a platform with glass around it as the views from inside are spectacular."

Perched on a hill with a sweeping, unobstructed panorama of Hong Kong Island, the location on Stubbs Road has been owned by the Swire Group for 60 years. It originally was the home of the most senior executive in Swire.

Frank Gehry -- 建築大師Gordon Ongley, Chief Operating Officer of Swire Properties, admits it wasn't easy to convince Gehry to collaborate from the start, but the architect soon became "intrigued by the possibility of working in Hong Kong."

Gehry is best known as the mastermind behind surreal structures such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

Most recently, the 82-year-old's Eight Spruce Street, also called "New York by Gehry," went up in Manhatten. The skyscraper's exterior skin is made to look like fabric rippling in the wind.

Hong Kong's OPUS employs a similar undulating exterior to a more subtle effect. The drama of the building is really in the interior space, which Gehry hopes will create "an intimate experience" for the residents in spite of the potentially imposing view.

"Instead of just having one window in front of you, the windows are like a surround that open the vista even greater, and yet in doing that, we make separation of various parts of the dwelling, and create more intimate spaces," says Gehry.

Frank Gehry The Opus in Hong Kong"I think of them as scribble," says Gehry of his sketches now on display at ArtisTree. "I don't think they mean anything to anybody except to me. At the end of the project we wheel out these little drawings and they're uncannily like the finished building."

Sounds like magic. And just how much would it cost to live surrounded by  such architectural genius?

Martin Cubbon, Chief Executive of Swire Properties, puts it this way: "We haven't set a price yet, but it is fair to assume it to be the highest in Hong Kong ... record-breaking."

Hong Kong is the third most expensive rental market in the world, according to The Wall Street Journal. Currently, a 571-square-meter house on Repulse Bay Road rents for HK$365,000 a month, while the cost for a slightly smaller apartment at The Repulse Bay is HK$268,000. 

OPUS will host a dozen apartments -- two with their own garden -- ranging in size from 557 to 641 square meters. Swire hopes they will be completed in the first quarter of 2012.

An exhibition of Frank Gehry's sketches, models and photos of his past and current work is now showing at ArtisTree until October 27.

Frank Gehry Outside the Box

Until October 27, 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
ArtisTree, 1/F, Cornwall House, TaiKoo Place, Island East, Hong Kong
Free admission, enquiry@gehryexhibition.com.hk, +852 2844 3887

Hiufu Wong is CNN Travel's staff writer.

Read more about Maggie Hiufu Wong

After traveling around the world on a fistful of dollars, Zoe returns to Hong Kong, where she grew up, to discover and write about all the inspiring stuff that happens here on a daily basis.

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