The Kiang Malingue gallery is located in a calm, stepped street, escaping from the busy commercial frontline of Hong Kong while quietly reconnecting to its residential “backstage”. This domestic quality, typical of the city’s urban fabric from the 60’s, proved itself essential to the design process. As adaptive reuse, the project voluntarily maintains the original building morphology and its elements so as to blend in its context while revealing and assuming its main gestures via the facade treatment. From this very start it gives all the keys to understand the architects’ attitude towards the whole project that is the pursuit of an expressive result based on a modus operandi more than a conceptual abstract.
Process-wise and result-wise, the gallery is a very “material” project and the articulation between them is a prominent aspect of the design. These materials are based on the existing building palette: remaining concrete walls are polished or scratched, new concrete tiles match with existing aggregates, etc. Construction techniques combine local craftsmanship, skills and available materials with hijacked “off-the-shelf” components as for the wall hanging tracks, in fact a standard construction channel inserted in the Shanghai plaster finish of the walls. For all these interventions, the construction process traces are assumed, visible, and while expressive, in the end “diluted” within the whole.
As for the previous collaborations between the gallery and the architects, the project critically deconstructs the commonly expected art space identity and experience by playing with archetypes and typological hybridisation. This strategy is even more relevant for this particular project due to the original nature of the building that is a typical Hong Kong 60’s housing. Key ideas involved retaining the domestic quality, bringing human scale to exhibition spaces, in short striking a balance between the “home” characteristics and the expression and needs of an art gallery. Programmatically, it results in the alternance of various layers of experiences so as to permanently “stimulate” the interest of the visitors, ultimately creating a “vertical journey” where one can start from a typical public gallery to progressively access more and more private/singular spaces as a dining-room, a library or outdoor terraces.
The second floor introduces the most complex spatial gesture of the project that is the removal of floors to generate double height volumes. At that specific level, the project eludes its raw material language to, almost ironically, install at the very core of the building a “real white cube” in the form of a geometrically perfect one. That removal strategy is repeated at the fourth floor where a second exhibition “cube” is proposed as a coda to the ground floor material treatment and the culmination of the visitors’ experience, ultimately reconnecting with the street and the city of Hong Kong thanks to large openings.