About rock_aware

DRAWING. DESIGN. THINKING. ARCHITECTURE.

MAY 20 WU HAN, CHINA…A NEW BEGINNING

…I don’t really remember much of today. We left Hong Kong early so that we could make it to China…I remember the Wu Han airport being extremely small: as soon as we got off the plane, we were already in the customs line and right after we picked up our bags…sheesh! I also remember the bus ride…it was long and painful because the driver drove like mad and honked, no lie, every 6 minutes.
We were finally dropped off in front of our ‘hotel’ which actually turned out to be one of the dorms on campus…could it be? We’re already on campus?!
here, the University functions like its own city. it is walled off from the rest of the city but satisfies all the requisites to be on its own…

TUESDAY MAY 11 CANCELLED CLASS…on a sunny day..?

Because of the predicted “bad” weather, class was cancelled. Unfortunately the day turned out to be pretty nice…Oops!
Last nights group (minus dan and Jared) reunited and ventured into Antique Market and Cat Street for some souvenir shopping. In the afternoon the guys split with Elaine and I to pick up their tailored suits. Us girls jogged to Harbor City to find two things: Muji and Toys R Us…Success? OH yeah.

WEDNESDAY 19 may_ONE MORE TIME

although it was a rainy day, Elaine, David and I wanted to go to Lan Tau island
although we didn’t ride the cable cars, we managed to ride the bus
although we could not see the great big Buddha, we got to enjoy cheezy theatrics at the monastery
and after all these set backs, the rain finally came hard and the fog that cloaked Buddha came off and we could see the patient one’s palm and face.
sure, we got soaked…but it was worth it. it was so worth it.
tomorrow we fly to Wu Han China. Our fast paced Hong Kong experience has ended…now off to bigger things: like Studio!

Some of the things I loved about Hong Kong was the women’s high end looking fashion: wedged heels, baggy pants and oversized jackets with small but loose fitted blouses accessorized with hefty designer bags and edgy straight hairstyles…love it love it love it!

MONDAY 10_fragment adventure

we’re walking through the city in the rain
we’re photographing compression and density
through So ho
hike along the longest escalators of Life
treading through crowds in 5 meter long metro stations
somehow we’re in Kowloon…I dunno how we crossed the water…underground I suppose
we ate at Spring Wedding (some tacky dim sum wedding themed restaurant) and laughed at each other as we struggled to use the chopsticks
lunch munch then off to the markets:
Jade Market: expensive fake jade at high market prices…it was difficult to bargain…I bought a fake lubitel camera for 300 HK dollars…I’m really mad that I bought such a stupid thing at that price…I bought it out of impulse because I thought I was getting something ‘legit’
(I’m going to find out later that this was not the case…damn it!)
That’s okay…because somewhere on Jordan street, Elaine and I smelled something absolutely delicious! We hope to find it again…hope!

Class ended at Jade Market so David, Elaine, Nick, Andrew, Dan, Jared and I headed straight back to Mong Kok in search for a tailor shop called Raja. Andrew and Nick wanted to buy a nice tailored suit that they could not afford in the states, so here they were getting ready to look amazing! David also wanted to get a tailored suit…so there you have it!

In the meantime, Elaine and I wandered to other nearby markets: goldfish market and Electronic market. Our little group split up so that half could buy camera goods and the others could wander with me back to Langham Place. I wanted to show everyone the grand escalators that cut through the mall like scissors!
By the time we reunited, all the guys were starved and ready to sleep. We were desperate and sweaty and did not want to spend a pretty penny…lucky us, we found a dine in that served soup with meat for 12 dollars! that’s like a buck 50 in US dollars! Wow! BEST DEAL YET!

SUNDAY 9 MAY: GETTING HOME ISN’T SO EASY

Wang didn’t tell us much. We were to report to the hotel’s meeting room at 9 am for class.

I didn’t do too much either…
Elaine, David, Omarya, Ed and I grabbed a taxi and returned to the Peak for night shots and a view of the light show (which we missed…though didn’t realize it) After being mosquito infested, we paid a hefty sum for another taxi ride, but this time to Mong Kok…Elaine was on a mission and poor Ed, Omarya , and me, did not really want to tag a long…but we did anyways.
We couldn’t really find Ladies Market, but instead THE NIGHT MARKET at temple street…Laden with exotic smells and crowds of people selling cheap fakes and souvenirs we shuffled our feet to look and get through…
…eventually we had dinner and eventually we returned to the hotel which was a whole other experience itself:

I did not realize that our hotel was uphill nor that you could not just walk straight up the hill since roads cross over and most side walks are blocked off at night. what an obstacle! GAH! INCONVENIENCE!
Slowly and weakly I climbed with much effort, panting and sweating like a wet dog…yuk yuk yuk! We crossed the road maybe three or four times (dangerous crossings too because cars have right of way here, not people!), crawled through a basketball court hiked up steep ass stairs and finally another high sloped path until we entered the air conditioned lobby…out of breath and hopelessly exhausted.

SUNDAY, 9 MAY: THE GOLDEN ROOM AND CAT STREET

I woke up at 6 am uneasy and unsure what to do…so I showered and wandered around the hotel until I found an exercise room, pool and grocery store. It wasn’t until 7-8 ish am did I begin to run into my fellow colleagues  in nearby rooms. We loitered in each others spaces, sitting on top of clean laundry, admiring each others fancy cameras chattering over the television about they wanted to do before 4 pm when we had to meet prof. Wang…oh the freedom!

It was not long before I realized I had to meet Eddie at the lobby for brunch.
We drove into the so ho area moving laterally through crowds and buildings; left right below over under and through…and voila, Viola and I hop off the car and land in front of an open door threshold. Inside a waitress taps her pen over the podium as Viola yells out in Cantonese about our reservation. You have to yell if you want to be heard over the car-street-music.
The waitress checks her list, makes a check and points to the elevator on our right. It was a lavishly decorated elevator with golden frogs and flowers laced around it. Inside, posters of prettily laid out food posed around us, exciting all our grumbling tummies.
“We’re having dim sum” explains Viola.
Dim Sum, from I gather is a way of eating: you see something you like as waiters walk by with food and you get to request it. Pretty nifty, right?
DING!
We arrive on the third floor and enter a large round room covered in GOLD!
Fat gold columns, gold chairs, and gold-laced walls and a golden ceiling. A wave of cafeteria noise blasts in my face as I shuffled between tables and chairs. Every now and then I’d catch an elder eyeing me suspiciously, and I’d try to eye them back, but I probably looked cross-eyed.

By the time Eddie arrived (he had to park his car 2 blocks away in a public garage) Viola and I had already sipped 3 cups of the best black tea I’ve ever tasted. “Ready for something good?”

CHICKEN FEET.
enough said.

After lunch we wandered unto antique market and cat street.
First we walked up to Hollywood street to visit the smoked-filled incense burning Man Mo Temple. To its left an infinite stair case meandered to the heavens. Eddie pointed to a cow patterned building and said that that used to be his elementary school but now it is a residential tower. Professor Wang will tell us later that Hong Kong changes every 20-30 years! What?! What a place!
Turn right and head down the stairs, make either a left or right, it doesn’t matter, you’re now in cat street…home of the open-door junk-antique-crap shops. Mao-paraphanelia and brushes and porcelain and little brass sculpted animals all line up in display just waiting to be sold. I didn’t buy anything because I just wasn’t sure what I would get for anyone or if I really want to carry anything right now…I barely even know where I’m headed…

Up, up and away, points Eddie, “Let’s go to the Peak, the weather is okay today.”
Back in the car, we climb in a spiral up the mountain. Million-dollar homes whip past by and thin towers hover over us like space ships among clouds…My brain slushes around like melting ice as Eddie speeds his way to the Peak…I’m so so dizzy! When are we going to land?!

0.5 hour later:
we’re having a quiet walk along the path that gives the walker a panoramic view of this future-city place. We run into fellow colleagues and continue our way until we enter the deco cafe for “German” cheesecake…
…for the most part, my mind is pretty empty.
It hasn’t hit me where I am or what I am doing…I’m absent minded and I’m looking over the world with a cheesecake in my mouth…man, Hong Kong, you’re pretty something alright. You’re always modifying yourself to fit your personal needs. Look at the map and you will see the informality of this place. Trivial as it may be, the lack of space forces the city to be built vertically…everything must go up! including the cost of living! blah!

3 hours later:
I’m rushing to the meeting  and I’m drenched in sweat….oh it gets better:
after I gave my farewells to Eddie and Viola, SCHOOL BEGAN.

FRIDAY 14, Nationalist architecture

Today we went to Main Land China to visit an architectural office:
Tang Hua architects.

The city, Shenzhen is a relatively new city, about 22 years old however it looks like something that had just come out of World War II.  It was a nostalgic place and it was absolutely unforgiving, but what can you do?
Tang Hua, unlike Rocco was a laid back Nationalist-Buddhist designer who’s forms where crisp, clean and rather iconic…example: the pitched roofs. There seemed to be no real explanation for pitched roofs, but here he was using them for housing projects and libraries…

THURSDAY 13 MAY “THE PEN”

as a class we visited one of Hong Kong’s rocking high horse firm: Rocco
the architect, renamed Rocco, was an alien of a man who’s calm cool arrogance made him seem rather brilliant. Elaine said that he looked like he’d never left his office…”did you see how thin he was! He was barely sitting on his chair!”
I thought his glasses where pretty signature. Their round frame seemed to be designed just for his face. Perfection.
What was not perfection was how intimidated I felt during the visit. I felt weak and hopeless…if this is the design world, how will I ever make it? You’re so high and mighty Mr. Rocco! I am sure you think nothing of us American wanna-be’s!
Now imagine his office: on the 34th floor of an AIA building…white shiny lobby and fancy LED lighting…are we on a space ship or are we in a future-film classic? I can’t tell you anymore, I have no idea…

(psst! Rocco designed the Hong Kong Pavilion for the world expo! Posters all over the city have confirmed this! I can’t wait!)
(actually many, if not all of Rocco’s projects have been built here in Hong Kong! I’ve recognized at least 3 or 4 towers…damn he’s good! He’s even competing against Holl or Foster in some Urban Design project…he was trying to avoid the subject, so facts are unclear…oh dear)
* * *
post firm visit the gang and I found a little book store that sold some art supplies. It is here that I’ve found my drawing sword: a pen whose tip is that of a synthetic sumi ink brush. Its a pen, but its a brush…sh! its a secret weapon!
***

Day 1 May 8, Hong Kong_D-sides, the Gorillaz

“It must be the fifteen hour flight…” I tell myself as I stare at nothing.
I’m blinded by the white light and the weight of my luggage…

Some time around 7pm, I walk through customs unscathed, bloated and disoriented. Not too long ago I was standing still inside a shuttle bus surrounded by Japanese transfers and Canton dialects all crammed together like fish in a net. Together, we shuffle through one tight space unto another before we huddled even more closely along the escalator up.
Anyways, I’m free now and I’m outside the threshold looking out for a familiar face…haha, a familiar face in Hong Kong, yes a family friend who I barely remember. When was the last time I’ve seen Eddie Li?
Heck,
What does he even look like?

“Remember, he’s bald, and kind of tall…might be your height even.”
Adjacent to me on the other side of the gate, a tall balding Asian wearing pink looking pajamas calls out, “Raquel! It’s Eddie!” He waves his arms over his head and calls out again, smiling.
I return the gesture, “Hai!” I call out. Rushing to the other side, I am greeted with a great hug and the assurance of good hospitality. I like this immediate satisfaction business.
It’s by reputation that Eddie will always provide you with the best food you’ll ever try, but also the most strange and bizarre food you’ll ever see. You never ask him where he’s going to take you. All you can guess is that its going to be great. Can’t wait!
“So are you hungry?” he asks as we enter his Mercedez.
I sit on the left hand side and he drives on the right. I buckle my seat and say, “yes! What are we eating tonight?”
He smiles and says, “let me call Viola”

Its dark now and though I cannot really get a good impression of the city with the smog and night lights, I do, however, get a pleasant gut feeling as we soar through the highway. As if we were caught up in some kind of motorcycle chase scene in the Matrix, the winding roads create are exaggerated in my mind’s eye and I am caught up in the heat of the fast paced grunge city scape.
High rise-apartment after high rise apartment, Eddie briefly explains the status of high density living:

“Hong Kong is geographically small. Land is limited and it is an expensive place to live. No one really owns anything because it is so pricey. Everything has to be built on top of each other because there is not enough room. Very vertical, yes, we live in a vertical world…now, here we are, dinner at Mong Kok. Do you know what that means?”
“…No.”
“It means old city. We are in Kowloon right now, the other side of the harbor is actually Hong Kong. We’re going to eat at the Hotel.”
I catch the name outside and make a mental note: Langham.

Remember, this is Eddie we’re talking about. He’s a family friend from Hong Kong and he drives a Mercedez. He’s wearing these pink looking pajamas, but he looks pretty damn good for a 50–60-ish  year old man…he takes me into a high end looking restaurant that definitely doesn’t fit my normal budget, but that’s okay, I know I’m in good hands!
“As your first night here in Hong Kong, I want to introduce you to traditional Cantonese cuisine.”

Right now, everything is moving so terribly fast. I went from Miami to New York to Hong Kong airport to Eddie in a car to a 5-star hotel that hovers over the night markets and hustle-bustling life down below. My head is in a whirlwind of light, color, smell and disorientation. I’m eating things that I have never seen before and they are all delicious: lotus root, crispy-fried giant shrimp (you eat the head, eyes, everything, like a crispy nugget), green veggies, mushrooms of varied textures and types, so on and so forth.
For dessert, I was offered a cold mango flavored soup. Absolutely delicious. The taste will probably never go away.

11pm-ish: Sleep Sleep
Eddie drops me off at the YWCA Hotel. For two weeks, that is where us UF students will stay…I’m too tired to acknowledge the sweet set up. I just want to sleep… everything is moving fast and I doubt things are ever going to slow down.
In my head lights flash:
Welcome to Hong Kong.

“Rocky, you’re not in Kansas anymore….”