AIA Hong Kong

Merit Award in Architecture-Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Guangzhou – University Activity Center by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

HKUST University Activity Center Guangzhou, China


Connectivity & Context

Nestled behind the gateway building and main entrance to the campus, the University Activity Center (UAC) at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Guangzhou Campus (HKUST), balances the rational radially-planned research and administration buildings with its sinuous, landscape-inspired forms and planted roof. It also facilitates a vital connection between the Central Campus and the residential precinct through an internal street and a covered walkway alongside the building’s landscaped court. The second floor connects to the main concourse level, with a direct bridge into the academic and research facilities. Every student goes through or by the UAC on a daily basis, making it an important part of their academic experience. The building connects earth to sky through both its dynamic form and facade concept.

Community & Cultural Narrative

A Campus ‘Living Room’ Inspired by Bamboo The UAC serves as a social home, or ‘living room’ for international as well as local students, accessible at all hours. A main double-height entrance and gathering space anchors one end of the active interior ‘street’ of the UAC and promotes ‘positive friction’ or haphazard encounters amongst students; it is linked with a sculptural staircase to the second floor which is dedicated to music practice, reflection and wellness. For HKUST’s first campus in mainland China, cultural harmony, a sense of belonging and inclusivity were important aspirations to achieve. As such, the design team was inspired by the bamboo plant, a unifying symbol for growth and advancement across countries in the region, to develop the concept for the façade
texture, pattern and coloring. The result is a building that not only connects to nature, a common universal connector for all people, but also taps into an inclusive cultural narrative. The finish of the metal extrusions on the facade is a subtle layering of colors using a custom paint technique developed for the project.

Biophilic Design & Wellness


A Memorable Place of Restoration

The UAC spaces tap into principles of biophilic design to maximize the restorative effect of the building environment. By employing patterns, colors  and textures inspired by nature, natural materials and by bringing plant material indoors, the line between interior and exterior is blurred, enhancing the sense of immersion in nature. Amplifying the biophilic motif, the planted roof of the building gently rises like a hill from the ground. The design prioritizes air quality through enhanced filtration and healthy materials, certified for low VOCs and the avoidance of red-listed chemicals. The building’s envelope enables natural ventilation, through operable windows and stack effect, in addition to ceiling fans, integrated with campus air quality monitoring and alert systems. Ample daylight fills the spaces, ensuring healthy circadian rhythm and uplifting environments for the students.

Environmental Sustainability


A Building about Nature and for Nature

The UAC boasts multiple facets of sustainability that are integral to the design, including a high-performing façade with operable-windows, which promotes energy-use reduction through natural ventilation and chimney stack-effect. The astute calibration of glass-to-solid wall balances access to daylight with a well-insulated envelope. An extensively planted roof further optimizes insulation while managing rainwater absorption and reuse. Photovoltaic cell panels harness solar energy for the building.