Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU


Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

Hong Kong's new design institute by French architects Coldefy & Associés, Architectes Urbanistes features a glazed box raised seven storeys above the ground on four lattice-steel towers that rest on a sloping, grass-covered podium.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

The institute will educate up to 4,000 students. CAAU won the project at a competition held in 2006.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

The institute, which opened in November last year, has an urban park on top while the podium conceals four auditoriums, a cafe, a sports hall, a gallery and a flexible event space.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

A 6om escalator ascends from street level to the suspended box. More projects in Hong Kong on Dezeen »

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

Photography is by Sergio Pirrone.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

The following information is from the architects:

Hong Kong Design Institute


The Hong Kong Institute of Design project was won at the end of 2006 by Coldefy & Associés, Architectes Urbanistes / CAAU, winners of the two stage international competition in which 162 teams from 23 countries took part. The CAAU studio was entrusted with the task of designing the project with architectural project management of the site directed by its Hong Kong partner, P&T Group. Intended to welcome 4, 000 students of artistic and multimedia disciplines in around 42, 000 m², the HKDI is commissioned by the Vocational Training Council Hong Kong. The HKDI is the first major facility built in Hong Kong by a French architect.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

2006, the competition

Thomas Coldefy and Isabel Van Haute, equipped with solid international experience, decided at the beginning of 2006 to take part in the international competition for the building of the Hong Kong Institute of Design. One hundred and sixty two teams submitted entries to the competition, the two architects were selected in August 2006 from five teams invited to take part in the second phase. They then went to Hong Kong, to collaborate with local partners architect, engineers, and a quantity surveyor partner according to the rules of the competition. They are named as winners in November 2006 by the international jury which included in particular, the American architect, Richard Meier.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

Thomas Coldefy and Isabel Van Haute move to Hong Kong for five months at the beginning of 2007 to develop the project on site, to set up the team and to speak with the partners and clients and to immerse themselves in the spirit of the location.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

Presented to the Hong Kong community and to future users, the project seduces them with its answer which is welltuned to educational needs, solicitous of the environment and local context, but also bold, ambitious and very open to the outside. In autumn 2008, work starts on the site after 18 months of project development led on site by the CAAU practice. And eighteen months later the HKDI – 42, 000 m² – is delivered. The first students take the giant, mechanical escalator at the beginning of the academic year in September 2010. This creation merited Thomas Coldefy and Isabel van Haute the "40 under 40" prize, organised by the European Centre for Architecture, Art Design and Urban Studies and the Chicago Athenaeum.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

The urban context

The building is located in the Tiu Keng Leng area, to the north east of Hong Kong Island, in the Sai Kung district, adjacent to the Tseung Kwan O area and Junk Bay. The area is served by the metro, on the Tseung Kwan O line, 20 minutes from HK Central, and also has a bus station. Although activity there is mainly residential and commercial, nature is also very much present for the site is surrounded by green hills and the view over Junk Bay is everywhere.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

The building, located in the heart of the area, may provide the community with a meeting place by making its sports areas and auditoriums available; at the same time, it will bring an energy to the social life of the area by the presence of 4, 000 students within the campus, the numerous exhibitions and activities organised around the urban space it has created.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

The project offers spatial reinterpretation of its built-up city context, where social interactions are teeming in the various bases of the buildings whereas they disappear vertically; the extra height provided by one part of the programme allows one to envisage interactions on different levels and creates new connections with the ground.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

The architectural project

Metaphor for creativity about to burst forth, the “Blank Sheet” expresses the project’s intentions : bringing together and then presenting the multidiscipline nature and targets of the future Institute of Design. In concrete, glass and steel, its radical architecture, light and transparent, invites one to reflect on the combination of multiple and opposing situations : introversion and extroversion, modesty and exhibition, exclusivity and wide accessibility, micro and macro city, classicism and experimentation …

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

Each functional element, first decomposed, amalgamates and interpenetrates or cuts itself off, by offering the project an immediate clarity from the outside which is very resonant in the city. The flexible and evolutionary plan allows one to envisage future liaisons with the neighbouring campus, LWL. The base of the building, the giant “ urban lounge “ favours meetings and exchanges, whilst taking advantage of internal and external green spaces and views of the countryside, thus fulfilling the liaison with the city.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

The podium, whose gentle slope stands 7m below the King Ling Road, designed as a landscaped extrusion of the ground, directly linked to the urban environment on two levels – a common space and at the same time an external gallery – is characteristic of Hong Kong infrastructures. Open, sheltered by the platform above, it can host multiple events. The podium is made up of four auditoriums, a café, a space for exchanges with the design industry, a sports hall and an exhibition hall. For the roof, an urban park and sports grounds are available to the students and visitors from nearby. The large auditorium, with capacity for 700 seats, is intended to host conferences, seminars or classical music concerts, but also more recreational activities, fashion shows, pop music concerts, contemporary dance spectacles.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

An aerial platform

Covered in glass which is screen printed white, the immaculate and minimal volume of the platform, “like “an aerial city”, floats above the towers. It groups together the library, school administration offices as well as various related spaces. Its landscaped roof is accessible during exceptional events. The towers are at once the soul of the Institute, its structure and its vertical distribution. They express the diversity and the specific nature of the disciplines represented in the Design Institute. Their appearance accentuates the platform’s immateriality, a poetic sensation and reflection of a creative environment. This overall composition, emerging from the interpenetration of interlinked elements, defines the Institute as a timeless building and unveils its ambition of synergy, of a cutting edge school, of publicity and interactivity, destined to become a bright beacon in the city.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

The materials

Concrete, glass and steel, three classic materials are implemented for a radical architectural process, a building of a different age reduced to its fundamental functions. The steel, processed into a white trellis, is used as a structural skin for both the inside of the platform and the outside of the towers. The glass of the platform gives it great permeability which strengthens the sensation of tension between the architectural elements. The structural cement of the podium is combined with glazed facades to exceed mere functionality and create a strong visual and spatial impact.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

The construction system

The overall stability of the towers is ensured by a vertical steel trellis structure called “diagrid”, equipped with a conventional beam-slab floor system in reinforced concrete. This “diagrid” system in steel offers excellent lateral rigidity supporting both the floating platform and the framework of the escalator which spans a length of 60m. HKDI is a pioneering project in Hong Kong, due to the choice of a peripheral steel trellis structural system.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

An innovative structure in composite reinforced concrete /steel trellis – with upper frameworks which are pre-stressed and post-stressed, diagonal beams in steel and lower frameworks in reinforced concrete – has been introduced and developed in order to support the floating platform which spans an area of 100 m x 100 m. The composite trellises are either simply supported, or placed overhanging from the towers in steel trelliswork. Uniformly distributed on the floating platform in two orthogonal directions, they are used to support the beam-slab floor system in reinforced concrete.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

This composite structure not only provides the floating platform with rigidity and sufficient resistance, it also meant construction costs could be optimised, in so far as the budget set by the client was not exceeded. The implementation of the project also required that the architects design a 60 m long escalator structure – the longest escalator in Hong Kong – supported by a three-dimensional steel structure without any immediate support. Over and above the general design of the infrastructure work, the dynamic analysis carried out meant there could be a guarantee that thevibrations caused by the escalator engines do not cause discomfort to users. Independently of the design, the ability to construct the floating platform has been, from the initial creative stage, one of the major concerns.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU

Sufficient tests were carried out in order to ensure that the proposed structure would be built without any risk and within a reasonable timeframe. Several construction methods have been researched, including preassembly of the main frame of the floating platform on the ground and then having it elevated into final position using heavy lifting appliances.  After assessing risks, difficulty and costs linked to construction in this way, the in situ manufacturing method with complex on site assembly procedures was adopted.  Finally, to reduce on site preassembly work to a minimum, the majority of secondary structural elements of the floatingplatform were built after completion of the main structures and removal of the scaffolding which supported them.

Hong Kong Design Institute by CAAU


Programme: 4 departments for the four major disciplines taught :

  • Department of Design,
  • Department of Fashion and Textile,
  • Department of Printing and Digital Media,
  • Department of Multimedia and Internet Technology.

Competition: Prize winning project, 2006
Client: Vocational Training Council Hong Kong
- Architect: CAAU / Coldefy & Associes Architectes Urbanistes
Project leaders Thomas Coldefy + Isabel van Haute
- Associate architects: P & T Group Hong-Kong
Structural Engineers: ARUP Hong Kong
MEP Engineers: PBA Hong Kong
Landscape architect: ACLA Hong Kong
Acoustician: SHEN, MILSOM & WILKE Hong Kong
Cost: Estimated total for works : 78, 212, 112 € excl tax
Area: 42 000 sq m
Schedule: Start of work October 2008
Delivery: September 2010
Official Opening: 25 November 2010

  • guest


    that's what u dun get to see in renders of this building~

  • Very big and impressive

  • felix

    well at least some of the boringess makes you forget how ugly it is

  • hbernstein

    just one simple question. why?

  • dear foreign architects, please stop destroying my beloved city by littering her with half ass designed buildings. thank you.

    • steph

      dear chinese friend, racism does not solve the problem of bad architecture, neither the political circumstances that are leading to that kind of architecture.

    • Simone

      Well, well, well, after six years of China, as a foreign architect, i learned that thank god i am here, who knows what would have happen thou.
      Surrounded by colleagues with master degree that don't even know who Le Corbusier is?

      • Tommy

        Sorry Simone, Forgive China, it's Hong Kong here.

  • trees feed lungs

    Where’s the natural vegetation?!

  • teefs

    Aw it's fantastic come on!

  • amsam

    This massive, onerous "podium"-style architecture with no street presence is exactly what we're attempting to break up and re-conceive– at enormous expense– in the case of many 60's-70's behemoths in NYC right now. Read your Jane Jacobs people.

  • THOM

    there was a hilarious clip on youtube about this building sometime ago

  • hbernstein

    dear THOM thank you very much for the super awesome video!!!

  • Mks

    I have to agree with the comments above. It's neither delicate, nor fresh.

  • rodsta

    Clorindo Testa RELOADED, the 70's are back…concept first (regardless anything else) !

    This video on the Biblioteca Nacional de Buenos Aires is worth watching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlpxzh2LCVg

    • Same concept but contemporary outlook. If the building is used for design school, this is unsucessful design for user and public because AS my understanding, “Design” is a fundamental element of our
      daily lives but why the school design look like a isolator?

  • Peter

    The building is fantastic and completely unexpected for a campus, it was published in a recent Mark magazine; some comments demonstrates the frustration of some architects on Dezeen which is quite pathetic.

  • johan dehaan

    A nice you tube movie of this school. Looking forward to see it in real..


    nobody have a blueprint of this???? i want make a review for the university but need a blueprintt U_U (sry for my english) …jesus.x5@hotmail.com

  • Educator

    For rodsta
    Same concept but contemporary outlook.

    For Designer,
    If the building is used for design school, this is unsucessfully design for end-user and public because, As my understanding, “Design” is a fundamental element of our daily lives. Therefore, Design is for lives. Lives is integrated into design. The buiding is too massive and isolate the society like a island.