Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The University of Hong Kong - Centennial Campus

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) is currently celebrating it’s Centenary Year

and will be bringing the celebrations to London in May 2012 with a series of open seminars, see;

HKU is a Universitas 21 (U21) Partner institution and was host to the 2008 U21 Learning Environment Design Forum, led by Peter Jamieson, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne.

University education in Hong Kong is changing, students will attend University a year earlier and study for 4 years instead of three.  In September 2012, the University will receive a double cohort of students, the traditional “18 year old” undergraduates and for the first time a cohort of 17 year olds.

In order to prepare for this, the University had commissioned the building of a new University Campus to house the faculties of Law, Social Sciences and Arts.  The new Campus and Building would consist of three towers, one for each of the faculties.  These towers would be joined together by common spaces over two floors which would accommodate seminar rooms, classrooms, lecture theatres and an Information Commons.

The purpose of the Learning Environment Design Forum was to look specifically at the design of learning spaces within the new “Centennial Campus”

When Jim Sheach from the University of Edinburgh (another U21 partner) and I arrived at the event, Architects had been appointed, and enabling works had begun.  

Jim, behind the camera.
The University perches high upon the mountainside on Hong Kong Island, and could be described as a “vertical campus”.  We soon discovered that it is perfectly possible to travel from the uppermost level of the campus to the lowest simply by entering one building at the top and using the stairs or the lift to a lower floor, move to the next building (usually by covered walkway) and repeating the exercise until  arriving at the main road where we could get a cab to the hotel.

With so many university buildings tightly packed together in a very small footprint, space in Hong Kong generally is at a premium, so finding space for a new campus for the University was going to be a challenge.  

The University and the Government rose to the challenge and identified a space close to main campus for the new facilities.  However, the space was already occupied by a reservoir nestling on the mountainside.  Therefore, before any works to create the new campus could begin, a project to create new reservoir facilities within the mountain had to be undertaken.

Enabling works, November 2008
This the Centennial Campus site in november 2008, viewed from the roof of one of the buildings on main campus.

View from Campus to the harbour
This is another view from the roof giving an idea of how steep the slope is, the building on the right with the maroon sign on the top is my hotel.  The hill is so steep, I have to get public transport in everyday.  (When I suggested that I walk to campus, everyone thought I was completely bonkers!!)

U21 Group viewing Landslide site
The workshop participants on the roof, looking at a recent landslide site which makes the project even more of an engineering challenge!

Barriers to contain landslide
The lansdslide site, landslides are regular occurances on Hong Kong Island, and all around the island there are sites where the hillside is reinforced to prevent further slippage.

The 5 day workshop, not only included colleagues from Universities around the world, but Academic Staff from HKU and both the commissioned Architect and an Architect from the USA.

Peter Jamieson and the U21 Group
Peter Jamieson is seen here briefing the group during a tour of the campus.

Stairs everywhere....
During our initial tour, we came across a number of posters in key areas of campus detailing the project to staff and students,
Centennial Campus information board
and throughout the workshop, a model of the proposed new campus was located in our task room so that we could familiarize ourselves with it and refer to it constantly.

Model of Centennial Campus, the new building is on the right of the model
On my visit to HKU in February, there were about 6 of these models in the Estates Office, all centrally located so that no matter where you were, you had a view of this fantastic and extremely important project.
Inside the new campus
This picture (above) shows the lower ground area;  including the auditorium, exhibition space and lecture theatres.
Information Commons
The proposed information commons will have views onto the gardens, each of which will have a different theme.  On this floor there are more classrooms and lecture theatres.

So, as has become the norm at these workshops, after 5 days of investigating, questioning, redesigning, hard work and a lot of fun, the teams presented their ideas to the whole group, and interestingly, the teams had come to similar conclusions.
Owen, Estate Planner at University of Birmingham
The question is, does the Centennial Campus look like we envisioned?

Watching the presentations
When I arrived on Saturday, this was the view from my Hotel.

Centennial Campus, Harbour View
View of new Campus, with University building to the left

 And, I think, on the outside, it looks pretty much as it was planned 4 years ago!

To be continued…….


  1. This commenting lark is a bit of drag, having to decipher some squiggly words before you can write anything! Google OTT .
    Love the pic of John and you on the phone...
    Looking forward to seeing more of HK.

  2. Hi James,

    Yes, most of this stuff is from 3 years ago to give some background and context to this visit. I am hoping to get onto site in the next day or so so that I can give a proper update.

    and yes, something not quite right with this google blog, it was all in Korean last week, and we all know how good my Korean is... now it is all in Mandarin.. or.. is that Cantonese. Whatever it is, I am blogging blind and having to publish, see what it looks like, edit, republish and so on!

    That's the beauty of technology.

    Best wishes