Transforming Public Life for the New Normal

The pandemic has disrupted our public life like nothing before and imposed a distance between us and our communities and public spaces. We have every reason to lament the toll it has taken on our well-being, but this "social distance", albeit involuntary, could be a rare chance for us to see our communities and public spaces with a completely new lens. Having realised how important they are, it is time for us to reflect on what we want them to become.

As part of Hong Kong Design Centre's commitment to bringing design and design thinking into communities and public spaces, Design District Hong Kong (#ddHK) and BODW CityProg have been curating wide-ranging design works, programmes and experiences to reinvigorate public spaces and communities over the past few years. The former, a 3-year creative tourism project, comes to its final year with the theme"transFROM" to pioneer the future of the public spaces in Wan Chai and Sham Shui Po through placemaking. The latter, as the community arm of the annual Business of Design Week, continues to activate collaborations among creatives, businesses and communities and foster the development of local creative ecosystems.

While many walks of life are gearing up for the new normal, #ddHK is leading the way for reimagining public spaces in the post-pandemic world. It partners with creatives from around the world to curate a series of transformative site-specific design experiences in Wan Chai and Sham Shui Po with community engagements as a vital part of the process. "We aim to advance public participation and activated locally inspired transformations of familiar parks and streets into the epitome of new-generation public space." said Sam Lam, #ddHK's Chief Curator and Project Director.

We aim to advance public participation and activated locally inspired transformations of familiar parks and streets into the epitome of new-generation public space.

Colourful Urban Garden Gala in Victoria Park

#ddHK Project at Wan Chai - Colour Fantasy

#ddHK's Wan Chai project, themed “Colour Fantasy”, centres in Victoria Park to trailblaze possible transformations for post-pandemic parks. "Parks are an important civic asset to our well-being," said Sarah Mui, Director of One Bite Design Studio, Colour Fantasy 's Lead Creative Partner. "We think about how users can enjoy a park alone during the pandemic and how design can help them embrace the loneliness caused by social distancing. We surveyed common park activities and how they were changed by the pandemic. With the insights, we designed a series of one-person activity pods #APARTOGETHER with a touch of cheerful humour. They provide safe zones for users to have fun alone, from having a solo see-saw ride to working out to daydreaming." 

Parks are an important civic asset to our well-being.

With #APARTOGETHER and 6 other site-specific creative sets, #ddHK transforms Victoria Park into a contemporary Chinese garden gala. Sam elaborated the curatorial concept, "As the buffer zones of urban environments, parks are like the 'white spaces' in a city. The philosophy of Chinese landscape design manifests a pursuit for spirituality beyond materialism. We borrowed artistic techniques such as xushi (void and solid), juxtaposition, dichotomy and inclusion to curate the creative sets as Chinese garden elements such as rocks, mountains, ponds, windows, paving, rivers, etc. Each of them was inspired by Hong Kong's urban palette or Wan Chai's history, from the Tai Hang fire dragon dance to Victoria Park's typhoon shelter past. As a whole, they provide a poetic and sense-awakening experience akin to meandering through a Chinese garden."

Sham Shui Po as a living room for the city

#ddHK Project at Sham Shui Po - SSP_People

With the theme “SSP_People” 深水埗人_人, designer Michael Leung led #ddHK's placemaking project in Sham Shui Po by reimagining it as the living room for the city through the design installations in 4 public spaces and 10 designer furniture co-creations with local shops. "We dug deep into what's happening in the neighbourhood and turned the interesting elements into a multidimensional visual journey, highlighting its history, design, daily life, cultural diversity and human stories. We also engaged NGOs, schools and communities in the district to collaborate with designers and artists in some of the design and making processes," Michael said.

Talking about the future of parks, Sarah said, "Parks will predictably take up a more critical role in our daily lives post-coronavirus. It is a good opportunity for the government to start working with citizens to co-design future parks. The first steps can be understanding people's new needs and engaging citizens as active participants in the redesign process." For public spaces to become more community-friendly, Michael said, "We should think about how the design of public spaces can become more adaptable to the changing situation. For example, let people come into close contact when social distancing can be relaxed a bit, while keeping them in a safe distance when the rules have to be more strict."

Empowering Our society with design with post-pandemic vision

BODW CityProg - 20/20 Vision of Post-pandemic World

BODW CityProg's theme this year, "20/20 Vision of Post-pandemic World", takes the optometric term for normal visual acuity as a metaphor for the perfect vision we need at this age of uncertainty. It presents more than 200 design and creative happenings to prompt 4 types of "post-pandemic 20/20 vision": Wellness and Sustainability, Placemaking, Made in Hong Kong, and Business as a Force for Social Good. Spotlighting the power of designing for society, these visions aim to inspire design thinking and a creative problem-solving spirit in us to boost our post-pandemic resilience and agility. 

Carrying On the 3 platforms distinctly curated for different types of partners, BODW CityProg continues to connect local creativity, design initiatives and incredible talents and bring to the public 17 Anchor Site Festivals, 5 Design EduVation Programmes and more than 100 Satellite Events & Offers. With its major period taking place from late November to December, it will continue to launch more exciting programmes until next year. The new mobile-app-powered urban exploration "CityProg Design Scavenger Hunt" is also going on until 20 December. With it you can bag points and gifts while exploring CityProg happenings across the city. Don't miss this chance and follow BODW CityProg's website, Facebook and Instagram pages now for more details!