Architects shape the built environment and, in Hong Kong, they have helped to create an iconic and impressive skyline that attract the eyeballs of millions of people around the world. However, the modern skyscrapers are only one part of the city’s rich architectural heritage.
That soon becomes clear to anyone taking part in the Hang Lung Young Architects Program (HLYAP). It is an education initiative run by Hang Lung Properties in 2017, together with Walk in Hong Kong, an organisation focused on aspects of local culture, to give young people the chance to learn more about Hong Kong’s architectural DNA and to understand the city’s diverse cultural identity.
The second edition of the HLYAP officially began on September 28, 2019 and the theme this time is “Sketch Your Sky”, with the aim of encouraging students to explore Hong Kong’s built history and the relationship between architecture and communities.
During the opening ceremony for the 2019-20 edition, Weber Lo, Chief Executive Officer of Hang Lung Properties, noted that the company sees this as a way to serve the wider community by helping talented youngsters develop skills and knowledge in new areas.
“The Hang Lung Young Architects Program allows young people to make full use of this architectural education platform to deepen their understanding of the beauty of and the stories behind architecture, thereby contributing to the inheritance and development of the Hong Kong construction industry,” he said.
This year’s theme of “Sketch Your Sky” will pose an interesting challenge for the 330 students from 66 secondary schools selected to take part. They were chosen by ballot from an initial entry of more than 750 students from 80-plus schools.
While embarking on a journey “to become young architects over the course of the academic year”, students will also take part in a series of interactive seminars, workshops, walking tours and creative projects. These are all designed to stimulate and inspire participants to gain a better understanding of connections between architecture and the community, and learn how to do architectural modelling and use 3D digital drawing techniques.
Learning by doing
The HLYAP 2017-18 teams were set the task of designing their own architectural tours.
“When we started working on our project, I realised I didn’t know a lot about Hong Kong,” said Athena Chow Wai-yin, a member of the HLYAP 2017-18 champion team from Ying Wa Girls' School. “It made me want to understand more about my hometown. Later, I began to have new thoughts and ideas after learning about the rich history of some of the buildings we saw.”
Alyssa Nicavera Heung was a member of the HLYAP 2017-18 second runner-up team and, in the tour they devised, she took the chance to share stories and information about the Tuen Mun district where her school, YPICA Lee Lim Ming College, is located.
“Our school has a culturally diverse student body, something also reflected in our team,” Heung said. “We wanted to show the variety of religious buildings in Tuen Mun, such as Tsing Shan Monastery, which is reached after a 30-minute uphill hike.”
Since each team had to take the judges on the architectural tours they had designed, Heung's team decided to use VR technology to demonstrate the monastery visit and they successfully included it as an integral part of their tour.
Just have fun
One challenge the HLYAP 2017-18 participants faced was juggling the pressures of exam week with the judging sessions, which took place around the same time. But they all found ways to deal with that.
“We just got on with things, dividing the work between team members to ensure everything got done on time,” Chow said. “We also had a lot of fun coming up with the interactive activities and games we included as part of our tour.”
Heung suggested that students participating in the HLYAP 2019-20 should aim to have fun and make the most of the opportunity.
“We wanted to give our best, so that’s what we kept in mind,” she said. “We worked as a team, and I certainly learned a lot about collaborating with others and being more proactive.”
Students taking part in the HLYAP can expect support from 15 Programme Advisors, including leaders from Hang Lung’s senior management, the construction industry and academia, and more than 70 other mentors and young architects ready to offer suggestions and guidance to the competing teams whenever necessary.
Not all participants will go on to be architects, but for everyone the HLYAP is a great chance to acquire lifelong skills and explore new interests. For instance, Heung is currently thinking of a future career in business, but benefitted by learning the importance of good communication, teamwork and being fully engaged. Chow, though, has gone on to study architecture at the University of Hong Kong.
“After the program, I started to see architecture in a new light,” Chow said. “I thought about the design aspect, but also the connection with the community and became more enthusiastic about studying architecture and going into the profession.”
Program Advisors (in alphabetical order)
1. Dr Cecilia Chu, President, DOCOMOMO Hong Kong
2. Prof Patrick Hwang, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
3. Mr Tony Ip, Chair, Hong Kong Architecture Centre
4. Ms Christine Lam, Global Design Principal, Aedas
5. Mr Tony Lam, Director, AGC Design
6. Dr Ho Yin Lee, Head of Division of Architectural Conservation Programmes, Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong
7. Mr Felix Li, President, The Hong Kong Institute of Architects
8. Dr Ronald Lu, Founder and Chairman, Ronald Lu & Partners
9. Dr Eric Schuldenfrei, Head, Department of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong
10. Dr Joseph Ting, Adjunct Professor, Department of History, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
11. Dr Joseph Wong, Vice Principal (Academic), Hong Kong Design Institute
12. Ms Ikko Yokoyama, Lead Curator of Design & Architecture, M+
13. Mr Moses Leung, Director – Development & Design, Hang Lung Properties
14. Mr Peter Leung, Director – Project Management, Hang Lung Properties
15. Mr Adrian Lo, Director – Project Management, Hang Lung Properties