Hong Kong Design Institute by Coldefy & Associés Architectes Urbanistes (CAAU) 10.08.11


The new campus of the Hong Kong Design Institute, by the French architecture firm Coldefy & Associés Architectes Urbanistes (CAAU), consists of a glazed platform that seems to float atop four stout legs. The building is edged on three sides by clusters of residential towers, against which this platform seems to hover at half height. On the remaining side, it looks across a park on to Clear Water Bay.

Raising the structure, Thomas Coldefy explains, allowed for a dynamic continuation of the urban grid. The building stands on a podium, on which there are sports facilities and gardens, but cut into it, down to street level, is an open plaza. From this public space a long escalator rises up invitingly into the belly of the building.

Coldefy intended his design to be a unifying symbol of the newly founded institute, which brings together a range of the Vocational Training Council's design-related departments under one roof. He refers to the legs of the building, supported by a white steel trellis and each housing a different discipline, as the four "pillars of education". The two-storey platform, which contains the library and meeting spaces, is called "sky city". Coldefy hopes it will be an inspirational place where students and teachers will forge interdisciplinary partnerships. When he was designing the building, he imagined this floating volume as a blank sheet of paper, full of creative possibility.

Coldefy's design is influenced by the "floating architecture" of the Hungarian-born French architect and urban planner, Yona Friedman. In the early 1960s Friedman proposed a "mobile city", a series of moveable megastructures suspended on a grid of stilts so that they left a minimal footprint. In one of Friedman's sketches we look down the Champs-Elysées towards the Arc de Triomphe, a modular city forming a canopy overhead, the ground left free for cars and parks. Friedman characterised this idea, in a book of the same title, as a "feasible utopia".

In his dynamic building Coldefy has recreated, as an elegant case study, one city block of Friedman's unrealised plan.



Sergio Pirrone



Christopher Turner

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Raising the structure allowed for a dynamic continuation of the urban grid

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