Class Act

Inside the Zaha Hadid-designed Innovation Tower for the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Design

Universities by their very definition should be places that inspire. For traditional subjects such as liberal arts, ivy-covered brick walls and weathered hardwood floors allude to the generations of learned men and women who studied within their hallowed halls. For creative studies, though, the shell should inspire forward thinking and allow for collaborative processes to happen organically, even serendipitously.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) grew from humble beginnings as a technical trade college at the same time Hong Kong developed into first a manufacturing, then a service hub. Its graduates were immediately snapped up by local and international firms that valued skilled professionals. And as its alumni became the city’s leaders and gained international prominence, they began to give back to the school that nurtured their talents, making PolyU a highly respected tertiary institution today. Its main Hung Hom campus is dominated by red-brick low-rise buildings that lend it a uniform physical presence. Yet due to growth, the various design disciplines that collectively comprise the School of Design were scattered across three buildings.

In 2007, the school appointed London-based Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid to design a new building that would house all of its budding designers under one roof. In 2011, The Hong Kong Jockey Club provided an additional HK$249 million worth of funding, and on 18 March 2014 the building was officially unveiled by Hadid and partner Patrik Schumacher as the Jockey Club Innovation Tower.