24 rooms in 1: A flexi-home in Hong Kong
16 Jan 2009, 0000 hrs IST,
HONG KONG: Gary Chang stood in the middle of his apartment, ignoring a message from his Nintendo Wii on the wall-size screen. Soon enough, having
worked up an appetite, he was ready to move on. He used a remote control to raise the screen, revealing a large yellow-tinted window behind it, filling the room with radiance.
"Like sunshine," Chang said, though the colorized gray daylight made the view - a forest of apartment towers in Hong Kong's bustling working-class Sai Wan Ho district - look dusky, like an old sepia print.
He grabbed a handle near the wall-mounted TV, pulling a section of the wall itself toward the centre of the room. Behind it, a small countertop with two burners, a sink and a spice rack appeared. Opposite the countertop, on the back of the now-displaced wall, he lowered a hinged worktop made of honeycombed aluminium. Suddenly, he was standing in a kitchen.
This room - the "maximum kitchen," he calls it - and the "videogame room" he was sitting in minutes before are just 2 of at least 24 different layouts that Chang, an architect, can impose on his 344-square-foot apartment, which he renovated last year. What appears to be an open-plan studio actually contains many rooms, because of sliding wall units, fold-down tables and chairs, and the habitual kinesis of a resident in a small space. As Chang put it, "I glide around."
But if the apartment is a space for play, it's very much the grown-up kind, involving the pleasures of luxury: Behind one movable wall of shelving is an extra-large Duravit bathtub. A glass shower stall doubles as a steam room with colour therapy and massage. The toilet has a heated seat and remote control bidet, and sound emanates from a six-speaker home entertainment system.
Chang hopes that some of his home's innovations might be replicated to help improve domestic life in Hong Kong, which has been troubled in recent years. The population grew by nearly a half-million in just the last 10 years. "It's a big problem," Chang said. "Killing each other is not uncommon."
The wall units, which are suspended from steel tracks bolted into the ceiling, seem to float an inch above the reflective black granite floor. As they are shifted around, the apartment becomes all manner of spaces - kitchen, library, laundry room, dressing room, a lounge with a hammock, an enclosed dining area and a wet bar.