Attention, sk8er bois — there’s a new playground for you and it’s located sky high atop a shopping mall. Lifestyle Asia talks to Alan Cheung of One Bite Design Studio, the architect behind the new H.A.N.D.S Roller Sports Ground, about conceptualising and creating the skatepark and future projects in Hong Kong.
I knew I was in for something special the moment I stepped into the One Bite studio.
Perched on Lok Ku Road in Sheung Wan, the office for One Bite Design Studio was bright and playful — the opposite of your run-of-the-mill office space. As I was ushered inside and brought upstairs for my interview, I found myself shyly peeking at my surroundings. Painted blue and yellow, the office was in many areas, still quite raw, like the metal scaffolding frame running through the room, and innovative in other areas, like the table tennis worktop where some of the staff were gathered around.
Later on, I discovered the office was designed by none other than the One Bite team. No wonder. That’s not the point of today’s article, but let it be a precursor to the type of creative work the studio is capable of.
Earlier in the week, I’d stumbled across a post on social media introducing Hong Kong’s first rooftop skatepark. Newly opened at the H.A.N.D.S Shopping Centre in Tuen Mun, the image of the open-air playground caught my attention with its vibrant colours — so unlike any other outdoor play area in the city.
I mean, this was in ways, huge. And very exciting indeed, to be celebrating skateboarding in a city where skate culture has traditionally been regarded as dodgy or even dangerous. I knew I had to get a hold of the architect behind the project.
Enter Alan Cheung. The Co-Founder and Managing Director of One Bite is a trained architect who practised in London, New York and Hong Kong, before starting his own firm. He has a passion for design, dance and furniture shopping.
“I’ve been interested in architecture since I was a secondary school student,” shared Cheung. “It’s kinda hard not to be in Hong Kong, where you’re surrounded by skyscrapers daily. I’m lucky I somehow stumbled into a discipline that I love. With architecture, I’m able to make a small impact on the community and society.”
Along with his partner Sarah Mui, Cheung founded One Bite in 2015 to carve out a new path for himself as an architect, artist and creator. He didn’t want to end up working within the government as a project manager or as a director at a private company. He wanted to design spaces for people “with a human-centric approach”.
And as luck would have it, the new rooftop skatepark is perfectly exemplary of the “human-centric” spaces Cheung envisioned.
Officially titled the H.A.N.D.S Roller Sports Ground, it is the fifth project out of 29 between One Bite and Gaw Capital Partners, People’s Place. The two had previously worked together on other outdoor play spaces, including Kai Yip Recreation Centre in Kowloon Bay and Siu Hei Court Play Space in Tuen Mun.
The new skatepark sits atop the H.A.N.D.S Shopping Centre and spans 38,000 square feet. It is divided into three levels: the lower level is for roller skating, the middle level is for skateboarding and the upper level is for bicycling and balance biking.
Brightly coloured with eye-catching patterns, it is painted varying shades of blue, with yellow, orange and red accents throughout to give it a pop. Aside from the striking colours, there are also arrows and lines on the ground to give users something to play with.
Cheung and his team first approached the idea of creating a skatepark in May 2020, when word first got out that skateboarding would become a part of the upcoming Olympics. It made sense. Throughout the globe, forms of skating — especially roller skating and skateboarding — were gaining popularity.
One Bite then met with international skate consultants, as well as local skateboarders, to discuss what a skatepark should entail. What they discovered was that the existing skateparks in Hong Kong, designed and constructed by the government, were all done to professional standards but only catered to advanced skateboarders. Simply said, if you were a beginner or an amateur, well, fat chance of you ever mastering these slopes.
“In the end, we decided what was needed in Tuen Mun’s residential neighbourhood wasn’t another professional skatepark, but rather, a community space for skaters of all sorts.”
H.A.N.D.S Roller Sports Ground is exactly that — a community skatepark with slopes and obstacles of varying levels of difficulty, so even those who were new to skate sports felt encouraged to use the space.
“At the new skatepark, you’ll find kids roller skating, teenagers skateboarding and families bicycling. People of different ages and abilities will be using the space at the same time,” said Cheung. “This is exactly what we set out to achieve — an inclusive playground on wheels, with a focus on intergenerational users.”
An architecture firm by description, one would think One Bite focused solely on buildings or interiors. But Cheung let me know that they had done everything from book design, to wedding decorations, to taking over the walls of a tram with graphic design. In fact, art and pop-up installations, as well as public engagement workshops, made up half of the studio’s portfolio.
“We do a lot of what we call placemaking. It’s a combination of architecture, urban design and sociology. Our team consists of people from different disciplines — not just architects — who run an analysis on human behaviour and combine this information with spatial knowledge to create something that people will enjoy.”
With the H.A.N.D.S Roller Sports Ground completed, Cheung and his team have been pursuing other projects at full speed. During our interview, the architect told me that One Bite was balancing up to five, six plans at once.
One of the bigger projects, set to take place at the end of 2022, is the Yim Tin Tsai Arts Festival. Working with the Tourism Commission, One Bite will both curate and create artworks in different forms to celebrate the natural ecology and heritage of the Sai Kung village.
At the same time, the studio has an art-furniture exhibition named “On Your Seat, On Your Mind” at the HKMOA. Cheung encouraged me to visit — it’ll be on display for a couple more months — and experience the show for myself.
Another quirky project coming up is one centred on hiking, where One Bite is designing supporting facilities for a hiking trail. The team is currently in conversation with hiking experts on what a trail should entail and how they can enhance the sport of hiking with art.
With such a diverse range of works that One Bite does, I just wanted to know one thing: what type of project was Cheung’s favourite?
“My favourite is anything I haven’t tried before,” he laughed. “But if I had to choose, then I guess working on play spaces and sports grounds. I love creating spaces that are inclusive and accessible. And I love pushing boundaries of what an architect can do and showing the younger generation that they don’t have to just stick to buildings and interiors — there are so many possibilities out there.”
H.A.N.D.S Roller Sports Ground is now open to the public. Give skating a try at H.A.N.D.S Shopping Centre, 2A Tuen Mun Heung Sze Wui Road, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong.