Retail is dead, I think, staring up at the impressive bronze branches that seemingly stem from the ground, climbing upwards until they form a lattice where sunlight falls in through the oculus overhead. I feel like a tiny organism on the bark of a massive tree and my eyes take a few minutes to finish their travels across the space. They gravitate to the unmissable giant crystal orb. The heart of the complex, I’m told, is just one of the designs led by Kohn Pedersen Fox, among the 100 creative powers involved in the creation of K11 Musea.
Conceived by renowned entrepreneur and property developer Adrian Cheng, founder of K11 Group, the complex marks the last of a decade-long venture to revitalise Victoria Harbour. It’s a takeover of a takeover; replacing the iconic New World Centre of the millennium, which grew out of what was once known as Holt’s Wharf. Hence the name; a play on ‘A Muse by the Sea’. As neighbour to the new Avenue of Stars and Salisbury Garden, the effort to enrich commerce with art, architecture, culture and nature is understandably ambitious.
The 35m-high Opera Theatre (the grand atrium, not a real theatre), which Hong Kong practice LAAB’s Otto Ng calls "the living room of K11 Musea", is still the best place to relish the manifestation of the visionary brief.
I’m not sure how I feel about it existing to “inspire global millennials” as Cheng announced, but I can’t deny how, even without knowing how many programmable light bulbs are embedded (just under 2,000), how the 500 unique steel fibreglass composites are generated by DNA-like coding, or how the curved aluminium panels are painstakingly hand-painted, it would make a great Instagram post.
So do the living green walls, roughly the size of 18 tennis courts and home to 180 different species. And the recognisably eclectic work of Ron English, amidst the numerous international art pieces furnishing each floor. Even the themed washrooms are too dramatic to just pee in. The favourite would be the post-apocalyptic aesthetic of Muse Edition, where the old mall’s entire waffle ceiling structure has been preserved and modernised by Speirs + Major.
It’s clear we’ve barely scratched the surface of K11 Musea. With its urban rooftop farm, L’École School of Jewelry Arts campus and Le Cordon Bleu partnership to name a few, you’d be delighted to know its shopping aspect is not neglected. The shopping destination houses the region’s largest MoMA Design Store and Moda Operandi’s first showroom in Asia. Above, the K11 Artus serviced apartments, K11 Atelier office and the beautiful flagship Rosewood Hong Kong perch. Retail is dead, I think, but we now herald the new era of its resurrection.
K11 Musea is located at 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui.