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Atelier Nuno Architects Remodels the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine

When Atelier Nuno Architects was approached to renovate the main lobby of the University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, the firm sought to connect the building’s environment and the people on campus in ways beyond its exterior.

The medical building is located on a tree-lined hillside away from the dense landscape of high-rises that defines much of Hong Kong.

Photo credit: Edmon Leong

“We approached the project by conceiving of a space that is meant to be experienced simultaneously with its surroundings,” said Atelier Nuno Architects.

Naturally, the Hong Kong-based firm was enticed by the symbolic spirit rooted in the shade of white using it as a finish for the interior due to its association with the medical profession, and as a way to foreground the organic setting.

Lighting placement played a key role in the firm’s detailed renovation process. “We wanted to catch the light with a design that fills the space and that engages with the human scale.”

Photo credit: Edmon Leong

The walls are cladded in white-painted curved plywood, and 0.8-millimeter-thick white powder-coated perforated aluminum panels are suspended from a structural frame on the ceiling.

As the light permeates the panels, its disposition brings attention to the changes over the course of the day. The metal volumes appear both white and solid, and dark and transparent, filtering light together with the neighboring trees.

The LED light tubes above the metal volumes negotiate with the natural light. As the sun sets, the lights glow more warmly, gradually intensifying and ultimately dominating the space.

Photo credit: Edmon Leong
Photo credit: Edmon Leong

Instead of maximizing the lobby’s height, Atelier Nuno Architects created large, billowing forms that open downward.

In the 6-meter-tall foyer, the team dropped the ceiling height to 2.05 meters, and slowed down this high-traffic space by introducing a wooden stepped platform that also encourages social interaction.Choosing ordinary materials was a considerably important consideration to the firm. “In Hong Kong, luxury materials are typically celebrated, while more modest alternatives often go overlooked,” said Atelier Nuno Architects.

White-painted finishes and perforated aluminum panels can be found in familiar spaces such as bus stops and underground rail stations; the commercial white paint used for the walls of the lobby is also visible elsewhere on campus.

The architects state that the prominent position of these ordinary materials in the lobby is meant to emphasize the everyday possibilities and, in an academic context, to suggest that all students have the means to succeed.

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