New World Development with their new public image

An unscientific survey of Hongkongers on the street would likely elicit derision and scowls if the subject turned to development and developers. Government collusion, laziness, greed and lack of creativity are among the complaints lobbed at the city’s builders, with the public largely resigned to the idea that Hong Kong will be saddled with a subpar built environment in perpetuity while those responsible for it count their stacks of cash. But there are developers doing innovative work with an eye to the future.

Swire Properties’ reinvention of Taikoo Place will boast some of the city’s most designforward, sustainable office space when complete, and some of the international schools’ campuses rival those anywhere in the world. On the residential front New World Development (NWD), is forging ahead with the Artisanal Movement it kicked off in 2013 in Kennedy Town, doing its best to prove it’s no gimmick — and was truly created for Hongkongers.

Artisanal Movement

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Birth of a movement

When NWD’s first Artisanal Movement property, Eight South Lane, went up for sale, the marketing materials leaning heavily on the concept were eyerolling — the picture of trendy and gimmicky. After all, hipsters were just emerging. Briefly, the multi-brand Artisanal Movement is defined by NWD as “A journey of expanding one’s imagination, not only limited to design and aesthetics, but also amassing a modern living culture through our persistence in delivering bespoke craftsmanship manifested by originality.”

It sounds corny, but in the five years since the brands have been evolving — the highend Pavilia properties, the urban Bohemian developments and the Park projects on the periphery — the product has proven popular with buyers, and set new standards for mainstream residential development in Hong Kong. Context and history are buzzwords now, which could arguably be laid at NWD’s doorstep.

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Eight South Lane

“I think our approach to the development is quite different. Normally, units are small and heritage isn’t considered. The lump sum price is low, but it’s a waste of a development,” argues Angus Yip, NWD’s associate project director in the project management department, who specialises in the Bohemian brand. “So we started to consider the context of our developments, the story in the background. We tried to be ‘non-safe’, or unconventional, and we’ve engaged innovative architects with their own styles — which we respect.” Yip and his crew will admit potential buyers didn’t ‘get’ the artisanal idea at first, and there was some educating involved. Explaining the concepts, making it clear NWD was blending into communities and not simply constructing a block tower was crucial.

To that end, the Artisanal Movement now numbers around a dozen addresses under two official brands. Within The Bohemian Collection, there is Eight South Lane in Kennedy Town, Bohemian House on Des Voeux Road, and the forthcoming Artisan House down the street, which will have a Brooklyn-based architect. There is also a serviced apartment, Eight Kwai Fong,in Happy Valley. Among the Pavilia residences are Pavilia Hill in Tin Hau, Mount Pavilia in Clear Water Bay, the upcoming Pavilia Bay in Tsuen Wan, and Fleur Pavilia in North Point. On the unofficial side are the ‘Park’ properties — Skypark in Mong Kok, Park Signature, Riverpark, Park Hillcrest and so on, largely in the New Territories. The Pavilia re luxury properties and priced as such, but the sold-out Bohemian House and Skypark averaged a more mainstream HK$20,000 to HK$25,000 per square foot.

Design for all

Finding the right, specialised people to work with in design is the foundation of the concept, which is being applied across the board. Artists and designers, including F&B manager Maurice Kong, artist Lam Tung Pang, garden designer Shunmyo Masuno, and architecture and interiors studios from South Korea to the Netherlands have all been tapped for the buildings, with no repeats so far. Yip also agrees the brand is still evolving, “I think in terms of building development, we got feedback from Eight South Lane, and we altered some planning and design based on that feedback. South Lane is studios and one bedrooms only, so we tried to modify the plans for size and for provisions.” In Bohemian House, the studios and one bedrooms are a little bigger and more suitable for small families. “But the context for location is totally different, so we couldn’t copy South Lane. The style is similar but we don’t repeat anything.” The location on Des Voeux Road exploits the rattling tram going by, as well as the older district’s food culture. The common dining and entertaining facilities are front and centre and Yip expects them to be a hit with residents.

A flaw NWD has actively tried to eliminate is the empty clubhouse; thousands of square feet of shared amenities that residents rarely use. The Bohemian House pool is creatively located on a podium, and designed like a relaxing onsen. Pavilia Hill’s futuristic clubhouse looks like a museum, and Amsterdam-based firm concrete designed Skypark’s clubhouse with an open plan concept instead of a standard boxy layout. The end result is a vibrant, buzzy hangout for residents, where drinks are served and neighbours sit around chatting. “It’s become an analogue Facebook, people meet face-to-face,” says Yip. “That’s what we want, but it’s not ‘Hong Kong style’.”

Eight South Lane

Eight South Lane

Ultimately, the Artisanal Movement has hit a chord, and with two projects on the way, it is starting to prove good design isn’t just for the wealthy. “We think about the human scale, we think about what people are doing, the little details,” finishes Yip. “[The Artisanal Movement] is branding, but it’s about the bigger story. And we’re pleased with the outcomes.”

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