Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Frankly Stunning, Gehry-shly Expensive

The good news is that Asia now has a Frank Gehry (the famous Canadian-American architect) building – the Opus Hong Kong. The no-so-good news is that it's a twelve-unit ultra-luxury apartment building hidden away in the hills above Hong Kong, away from the oggling masses. I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that the celebrated designer of iconic public buildings such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain has his name on a project in Asia that few people will get to see and enjoy. The structure, which was developed by Hong Kong’s Swire Group (a conglomerate that has an English lineage), smacks more of Donald Trump than Frank Lloyd Wright.

The building itself is stunning. It has a twisting steel and glass core where curves predominate over straight lines and angles. The panoramic 270 degree views from each unit are classically good feng shui – Mount Cameron in the back, the Hong Kong harbor out front. And the residential units themselves are appropriately awe-inspiring. Each level of the building is a single apartment, generously laid out to 6,000 to 6,900 square feet of space. (A picture says 1,000 words, so click through to the link below for more images. ‘Nuff said.)

Of course, a AAAA-grade property like this does not come cheap. Far from it. According to reports, the construction costs alone came to US$3,500 per square foot. Swire has not formally announced whether the units will be leased or sold. The rumor mill is already buzzing with sale estimates at between $6,400 and $7,730 per square foot. For the smaller 6,000 sf units, the sale price would come to a cool US$38.4 million each. The number alone is lofty enough to induce mind-twisting vertigo.

I have no doubt that there are well more than twelve individuals around Greater China who would jump at the chance to own a Gehry-designed flat in Hong Kong, irrespective of price. These are heady days for China, and this is a unique offering, especially since the name is Gehry, not Trump. Mr. Frank is not about to license out his brand like the Donald in the name of making a fast, garish buck. I just hope that, going forward, beautifully designed and inspiring buildings such as the Opus can be made more accessible to a wider Asian market, and for broader public enjoyment.