Brutalism and its Cultural Implications in Hong Kong: Late modernism or the beginning of a new tradition?

  • Tao Ho: Special Room Block, St.Stephen’s College, Hong Kong, 1980 - Photo courtesy Joint Publishing, circa 1989

2019 M+ / Design Trust Research Fellow Oliver Elser holds a degree in architecture from Berlin Technical University. He is now a curator at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM), Frankfurt am Main, focusing on topics such as Postmodernity, architecture models in the 20th century and Brutalism. In 2016, he served as a curator for the German Pavilion at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale. He also co-founded the Center for Critical Studies in Architecture, a new research cluster of the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, the Technische Universität Darmstadt and the DAM. During the M+/ Design Trust research fellowship, Elser will look into Brutalist architecture in Hong Kong. Through juxtaposing buildings in Hong Kong with those in Mainland China and Taiwan, he attempts to unveil the cultural implications of Brutalism – especially within the realm of architectural discourse of the 1960s and 70s.

2019 M+ / Design Trust Research Fellow Oliver Elser holds a degree in architecture from Berlin Technical University. He is now a curator at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM), Frankfurt am Main, focusing on topics such as Postmodernity, architecture models in the 20th century and Brutalism. In 2016, he served as a curator for the German Pavilion at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale. He also co-founded the Center for Critical Studies in Architecture, a new research cluster of the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, the Technische Universität Darmstadt and the DAM. During the M+/ Design Trust research fellowship, Elser will look into Brutalist architecture in Hong Kong. Through juxtaposing buildings in Hong Kong with those in Mainland China and Taiwan, he attempts to unveil the cultural implications of Brutalism – especially within the realm of architectural discourse of the 1960s and 70s.

Oliver Elser, curator at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum and a Frankfurt-based architecture critic, will examine a selection of Brutalist buildings in Hong Kong. Brutalism in the 1960s and 1970s was global in its reach, and heavy, concrete buildings produced during this movement can be found in almost every part of the world. Elser’s research will respond to a set of questions: Was the Brutalist architecture of Hong Kong intended to prove the internationality of the local scene? Or was it a new concept of regionality, one that has a still undiscovered relationship to early postmodern ideas? How was Hong Kong’s Brutalism conceived in relation to mainland China and Taiwan?

The M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship programme consists of two separate fellowships investigating issues related to architecture and design. One supports research projects focused on Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area in an Asian or global context, and the second supports research projects related to Asia more broadly, closely in line with the curatorial position of M+, the Hong Kong museum dedicated to visual culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Past fellows include: Ling Fan (2015); Joseph Grima (2016); the team of Daniel Cooper and Juliana Kei (2016); Thomas Daniell (2017); and Hugh Davies (2018) and the team of Fan Lok Yi and Sampson Wong (2018).

More details about M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship here

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M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship

2019
Fellow: Oliver Elser

Oliver Elser is a curator at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM), where his work focuses on postmodernity, architecture models in the twentieth century, and Brutalism. In 2016, he served as a curator for the German Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale. He co-founded the Center for Critical Studies in Architecture, a new research cluster of the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, the Technische Universität Darmstadt, and the DAM. As an architecture critic, he writes extensively for newspapers and magazines. He holds a degree in architecture from the Technische Universität Berlin.

Organisation: M+, West Kowloon Cultural District, Design Trust

About M+
M+ is a museum dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting visual art, design and architecture, moving image, and Hong Kong visual culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District, we are building one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary visual culture in the world, with a bold ambition to establish ourselves as one of the world’s leading cultural institutions. Our aim is to create a new kind of museum that reflects our unique time and place, a museum that builds on Hong Kong’s historic balance of the local and the international to define a distinctive and innovative voice for Asia’s twenty-first century.

About the West Kowloon Cultural District
Located on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor, the West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest cultural projects in the world. Its vision is to create a vibrant new cultural quarter for Hong Kong. With a complex of theatres, performance spaces, and museums, the West Kowloon Cultural District will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances, and cultural events, as well as provide twenty-three hectares of public open space, including a two-kilometer waterfront promenade.

About Design Trust
Design Trust was established in 2014 by Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design, a registered charity in Hong Kong since 2007, as a grant-funding platform. Design Trust supports creative projects that develop expertise and build research initiatives and content related to Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. Working across a multiplicity of design disciplines, from graphics, media, and architecture to the built environment, Design Trust aims to actively accelerate creative research, design, and the development of meaningful projects that advocate for the positive role of design.