HKU Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine Main Lobby

Atelier Nuno Architects
Hong Kong

Renovating the main lobby of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) gave Atelier Nuno Architects an opportunity to bring people together and to encourage new ways of relating to the environment, inside and outside. A high traffic area has been turned into a student-centred gathering hub and a new landmark for the medical campus.

Located on a green hillside, the building’s west-facing windows introduce abundant sunlight. Atelier Nuno approached the project by conceiving a space that is meant to be experienced simultaneously with its surroundings. A white finish was selected for the interior, both for white’s association with the medical profession and as a way to foreground the natural setting. The idea was also to catch the light with a design that fills the space and engages with the human scale.

In Hong Kong, luxury materials are typically celebrated, while more modest alternatives often go overlooked. Choosing ordinary materials was the designers’ most important consideration. The prominent position of these ordinary materials in the lobby is meant to emphasise the possibilities of the everyday and, in an academic context, to suggest that all students have the means to succeed.

The walls are clad in white-painted curved plywood, while the ceiling is made of 0.8-millimetre-thick white powder-coated perforated aluminium panels that are suspended from a curved structural frame. Depending on the light quality and the position of the viewer, these metal volumes appear either white and solid, or dark and transparent, filtering light much like the neighbouring trees. The LED light tubes integrated above the volumes automatically balance the natural light: as the sun sets, the lights glow more warmly, gradually intensifying to ultimately dominate the space.

Rather than seeking to maximise height in the lobby, Atelier Nuno created large, billowing forms that open downward. In the six-metre-tall foyer, the ceiling height was dropped to 2.05 metres, offering a moment to engage closely with the contained light. Through the changing light and the shifting qualities of the materials, students can experience seasonal change intimately, in a space they interact with every day.

Lighting: Camlite. Finishes: Junkers, Marmi Scala, custom.

Photography: Edmon Leong