Mathias Woo has this bit of tough love for Hong Kongers: You don’t appreciate good design.
“Everything just looks the same,” Mr. Woo, an architect and co-director of artist collective Zuni Icosahedron, said. What about the Frank Gehry apartments under construction, or Norman Foster’s work in West Kowloon? “It’s like design is only for the rich,” Mr. Woo said.
He hopes to change that with a mix of history, theater and a so-called puppet electronic musical, all part of his “Architecture Is Art” festival. It starts Saturday and runs to Dec. 11.
“Architecture doesn’t really exist here. We need to remind people that architecture is not just building and not just investment,” Mr. Woo said. “We need an aesthetic sense.”
To get residents thinking more about the spaces where they live, the festivalkicks off with a lecture Saturday on modern Chinese architecture, followed by exhibit on railway architecture over the last 100 years, on view at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre starting Nov. 18. “Architecture is a more honest way of looking at history than politics,” Mr. Woo said.
The stage productions address the festival’s avant-garde theme, with “Looking for Mies,” about German modernist architect Mies van der Rohe, at the Centre’s Grand Theatre on Dec. 2 and 3. “Bauhaus Manifesto,” the puppet show, focuses on the influential German design school and runs Dec. 9 to 11.
An exhibit called “Habitat City” aims to raise awareness of housing issues, a flash point in densely populated Hong Kong. It features poems and videos at Cattle Depot Artist Village, a former slaughterhouse in the To Kwa Wan area of Kowloon that now is home to several artists, and highlights the neighborhood as model for sustainable growth.
Other festival events include a panel discussion on the future of Hong Kong’s housing policy.
Mr. Woo said he hopes to reach the public at large, not necessarily practicing architects. “Architects are more cynical, and they’re too busy, working on their firms. They have no time to think,” he said. “But I hope we can improve. Hong Kong is the worst, in term of architecture among world cities.”