Posted by Joe Gooden on Thu, Dec 20, 2018 @ 9:44 PM
Urban Daydreaming exhibition in Hong Kong: How trees bring joy to the urban jungle
When it comes to designing cities, urban planners focus on practicality. There’s rarely room for poetry or romanticism. However, French industrial design duo, Ronan Bouroullec and his brother Erwan, believe these qualities are vitally important. That’s why they’ve produced a range of 14 scale models expressing their vision for contemporary, tree-clad urban environments.
In Hong Kong to open their acclaimed Urban Daydreaming exhibition at the Hong Kong Design Institute, Ronan Bouroullec explained how incorporating trees, nature, shadows and water features into urban design can encourage people to pause and think.
“What makes the quality of a city?” asks Bouroullec. “Of course, that it works technically – that is very important, but it’s the charm and the dreams and the relation between constructions and trees. And I think it needs to be considered more seriously. And I think probably the success of this exhibition explains this need to find solutions to integrate nature in a new way, because we all always agree on the fact that we miss nature.”
Urban Daydreaming includes thought provoking models such as “Clouds” – a floating garden that creates a roof for an urban promenade, adding plants to the cityscape while also casting shadows on those who walk in its passage.
Another innovative design, “Turnstiles”, incorporates a turning platform in a street. “You are walking in the street and at a certain point you find yourself on this platform that is turning. It’s about cutting your habits,” says Bouroullec.
Before making its debut in Asia, Urban Daydreaming was first exhibited at the Vitra Design Museum in Germany. It then went on a tour of Europe. Since then, various cities have already embraced the designs.
“Clouds” was the first to be realised, and now features in the Miami Design District. The brothers have also been chosen to revive six historic fountains on the Champs Elysées in Paris, which will feature intricate bronze and crystal trees when unveiled next spring. However, the designers also see huge potential for greener solutions in Asia.
Before visiting Hong Kong to open Urban Daydreaming, Bouroullec was in Japan, where he identified a need for more nature in Tokyo and Kyoto. “It’s really divided,” he says of the split between city and nature in those cities.
One of the simplest ways to fuse nature and urban design in cities like Tokya, Bouroullec suggests, is “Vines”, a jungle-like design for pathways canopied by climbing plants spread between masts – an idea inspired by Asian cities where tangled electricity cables hang in a mess.
“Extract from this the idea that you have urban lighting and then chains and from that there are holes in the ground and, depending on the city, using good plants that grow in it, and it’s not a big investment,” says Bouroullec.
“These are simple principles,” he adds. “Travelling in certain cities I find it extremely hard, and it’s linked partially to our way of living, but also to tough environments. I don’t pretend that we will save the city with this project, but it can produce a bit of joy and a smile.”
Urban Daydreaming is on display at d-mart, HKDI & IVE (LWL), 3 King Ling Road, Tseung Kwan O, until 17 February 2019.