How is working in Hong Kong and Bali different?
In Bali you come up with inspiration for an idea, and work at it until it is done. The beauty of being in a major international city is that during the brainstorming stage the design team does not work alone. For example, if we want to do green walls we have access to a local expert who can tell us about available options. In Hong Kong we are surrounded by a well developed industry of professionals who support us rather than finalising the concept with the team first, and then making it happen with available resources.
On the other hand, in Bali you have the magic of spontaneity. We can follow our inspiration and know we’ll end up with something worthwhile, although not necessarily what we originally intended. Here in Hong Kong, we were provided with many details right up front and so knew what we were going to get, but at the same time it seems there is a little less room for magic.
In Bali it is natural to innovate; it takes additional energy to innovate in Hong Kong because Hong Kong has already set its own strong standards.
What are the similarities between working in Hong Kong and Bali?
One thing we have done here, as we did in Bali, is change locations for design meetings a lot. For example, we might go for lunch in a local teahouse so we can understand and think about what we’re talking about. Drinking tea in beautiful surroundings as opposed to in a plain board room adjusts perspective and changes the way you approach an issue.
Highs and lows?
Living in Bali and travelling to Hong Kong means working long days in bursts. It is great to be so focused and get so much done all at once, so these trips are highs.
One low is when we have spent a lot of time developing a design and find out long after the fact that we can’t use it, because of regulations or logistical issues. It feels like the rug is pulled out from under you and you have to find your energy again. In this respect returning to the beauty of Bali between trips makes it easier to build up energy and inspiration again.
A lot of the highs for me in Hong Kong have had to do with technology and access to technology. Going through the process of designing a compost system, for example, to discover that HKGTA has already implemented composting machines that turn all food waste into water for irrigating the gardens, was definitely a high!
What aspects of Fivelements do you anticipate guests will love the most?
I think the rooftop garden is really going to be a buzz in Hong Kong when we eventually put it in during year two. People are beginning to think about organic produce and sustainable ways of eating. When you live in an urban environment, your farms get further away and food more expensive. The techniques and technology of bringing agriculture into the city is at an early stage in Hong Kong, perhaps just beyond activism at this point. But it is exciting to be part of something big in the very beginning.
And which elements of Hong Kong’s wellness centre resonate most strongly for you?
For me the biggest wow for Hong Kong is the integration of the landscape and interiors even in an urban context. For example, plants used both in wellness treatments and the kitchen are represented in the landscape. There’s a garden view out front of the restaurant, and some of the original ingredients in our cuisine will be planted right outside the window. We spent a lot of time thinking about how people could integrate with what they are doing. Guests can go out and pick the plant from the ground, wash it and put it on their own dish as a garnish.
People will be very surprised at the interiors too. Because this is a large construction with a master plan from an architect in the US, and the façade all looks the same, I am happy with how we translated the Fivelements Bali look inside and even in the hardscape. We’re applying it in an extremely different context, but all the textures, colours and materials used in Bali are here – even the shapes. We’ve taken square rooms and made them round and our spiral staircase reminds me of our Mandala Agung in Bali…