Resonances: Sandtable’s Spatial Design with Charles Lai / aona architects | 共鳴:《沙盆推演》的空間設計──黎雋維/aona architects

In celebration of the opening of Sandtable, the Hong Kong Pavilion at London Design Biennale 2021, we reached out to the design teams to share their thoughts and reflections on Hong Kong, resonance, and the collective process of designing the pavilion. Interview by Jen Wong. Special thanks to Lesley Cheung for helping with translation.

為慶祝「倫敦設計雙年展」香港館《沙盆推演》的開幕,我們分別邀請了三個設計團隊分享對「香港」和「共鳴」兩個主題的想法,以及今次聯手設計館場的經驗。文:黃鈺雯,特別鳴謝張麗心提供翻譯協助。

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Sandtable 沙盆推演 香港館於倫敦 Somerset House. 攝影:何穎嘉
Sandtable 沙盆推演 Hong Kong Pavilion at Somerset House. Photo by Jimmi Wing Ka Ho

Resonances: Sandtable’s Spatial Design with Charles Lai / aona architects

Jen Wong (JW): Can you tell us about the design concept of the Hong Kong Pavilion at the London Design Biennale?

Charles Lai (CL): It is an interactive design. At first we came up with several keywords: the history of Hong Kong; the nature of history itself; text as a communication tool for recording history; and its relationship with design. These themes have been coming up throughout  the project. For me, this is a project about the past but not history, and this past has more flexibility that allows for the audience to re-experience and redefine. Our starting point is ‘Ah Kwan Leading the Way’, [a story about] the early history of Hong Kong which [involves elements that] can be defined as history, but also mythology, as no one knows whether the story is true or not. The whole project has been an experience that comes out of this ambiguity and state of confusion, and we wish for the audience to engage with and define this experience.

JW: How do these themes respond to the theme of ‘resonance’ of the biennale?

CL: I think resonance can be on a spatial level as well as a temporal level. Perhaps the easiest thing to imagine is spatial resonance, the resonance between A and B—two points or two people. But apart from that, I think there can also be a kind of resonance at a point in time, that is, the relationship or resonance between the present and the past, and this involves the relationship between history and people of our age, what about it is true and what is not. This actually depends on the writing of history itself, or the intention of the person who wrote it. This is why we explore resonance through history or timeline.

JW: How is this presented in the space of the Hong Kong Pavilion?

CL: I wanted  sand to be an obvious element in the space because it is a very primitive material. Before Hong Kong became Hong Kong, it was just a pile of sand, which represents the very nature of Hong Kong as an island, its beaches and sand. So I think that sand as a material represents Hong Kong of a certain time and place, especially the early Hong Kong Island, where there was sand everywhere; a lot of sand was also used in land reclamation. This is the primitive element. Then what represents the future? It is the whole installation, projection and capturing of images. The materials representing these two points in time automatically stand for their temporal significance.

Caption: Drawings in the sandtable, Hong Kong Pavilion at Somerset House. Photo by Jimmi Wing Ka Ho

JW: The design team this time was quite large (Trilingua for graphic design and K2 for digital design), plus a curatorial team of six. How was your experience of working together this time?

CL: It was actually interesting. I felt we had a lot of discussions about a very small thing, so [the result] was very refined. Although it didn’t quite meet the typical standard of refinement, we invested a lot of heart and consideration into it. The consideration now is whether the line of thinking could be [reflected in the installation].

JW: We visited different collectors and archives early on in the project. Was there any experience that impressed you particularly?

CL: The visit to John Wu was very memorable, for example, looking through his collection of business cards. On their own,  each is just a name card, but once they become a collection, they become something else entirely.

JW: How do you think this has inspired the final design concept?

CL: There must have been something, but [the cause and effect] is not so direct. It is also hard for me to explain what exactly the relationship is, but I know something is there. These experiences have in turn influenced me to think about the direction of my other projects in the last two years, such as the chair project [with Cou Tou Wood Working at deTour 2020]. It was the first project I had a clear methodology and sufficient resources to develop to fruition.

JW: Thank you for your time.

www.aona-architects.com/


共鳴:《沙盆推演》的空間設計──黎雋維/aona architects

黃鈺雯(黃):可以請你分享一下這次倫敦設計雙年展香港館的設計概念嗎?

黎雋維(黎):這是一個互動設計。最開初時有幾個關鍵詞,一個是香港歷史,另一個是歷史的本質,之後還有用以書寫歷史的文字作為一個溝通的工具,它與設計的關係;一直有這幾個主題浮游著的項目。在我而言,這是一個關於過去的一個項目,但並不是歷史,而這種過去有更大的彈性去讓觀眾重新體驗及定義。切入點是「阿群帶路圖」,一個關於香港早期歷史[的故事],當中牽涉到有可被界定為歷史[的元素],也有些是神話,大家都不知道故事的真假。整個項目就是透過這種含糊、混沌中產生出來的體驗,而我們希望能讓觀眾參與及定義這個體驗。

黃:這幾個主題如何回應大會「共鳴」的主題?

黎:我覺得「共鳴」可以是在空間的層面,亦可以是時間的層面。可能最容易想像到的是空間上的共鳴,A和B兩個點或兩個人,他們之間的共鳴。但除此之外,我覺得在時間點上也可有一種共鳴,即現在與過去背後的關係或共鳴到底是怎樣,這牽涉到歷史與我們現代人的關係到底是怎樣,有什麼是真的,有什麼是假的,這其實在乎到歷史寫作本身,或在乎到寫那個人的背後用意。這就是為何利用歷史或時間線來探討的共鳴。

黃:這是如何呈現在香港館的空間?

黎:我想用沙這個物料作為空間很明顯的一個元素,是因為它是一種很原始的東西。香港在成為香港之前,其實只是一堆沙,很能代表香港作為一個小島的性質(islandness),它的沙灘與沙。所以我覺得沙這個物料代表到某一個時空的香港,尤其是早期的香港島,四處都是沙,而填海也要用到很多沙,這就是原始的元素。那代表未來的是什麼呢?就是整個裝置、投影、以及影像捕捉,那就是未來的元素。所以這代表兩個時間點的物料本身就代表了兩個時間點。

圖:沙盆內的繪畫,香港館於倫敦 Somerset House。攝影:何穎嘉

黃:這次的設計團隊比較大(平面有参語設計,數碼設計有K2),加上策展團隊也有六個人。你怎樣看這次的合作經驗?

黎:其實是有趣的,感覺到大家是為了一件很小的事情做了很多討論,所以[結果]是很精緻的。雖然最後不是很正式地達到一般對「精緻」的定義,但大家其實投放了很多思考進去。現在的難題是能不能呈現到背後的思考。

黃:項目早期我們拜訪了不同的收藏家與文獻庫,有沒有哪一個經驗的印象比較深刻?

黎:拜訪胡兆昌那次是很難忘的,比如翻閱他的名片藏品,它們本身是一張張名片,但變成一批藏品後又變成另一回事了。

黃:你覺得對最後的設計概念有什麼啟發?

黎:其實一定是有的,但並不是那麼直接,我也很難說清那個關係是什麼,但我覺得一定是存在有的,反而這些經驗影響到我這一兩年來思考做其他項目的方向,比如[與草途木研社於 deTour 2020 合作的]椅子那個項目,是第一次有很清晰的方法和足夠資源去完成的項目。

黃:謝謝你的時間。

www.aona-architects.com/