MET Studio has been commissioned as the lead exhibition designer for a 2,000 sq m Environmental Education Centre to be housed within the new Sludge Treatment Facility in the Tuen Mun district of Hong Kong, which will be the world’s largest of its kind on completion.
The project is being funded by the Environmental Protection Department of the Hong Kong SAR Government and will be designed, built and operated by a joint venture of Veolia Water and Veolia Environmental Services. The joint venture client subsequently commissioned MET Studio (on a ‘design & build’ contract with partner Hypsos Leisure Asia Ltd) to create the majority of the interior attractions within the centre that adjoins the plant, such as an interactive exhibition gallery, a visitor gallery, a lecture theatre and a café.
The EEC will also include an indoor spa and pools (heated by energy generated by the plant), a rooftop garden, as well as landscaped gardens and a specially-created habitat for water birds, making the venue a valuable resource destination for the whole community. Free electric shuttle buses will bring visitors to the facility from Tuen Mun town centre.
About the Sludge Treatment Facility
The background to the plant’s genesis lies in improvements made to Hong Kong’s water quality over the past two decades, involving the upgrading of the region’s sewage plants. The sludge had been disposed of in landfill sites, although, with all available sites expected to be full by or before 2020, this solution is evidently not sustainable. Instead, this new, environmentally-friendly facility will now
dispose of sludge using state-of-the-art thermal incineration technology. Upon completion, the plant will treat up to 2,000 tons a day, reducing the region’s sludge deposits by 90%, with a hugely positive impact on landfill usage. At the same time, a waste-to-energy policy means that the thermal energy generated from incineration will both power the plant, fully meeting its energy needs, with surplus electricity to be exported to the power grid. The facility will also include a seawater desalination plant to produce potable and process water for the needs of the site. Wastewater will be treated and reused on site with no effluent discharges into the sea, whilst all emissions from the facility are safe and compliant with stringent European standards.
The new building – designed by Vasconi Associes Architectes – will have a wave-form and a streamlined architectural design to reflect the sea view in front, with ridge lines at the back ensuring the building blends well with its surrounds with maximum use of natural light.
About the Environmental Education Centre
The new Environmental Education Centre will serve as a platform for positive engagement with the people of Hong Kong and with relevant professionals by showcasing the technological advances, scale and benefits of the facility to the environment, in order both to educate the public and to engage with the community. The exhibition area within the centre will allow visitors to learn about the sludge treatment process through interactive exhibits, as well as being able to view the plant operation through a dedicated Visitor Gallery.
MET Studio’s scope of works includes the design of the reception and holding areas on the ground floor; a 300 sq m interactive gallery explaining the background to the plant, the process and the need for a comprehensive waste disposal strategy and a café which links to the interactive gallery and a raised bridge walk-round path giving views into the process area, punctuated by info-exhibits.
The facility is a community facility and will be open to the public (who will be asked to register online in advance of visiting). MET Studio has therefore designed everything with a focus on group interpretation, so that guides can tailor the story to the relevant audience sector. For example, they can include more technical descriptions for visiting engineers or describe things in a less technical
way for school and public visitor groups. The exhibits in the gallery are designed to be aids for the guide, but will also work if activated by small unguided groups or individual visitors.
We were very keen to avoid the typical approach of creating a linear experience. Instead, visitors can move about in an open and inviting space, that expresses the clean and green principles of the site’. When it came to the design approach, Neil Williams added that ‘One of the challenges we faced within the site walk area was how to show a process that’s often hidden by pipes, ducts, gantries and walls? The solution we came up with was to use Augmented Reality technology that would enable us to peel away the layers of structure and show the process within. This means that visitors can look through the screen, for example, and see the steam turbine magically revealed from behind the enclosure wall that houses it.
Neil Williams, Design Director of MET Studio’s Hong Kong office.
Exhibits will include interactive models, physical interactives, multi-screen display (some on transparent screens backed onto the window), an immersive multi-sensory theatre, exhibits using air and water and even an exhibit that uses 3D projection mapping onto a pop-up book to tell the story. The design will be open and clear to navigate with lots of natural light.
Neil Williams concluded:
I have lived in Hong Kong for over a decade now and I really care about the future of the city. In addition to being a resident, as a designer I feel a strong sense of responsibility to help communicate the message to the wider public that we all need to act to improve our environment. I hope that we can make the Sludge Treatment Facility attractive for visitors and an acceptable part of the community. I also hope that through the exhibition we can help communicate not just the story of the site, but also the wider story of waste management in Hong Kong and the importance for all of us of being involved in the decisions behind that.