March 25, 2020

Atelier Nuno Reimagines a Medical School as a “Learning Playground” in Hong Kong

The design allows for group presentations set around the tiered, wooden, “bean-shaped” gathering steps, encouraging students to move freely throughout the space. Photography by Edmon Leong. 

“Designing for a school is also designing for the future of education,” explains Nuno Da Silva Tang, of Atelier Nuno. The Hong Kong-based firm recently completed a new Lobby and Learning Commons for The University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine (HKUMed). Tang noticed on a visit to the site, that the medical campus, which is located separately from the main HKU campus, lacked a dedicated space for the students to come together.

In Hong Kong, where there is a “constant struggle for space,” this element was all the more needed. For the lobby, a high-traffic area, the firm created a bright white interior inspired by the medical profession, with a wide, warm, wooden staircase that could also serve as a student-centered gathering hub for socializing. The design for the Learning Commons took its cues from microscopic photography and biomorphic forms. The resulting design is divided into visually-stimulating, interactive environments, each with its own distinctively colored zone where the students can comfortably meet, socialize, and study in style.

Parallel to the sofa, four meeting rooms, a pantry, and a locker area blend together into a fluid peach-colored zone. The ceiling features more than nine hundred dimmable white globes on the ceiling, and lighting varies to match the time of day. Photography by Edmon Leong. 

Atelier Nuno’s goal was to reimagine the basic elements of a school—classrooms, meeting rooms, study tables—and provide the students with an “open, fluid, and intuitive space” complete with interactive environments where they would be able to mingle. Photography by Edmon Leong. 

The rounded blue velvet sofa is the perfect spot for more intimate conversations. “We selected the fabric [a cotton-based velvet] for its sheen and textural qualities,” says Tang. The fabric is well-suited to hide the stains and scratches which happen in a high-traffic environment. Photography by Edmon Leong. 

The lecture hall is a sleek fluid space that gently slopes upwards. Custom-made, stainless steel chairs are set on soft, green carpeting, allowing students to lie down, relax, and gather informally. Photography by Edmon Leong. 

The firm designed a white interior lobby inspired by the medical profession. The lobby connects the front entrance, elevators, and the stairs leading to the four major lecture halls. Photography by Edmon Leong. 

The lobby’s bright white interior creates an optical illusion of sorts, enabling the building’s elevators to blend in with surrounding architectural details. Photography by Edmon Leong. 

The space has to allow hundreds of students to move as fast as possible from one class to the next. “We aimed to slow down people by introducing the wooden platform to encourage social interactions. This was done by reducing the width of the staircase to its minimum and extending the platform further out into the lobby to create a deeper deck. The choice of beech wood added warmth in the monochromatic space.” The deep balustrade countertops can be used as ad-hoc work stations or as a spot to quickly eat lunch. Photography by Edmon Leong. 

The firm collaborated with TinoKwan Lighting Consultants in the lobby to create a space that would be experienced together with the outdoor surroundings. During the day, the cool white light blends with the natural daylight, while at sunset, the lighting has a warmer glow. “Lighting design was an important factor in creating this social space as light has a strong effect on our moods,” says Tang. Photography by Edmon Leong. 

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