HKU MEDICAL SCHOOL RENOVATION

Founded by Canadian architect Nuno Da Silva Tang and French architect Maxime Decaudin, Atelier Nuno Architects is an architectural practice focused on creating imaginative spaces crafted to the needs and ambition of every project. ​They practice with intent to realize sensible yet provocative architecture, from interior spaces to new buildings, inspiring thoughtful and imaginative encounters in our everyday lives.

“When we were commissioned to renovate the main lobby of the University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, we saw an opportunity to bring people together on campus and to encourage new ways of relating to the environment, inside and out.” Atelier Nuno Architects

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The medical building is located on a tree-lined hillside beyond the dense landscape of high-rises that defines much of Hong Kong, and its west-facing windows introduce abundant sunlight. The Atelier approached the project by conceiving of a space that is meant to be experienced simultaneously with its surroundings.

The architects chose a white finish for the interior, both for white’s association with the medical profession and as a way to foreground the natural setting. The walls are cladded in white-painted curved plywood, and 0.8-millimeter-thick white powder-coated perforated aluminum panels are suspended from a structural frame on the ceiling. Light permeates the panels, drawing attention to changes over the course of the day. The metal volumes appear both white and solid, and both dark and transparent, filtering light together with the neighboring trees. The LED light tubes above the metal volumes negotiate with the natural light.

Rather than seeking to maximize height in the lobby, they created large, undulated forms that open downward. In the 6-meter-tall foyer, they dropped the ceiling height to 2.05 meters, offering a moment to engage closely with the contained light. To slow down this high-traffic space, they also introduced a wooden stepped platform that encourages social interaction. Choosing ordinary materials was the atelier most important consideration. In Hong Kong, luxury materials are typically celebrated, while more modest alternatives often go overlooked. White-painted finishes and perforated aluminum panels can be found in familiar spaces such as bus stops and underground rail stations; the commercial white paint used for the walls of the lobby also predominates elsewhere on campus. The prominent position of these ordinary materials in the lobby is meant to emphasize the possibilities of the everyday and, in an academic context, to suggest that all students have the means to succeed.

This is a very interesting renovation project as the focus is obviously on people, especially students. Lowering the ceiling and creating a wooden platform for social interaction bring the space back to the human scale. Thanks to the materials and their relation to natural light, the main lobby becomes an almost domestic environment, closer to our everyday life.

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