by Jerry ElengicalFeb 03, 2023
As city dwellers, we are sadly acclimatised to living and working in plain boxes, barely pausing to reconnect with our surroundings. We seldom slow down to intentionally spend time in nature, to ruminate on our ephemeral existence or to simply coexist, without glancing at our phone screens, every ten seconds. It begs introspection then, how contemporary architecture can advance towards bringing people closer to nature, by creating an engaging sequence of buildings and landscapes that exist as one cohesive entity?
As a part of the Pavilia Farm residential development project in Tai Wai, Hong Kong, Snøhetta has designed an urban farm surrounded by three clubhouses, creating a 'calming green pocket' in the middle of a bustling city. Comprising the Tea House, Farm House, and Sky House, the three clubhouses aim to provide a space for users to interact, share experiences, and enjoy urban farming in a common garden, as a tranquil getaway from Hong Kong's fast-paced living. Designed to serve different purposes for the local community, The Tea House and Farmhouse recently opened to the public, while the Sky House is expected to reach completion by the end of this year.
A green sanctuary of calm in the heart of Hong Kong
The design language of the project can be considered as a coalescence of landscape design and urbanism, integrated with the natural landscape of the Shing Mun river and mountains on either side. The Norwegian architects conceived the clubhouses to become "sanctuaries of calm and simplicity in the heart of buzzing Hong Kong—closely integrated with nature—and as spaces that would bring joy and enhance the life quality of the residents at The Pavilia Farm," shares the multidisciplinary firm, commissioned by New World Development in 2017 for the project. Its strategic placement in the development becomes an ‘interactive string,’ connecting its varied programs, coming together as an enriching experience for residents. “Pavilia Farm represents the future of the urban neighbourhood—a shared area bringing people together and creating a feeling of ownership of the space," they add.
At Snøhetta, we talk about collective ownership and creating places and spaces that belong to the collective and can bring people together. Spaces that belong to no one and everyone at the same time. the latest technology and shared social spaces, reinforcing the building’s pioneering purpose to create better healthcare for all. – Robert Greenwood, Partner and Managing Director, Snøhetta Asia
Robert Greenwood, partner and managing director of Snøhetta Asia, elaborates on the project's intent—"Pavilia Farm is a project that highlights the importance of creating new green, urban neighbourhoods. More people live in cities than ever before—and that trend is likely to continue to increase in the future—so we need to build in a way that can make it sustainable—both environmentally and socially. The Pavilia Farm and the clubhouses are small but perfect examples of how that can be done. At Snøhetta, we talk about collective ownership and creating places and spaces that belong to the collective and can bring people together. Spaces that belong to no one and everyone at the same time. With this project—the Tea House and The Farm House represent those ideas and create a green lung in the middle of pulsating Hong Kong. A space where all the residents can find peace and calm, but also interact and connect with each other."
The two completed residential designs are contradictory in their spatial intent, where the Tea House acts as a point of arrival, with a tranquil experience of ‘ascension,’ of leaving the city behind and ascending into calmness, the Farm House is a congregational space, fostering interaction and relaxation.
Replete with an indoor pool on one side and a waterfall on the other, the meditative Tea House is built with water as its main experiential element. Guests are welcomed into the tranquil space with the sound of falling water and peaceful music, augmenting the calm setting and encouraging them to slow down.
In contrast, the Farm House takes on the role of bringing the farm inside the house and bringing people together, succeeding in creating shared experiences for the community. Built around the rail-bound table system, and carefully designed to bring the community together to create shared experiences, the Farm House essays the centrepiece of Pavilia Farm, surrounded by the urban farm and its abundant produce.
Residents can engage in various nature-related activities such as gathering produce from the farm or preparing food with it, creating an interactive hub amid the soothing ambience.
"In many ways similar to a dining table in a home, this table is the centre point for conversations, laughter, and spending time together. Making the Farm House table the place where residents both prepare and eat the food, they have gathered, while conversations flow and experiences are shared. The table is the heart of the Farm House, while the Farm House itself creates a close-knitted community through food and harvesting from nature,” shares Snøhetta.
The two houses are designed differently to be used in different ways but remain anchored to the same ethos, and serve the same function—of bringing people of varied backgrounds and age groups under one roof, sharing and learning from each other, and creating memories, amid a natural green fabric to lose themselves in.
"The aim was to create buildings that can be used and loved by all. To create spaces that can improve the resident’s quality of life, provide a sanctuary for peacefulness, and a place that nurtures social contact and shared experiences in the heart of Hong Kong—one of the most densely populated places in the world,” observe the design team.x
(Text by Aaryaa Joshi, intern at STIRworld)