Oil Street Art Space (Oi!) of the Art Promotion Office (APO) under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) is an art space which offers platforms for distinctive art displays where a diversity of people can connect and where knowledge and experience from various disciplines can be compared and consolidated.

In May 2022, Oi! completed its three-year expansion project, integrating an adjacent open space of over 3,000 square metres with the original premises, including a Grade 2 historic building make of red bricks and roof tiles. The new extension includes a new two-storey building and a spacious outdoor area, which is intended to serve as a nurturing ground for new approaches, and to inspire the imagination and provide an insightful experience for visitors. The Joyful Trees (Arbores Laetae) project is one of the programmes celebrating the opening of the new extension of Oi!.

Situated amid the hustle and bustle of the city, Oi! is a preciously rare leisure space, resembling an art oasis. Joyful Trees (Arbores Laetae) has therefore made good use of the unique geographical characteristics of the art space to launch an artistic experiment between artifice and nature. The project works in concert with the mission of Oi! in bridging people and nature with art, by creating an “artificially natural” landscape, which is expected to spark creativity and discussion among the community. The project is curated along the focus of Oi! that search local identities with audiences, concern the relationship between oneself and their community and foster social wellbeing. The project brings people together to rethink about the past, present and future. It provokes discussion and creativity about green art, nature and urban development, and ways for sustainable future.

Concept and Creation Process

The concept of Joyful Trees (Arbores Laetae) is designed by a renowned architectural group Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). The installation, originally commissioned by the Liverpool Biennial in 2008, was redesigned on Hong Kong soil. A group of sixteen Juniperus Chinensis is planted on the lawn, among them, three are arranged at a 10-degree bias in individual turning planters. The planters will move at a speed that allow trees to brush up against one another while also disorienting the viewers. It re-examines the traditional idea of lawn space by choosing to animate, in a mechanized way, those landscape elements that we expect to be stable. The three Juniperus Chinensis which are supposed to be rooted on ground, will rotate at their own speed. Shadow, light, and pattern are in turn, the artificial byproducts of this axial disorientation. The moving trees challenge our usual perception of nature as being static. Standing in the middle of the installation, you will find the “natural” scenery gently rotating around you, with changing patterns of shadow and light. The unusual brand-new experience aims to guide the audience to rethink the relationship between humans and nature and stimulate dialogue about sustainable development and green art.

We are honoured to collaborate with renowned American architectural group Diller Scofidio + Renfro, engineering designer Arup, the Faculty of Architecture of The University of Hong Kong, and landscape design consultant Ivan Valin on the Joyful Trees (Arbores Laetae) project. The creation process involved painstaking efforts to tackle a series of technical problems and repeated modifications of the design. The professional team have to tackle issues such as the choice of trees, the logistic of delivering the trees, the quality of soil, the drainage system and so on. Moreover, to cope with the rainy weather, modifications on the mechanical system is also required. Though facing these series of problems, the team managed to completed the installation and overcome all the constraints, and this creation process equipped us with valuable knowledge of the site-specific local environment.

Joyful Trees and the Community

In conjunction with the Faculty of Architecture of The University of Hong Kong, a series of workshops are organised as extension programmes for the project, in which we encouraged the participants to interact with the art installation in assorted ways and to look at the artistic device from various perspectives. From craftsmanship to mindfulness, storytelling to augmented reality, and parent-child collaboration to self-discovery, the wide range of activities create a hub for creativity and conversation. The enthusiastic participation and input of the member of the public has helped unfold unexpected outcomes and reveal the diverseness of the project, which had a significant impact on the project outcome.

We are also excited to witness Joyful Trees (Arbores Laetae) gradually evolve from an art installation to a dynamic cultural landscape. Birds have started to rest on the branches, and people have begun to enjoy their leisure time under the trees. The art installation blends in with the new extension of Oi! and has transformed it into an irreplaceable artistic setting in the neighbourhood.

About the Designer

DS+R is a design studio founded in 1979 by Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, and Charles Renfro joined in 1997, and became partner in 2004. Its practice spans the fields of architecture, urban design, installation art, multi-media performance, digital media, and print. With a focus on cultural and civic projects, DS+R’s work addresses the changing role of institutions and the future of cities, trans-disciplinary practice whose projects consider space not as a neutral canvas, but a complex script, imbued with invisible conventions and histories.

One of its most iconic cultural projects is its pivotal role in realising the very reputed High Line Park in New York City. Since opening in June 2009, the High Line has become an icon of contemporary landscape architecture. The High Line’s success has inspired cities throughout the United States to redevelop obsolete infrastructure as public space. The park became a tourist attraction and spurred development in adjacent neighborhoods. Other recent challenging projects completed by DS+R was the latest expansion of Museum of Modern Art and the Shed, the multi-arts centre in Hudson Yards.

Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape:
Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), Arup
Architecture offices involved in the design:
Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), Arup
Location: Oil Street Art Space, 12 Oil Street, North Point, Hong Kong
Design year: 2021
Year Completed: 2022


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