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「Hot is Cool」 A cross-cultural dialogue between The Finnish Sauna and The Hong Kong Pavilion

18 Dec 2017

Culture for Tomorrow (CFT), inaugurates with the cross-cultural event, “Hot is Cool: A Cultural Dialogue between Finland and Hong Kong” at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza from today to 13 December 2017.

Founded this year by cultural entrepreneur Adrian Cheng, CFT is a non-profit organisation dedicated to actualising design and architectural innovation. As its inauguration coincides with the centenary of Finland’s independence – a nation celebrated for its innovative design – CFT has teamed up with a group of design and cultural authorities from Hong Kong and Finland to create and curate the unique ‘Hot is Cool’ cross-cultural event.

The theme of the event, “Finnish Sauna vs Hong Kong Pavilion” is a playful take on temperature and the two culturally symbolic social spaces. Award-winning architects Ville Hara, Anu Puustinen and Hiroko Mori from Finland, and Stanley Siu from Hong Kong will re-imagine and create two 1:1 structures of these distinctive architectures, providing the platform for a series of inspiring public cultural programmes. These will include a sauna experience, design exhibition, cultural salons, creative workshops, and reading and music performances. Participants will be encouraged to interact and savour the seamless connection among design, architecture, lifestyle and culture.

The event is endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office of Finland as an official “Finland 100” centenary celebration programme, and is accredited by the Hong Kong Design Centre as part of the “BODW Satellite Events x detour”.

By providing resources to emerging designers and architects, and a thought-provoking topic, CFT aims to turn audacious, but promising, ideas into tangible community engagement programmes.  CFT is thus providing a platform for public participation, social interaction and cultural exchange that will ignite a re-imagining of our living culture, and generate new ways of thinking, and living.

Adrian Cheng explained, “Culture for Tomorrow will enable a new generation of designers and architects to realise their forward-looking and people-oriented ideas and bring them into the community in bold new ways.

“CFT will organise events and activities that engage the public to stimulate cross-cultural dialogues, new designs and innovative architectural thinking. I believe that with the appropriate leadership, collaboration and resources, innovative designs can lay the foundation for a living culture of the future. In the coming two years, CFT will roll out a slew of projects to create more cultural exchanges with architectural and design elements”.

Mr. CHUNG Wah Nam, an avant-garde architect specialising in Chinese Pavilion design also supports the “Hot is Cool” exhibition. He hopes that Hong Kong could organise more design and architecture projects and activities in the future to provide platforms for new designers and architects.

Mr Chung said, "Even though Hong Kong is a capitalist society, it lacks the patronage for the arts and creativity that should be found in such a prosperous society. Hong Kong has awards similar to the Nobel Prize for successful people in all fields, that sometimes inadvertently becomes just the icing on the cake.

“But it has not recognised or supported the less conspicuous members of society. These people include literary men and women, musicians, painters, carpenters, Chinese Opera authors, furniture and fashion designers, and architectural designers."

Mr. Chung looks forward to more organisations like CFT that devote resources to developments related to architecture, design and art.

The “Hot is Cool” exhibition is divided into three parts: “Reinterpreting Tradition”, “Design and Living” and “Young Minds”. In addition to experiencing the modern reinterpretation of saunas and pavilions, the public will also be inspired by text, visuals and living products from both places to reflect on the differences and similarities in the two distinct lifestyles, and gain inspiration for their own future lifestyles.
  

“Reinterpreting Tradition”: Finland Sauna “Sauna Kolo” vs Hong Kong Pavilion “leong4 ting2”

The highlight of the event: “Reinterpreting Tradition” features a “Sauna Kolo”, features a public sauna designed by Finnish architects Ville Hara, Anu Puustinen and Hiroko Mori, and “leong4 ting2”, a public pavilion designed by Hong Kong architect Stanley Siu. The architects have used wood certified by the FSC and engineered with natural textures that echo the best practice in sustainability in advanced buildings.

While saunas and pavilions may appear to serve opposite purposes, they foster surprisingly similar social scenes. In Finland, the sauna has been revived in recent years as a popular hangout for youngsters to socialise over drinks, or simple to mingle. In response, the number of new public saunas has exploded.

Like saunas in Finland, pavilions in Hong Kong may at first seem nostalgic, especially to those who once enjoyed them as cooling shelters. But like saunas, pavilions also encouraged family, friends and neighbours to gather and socialise. As entertainment became more sophisticated over time, however, the social role of pavilions gradually faded in Hong Kong.

“Hot is Cool” is therefore a reminder of the many ways that public spaces in Finland and Hong Kong can be utilised. It also provokes the re-imagination of our social culture. CFT, which is rooted in Hong Kong, hopes that the public will once again learn to appreciate the elegant structures and timeless spatial designs of pavilions. 

A Real Sauna Experience

Sauna Kolo is shaped as a simple rectangular box, made of timber logs stacked on top of each other. Simple as it may be, the sauna offers an interesting sequence of spaces. First there is a sheltered bench for users to cool down between sauna sessions, and this is what welcomes the users as they approach. As they step inside the sauna, they can change in a small curtained, cave-like room. Next, users can shower in a hollow opposite the changing room. Finally they walk through a glass door into the steam room and rest on a bench. There is a carefully cropped view of the sea from the uppermost level. The sauna stove with hot stones is sunk into the floor.

During the exhibition, the intricately designed Sauna Kolo will be open at designated times for the public.

Public social life at a Contemporary Pavilion

Staying protected from the unforgiving sun, and enjoying a cool breeze under a public pavilion, have for many years been a popular pastime for Hong Kongers. Now in “leong4 ting2”, Stanley Siu has reimagined the potential of this public space, in the spirit of “Culture For Tomorrow”.

“leong4 ting2” is inspired by the traditional Chinese Pavilion and reinterpreted as a contemporary wooden Pavilion. The design of “leong4 ting2” is based on the 湖邊亭 (Hu Bian Pavilion) designed by avant-garde architect, Mr. CHUNG Wah Nam, a specialist in Chinese Pavilion design.

湖邊亭 was built in the 80s for Junction Road Park. Stanley Siu has reinterpreted the form, proportions, and materials of the Pavilion to recreate “leong4 ting2”. Siu has created three wooden versions and placed them by Victoria Harbour in a nine-square grid, forming a T- shape. The design aims to serve multiple functions and encourage different activities. The structures can also be dismantled and reassembled in other locations. Its seating is designed to be moveable and stackable, which enhances the flexibility of the pavilions for activities such as seminars, performances, conferences, and workshops.

During the exhibition from 8 to 13 December, various cultural programmes will be held inside ‘leong4 ting2’, including Cultural Forum and Salons, “Read-alone, Sing-along” and “Paper Birds” Interactive Workshops. The public are encouraged to participate and, together with CFT, bring vitality and energy to the modern pavilion, thus redefining its function and purpose for modern times.

“Design and Living”

The second part of the event, “Design and Living” investigated the possibilities of future urban living under the concept of “Hot is Cool”.

Often when we talk about the future, we focus on passing on the best of an era for the next generation; embracing sustainable applications for a better future; and innovative ways to solve the emerging problems of the day.

Transmission

By taking a closer look at the architectural development of Finnish saunas and Hong Kong Pavilions across the past few decades, we have come to notice one thing: a classic design and spatial concept is often the genesis of a million variations, often in renditions that are completely unexpected.

Sustainability

With its harsh Nordic climate and vast natural landscapes, Finland has its own set of values and attitude towards nature. Sustainability can be found in every detail from the Finns’ use of materials, colors and forms, to their instinctive urge to design beautifully and durably. Finnish design is timeless and durable. In a stark contrast, Hong Kong has for decades favoured man-made materials and been blessed with abundant supplies. As a result, we have favoured upcycled designs as a modern, alternative solution to smart eco-living.

Innovation

CFT visited and spoke with many creators in Finland a few months ago about their experience in reshaping the sauna culture. Among them, a design master shared his interpretation of the savusauna (smoke sauna), while an architect proposed innovative concepts for the etiquette of the public sauna. CFT also explored the technicalities and innovative applications of local designs to illustrate a brand new lifestyle. 

“Developing Young Minds”

The third part of the event aims at developing Young Minds, with the “CFT x HKDI Architectural Design Competition”, which is part of the “Hot is Cool” event, designed to encourage this. Co-organised by CFT and the Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI), and sponsored by Visit Finland and Finnair, the competition invited HKDI students and graduates of HD in Architecture and HD in Landscape Architecture to create designs based on the theme of the “Pavilion – Public Place Reimaged”, and submit a proposal for the “Architecture & Plug-ins” that would fit the needs of the way we live today and will live tomorrow.

Prizes include a cultural trip to Finland, through which the winners will broaden their horizon, experience in person Finland’s superb design, architecture and culture, as well as learn first-hand from the innovative and creative masterminds in Finland; while selected works of the competition will be exhibited on-site alongside the works of award-winning architects, Ville Hara from Finland and Stanley Siu from Hong Kong.

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