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K11 Musea: the Muse by the sea

Billed as “a unique blend of cutting-edge design fused with a celebration of arts and culture,” K11 Musea on Hong Kong’s waterfront is an immersive experience primarily targeting millennials.

Much more than just a place to shop, it celebrates culture, art and design over 10 exquisitely designed floors. The visionary behind the development, 39-year-old Adrian Cheng says his inspiration was for it to be “A Muse by the Sea”.

The cornerstone of a US$2.6 billion redevelopment of a vacated dockside area where cargo was once offloaded from ships in the pre-containerisation era, K11 Musea marks a significant amplification of the original K11 Art Mall concept launched nearby in 2009 which has since spurned a network of nine centres across Greater China either complete or under construction.

“Our vision is to reinvigorate the district together with 100 creative powers hailing from different disciplines and cultures, to make K11 Musea the ‘Silicon Valley of Culture’ and inject art, architecture, design, sustainability and all forms of cultures into the new consumer’s daily life,” says Cheng. 

“K11 Musea is beyond a cultural-retail landmark, it is the centrepiece of Victoria Dockside that will inspire global millennials, and facilitate a broader discussion on the interconnectedness of creativity, culture and innovation.”

The 100 ‘creative powers’ Cheng refers to are international and local architects, artists and designers. Among them: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, James Corner Field Operations, OMA led by Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten; Bangkok-based landscape and design studio PLandscape, UK lighting specialist Speirs + Major, Denmark’s award-winning playground designers Monstrum, and Hong Kong-based architecture studios Stefano Tordiglione Design and LAAB.

The 1.2-million sqft centre features more than 50,000sqft of living ‘green walls’, an urban rooftop farm, and a world-class art collection of more than 40 pieces. Retail tenants have been encouraged to create unique spaces and emphasise their design credentials as well as their stock. Many have launched their stores with limited-edition collections exclusively available at K11 Musea. 

Hong Kong debutantes

The tenancy lineup includes brands new to Hong Kong – and even Asia. Fittingly, perhaps, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Design Store has opened its largest outlet in the region. British food brand Fortnum & Mason and Moda Operandi have also opened their first stores in Asia. 

The L’Ecole School of Jewelry Arts, supported by Van Cleef & Arpels, has opened its first location outside Paris and Yohji Yamamoto its first concept boutique in Hong Kong. 

Other standout stores include flagships and new concepts by Alexander McQueen, Gentle Monster, Golden Goose, Off-White, Sergio Rossi and Tumi. Legoland has launched its first educational concept Discovery Centre in Hong Kong.

Each of K11 Musea’s floors has a different art focus, spanning street-inspired works through to sculptures and impressionist works. Launched with a Van Gogh painting on loan, the complex will serve as a platform for world-renowned and emerging artistic talents with a debut art collection featuring works from over 40 leading international and Hong Kong contemporary artists. The curation of the collection is inspired by the city’s waterfront culture, meticulously collected and curated in context to its geographical location, under the direction of its founder Adrian Cheng.

At the building’s core is a 35-metre high atrium dubbed Opera Theatre, which features hundreds of lights to spark curiosity and creativity, taking the form of a galaxy or a mysterious body of stars. An organic and root-like sculpture Escalating Climbers weaves skywards over two floors towards the heart of the space, a giant, suspended Gold Ball.

The history of the site and its waterfront location heavily influenced K11 Musea’s interior design. At Muse Edition, where the MoMA Design Store and cult fashion label Off-White are situated, the entire original waffle ceiling structure from 1970s has been preserved and further modernised by Speirs + Major through inventive lighting design. The design of this unique section – with mouth-blown glass lightings that resemble lighthouses, and its flooring of a cement-and-shell mix – is a tribute to the district’s nautical connection.

Italian basement style

In the B2 basement level, Stefano Tordiglione Design conjured up a completely new retail experience. 

“We constituted an artistic, ergonomic and theatrical spatial experience rather than a conventional shopping environment; somewhere global millennials can come together to discover their muse,” said creative director Stefano Tordiglione. 

Taking reference from the Northern Galleria in Italy, ST Design filled every corner of the 8000sqm B2 level with modern luxury and elegance. Sliding doors in black grid for all the shops give the whole area what Tordiglione describes as “a homogeneous and timeless atmosphere”. 

“It also provides a standard platform for the shops to present their brands’ personality in an effective way while maintaining the image of the shopping mall.”

Walking through the B2 shops, customers will enter the Food Playground where different tones of wood outline different seating zones within the contemporary space. 

Another notable design is the vintage-looking public washrooms inside the B2 level. Rather than the usual monotone materials, the ladies’ room is fitted with a series of glass panels in different shades of purple, pink and red as the cubicles’ doors. For the men’s room, brass wash basins with iron bases harmonise with the modern retro surroundings. 

“Retail is not about shopping any more, it’s about creating a one-of-a-kind experience for consumers, especially for those who crave for a ‘phygital’, both physical and digital shopping experience,” said Tordiglione. “The new retail experience is also about inspiration and the chemical reaction with all the artistic thoughts demonstrated in the area.”

A Kube outside

Outside the complex, Kube by Dutch architects OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) is a cube-shaped kiosk where visitors can sit in cubical stone chairs looking at Hong Kong’s skyline on aluminium panels whose anodized-finish tinge the view in a distinctive golden filter. It houses the city’s newest % Arabica gourmet coffee stand.

Bohemian Garden, an oasis spread across the two-level rooftop, features an alfresco dining space, water feature and a setting for events such as gala dinners or outdoor cinema screenings.

A 2000sqft Sunken Plaza amphitheatre space is lined with interactive lighting and water features, providing audiences with an intimate street-level setting for performing arts, cinema and live music activities by Kulture 11. 

Children are not forgotten, either: Peacock Playground is a lively and colourful attraction perched in the Bohemian Garden comprising custom-designed play equipment including a reclining peahen, a group of peacocks and a nine-metre-tall Papa Peacock, whose flowing tail doubles as a ladder to a six-metre tubular slide. And Donut Playhouse, an oval-shaped structure is home to Donut, a 10-metre-tall giant which is also Hong Kong’s largest indoor slide built inside a shopping complex. 

Cheng, the creator

The mastermind of all this, Cheng, is a consummate innovator. The executive vice chairman of  property giant New World Development, he is the grandson of its billionaire founder Cheng Yu Tung and third-generation heir of one of China’s most influential business families. The same family founded Hong Kong-listed jewellery retail group Chow Tai Fook, which at last count had 3248 stores across Greater China and Southeast Asia. 

Cheng is also co-founder of venture capital company C Ventures, which partnered with Chow Tai Fook and New York startup Flont to launch a jewellery-rental service in Asia, enabling consumers to discover and wear high-end jewellery they may not be able to afford to buy. He set up the K11 Art Foundation to inspire and foster aspiring artists and promote public art education and was this year appointed the first global ambassador of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, with a mandate to support American designers as they seek growth for their brands overseas.

“Ten years ago, we set out on an ambitious project to transform the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade into an arts and culture precinct, and K11 Musea is the final, most important piece of the puzzle,” says Cheng.

  • This feature originally appeared in the quarterly Inside Retail Asia magazine. To subscribe to the print or digital versions, check out our shop here.

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