LAAB: Designing Urban Nature

Photography By K11 Musea

K11 Musea’s Opera Theatre is the incredible pièce de résistance to the 10-storey cultural-retail building. It was designed by Hong Kong-based architecture studio, LAAB, which was also tasked with creating some of the most striking design aspects in the area. Otto Ng, design director of LAAB, spoke to Indonesia Design during our visit to Hong Kong and talked to us about his process.

LAAB Directors

How were you approached to design parts of K11 Musea?
New World first approached us four years ago because they were looking for companies and design studios that practice on innovations in design. At the time, we just published our Small Home, Smart Home project. It’s a project on transformable apartments. This project went incredibly viral online and has shown to the public and to New World that we are innovative in terms of design. After looking through our portfolio, New World became interested in working with us to look at what we can experiment with in terms of the K11 Musea project. For this project, we focused on the features of the interiors of the building, but we also worked on pavilions on the rooftop.

Were you given a brief by Adrian Cheng?
When we were first approached to design the space, it was clear that Adrian wanted a striking venue for people to come and gather. He wanted us to design the main atrium and include a specific type of ceiling that is reminiscent of cathedrals, a space where people can get together not just on one floor, but on every corner of the atrium. That’s why we created the dome structure with the Oculus at the top, along with the escalating climbers which is an organic sculpture depicting how trees and plants grow. Every part of the atrium has an organic and unique aspect. Another important detail is how light enters through. We were inspired by churches in Europe, where there are elements that allow light to shine through in unique ways from day to night. We created the concept quickly, but the construction was the biggest challenge because it was very intricate and everything was hand-painted by local craftsmen.

What was your main vision in all your designs?
Each part we designed has its own character. We created subway station, bus stop, public toilets, the kiosk, each with its own function and design. Some are transformable, the toilet is cross-ventilated, the bus stop has become a part of the treescape. Each has its story to tell but are also part of one family that describes what we call urban nature. Urban nature has two meanings. One is how we incorporate parts of nature to the dense, urban and populated areas of Hong Kong and still be able to enjoy it, and the other meaning is identifying subcharacters of Hong Kong urbanism and try to express what it means to people here. Each of our designs for K11 Musea has its own way of representing what urban nature means to us and you can see how it connects the interior, to the exterior, and all the way to the rooftop of the building.

How was it like collaborating with so many designers? What was your experience?
It was interesting yet challenging. There were lots of ideas on the table, so we had to make sure that we were going with the same vision. Thankfully, we did end up having the same vision. We wanted a place for the public to gather, we wanted a space that was memorable. There were so many incredible ideas with that vision, and it was difficult to narrow it all down and stick to our timeline. It was an intense process because of all the dfferent aspects involved. But I am very proud of the work that we have done. I think the rooftop is one of the best rooftops created in Hong Kong, especially because it is not a common feature.

My experience working with local and international designers was incredible. Even though we come from different countries, we still shared the same design language. The tough part was figuring out how to implement our innovative designs, because some of them were unprecedented especially in Hong Kong. It was interesting to see how it all came together at the end of it all.

Read our story on K11 Musea here.

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