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Tonkin's touch of the Orient By Deborah Singmaster

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When Tonkin Architects last appeared in AJ, the bulk of its work was in Hong Kong (AJ 22.1.98), leading to speculation on how the practice's uninhibited design approach might translate to the UK. Two recently completed schemes now offer grounds for comparison: a private house in Hong Kong (its surreal indoor/outdoor bathroom was previewed in the earlier article), and a restaurant in Bristol. But since the restaurant is a noodle bar it is hardly an ideal test case for Tonkin in Britain. What it does suggest is that the Tonkin aesthetic is firmly established and not to be deflected by location.

The Hugo House is situated on a cliff overlooking a private beach in the village of Stanley. Most people in Hong Kong live in flats and houses are rare. The original building was stripped of its walls and the new cubist building erected in its place, with some of the external walls painted black so that they seem to disappear at night. The interior weaves together themes from the traditional British and Chinese home. The fireplace, the conventional heart of the British home, and its red chimney stack, connect the two parts of the plan, but the grate is moon-shaped and distinctly oriental. A motif of circular openings appears throughout the scheme, as circular ventilation openings and even in the frames of the 1930s Hans Corey chairs.

Much of the furniture and fittings was bought from Walcot Reclamation in Bath: granite paving, timber flooring and the enormous free-standing bath. 'Everything had to have weight to give it permanence, says Mike Tonkin. 'This was partly our response to Hong Kong where everything is temporary.'

The free-flowing open plan is based on a grid of rectangular spaces; acid-etched glass doors, also rectangular, reinforce the diagonal flow of space through the house, leading to large double-height air circulation voids and views through windows framing the land and seascape. Thick walls contain services, storage space and light sources.

From the ocean, the red chimney can be seen projecting from the white cube of the house. The Chinese name for fire/stove is 'Stanley' which translates into English as 'hot, red column'. (continued on p 42)

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