PMQ: A Breath of Fresh Air Amongst Malls in HK

Original campus of Queen’s College and rebuilt in the 50s as Police Married Quarters, PMQ (元創方) in Central is now a hub for creative and design industries. Geographically, although PMQ is only 3 minutes away from the entertainment zone SoHo, music from bars and restaurants is blocked by the buildings along Aberdeen Street and PMQ is tucked away from the hustle and bustle. Architecturally, it exemplifies the modern style commonly found after World War II, characterised by a functional and pragmatic approach on elevations and interior layout, with minimum decoration. Its semi-open design has set PMQ apart from most malls in Hong Kong.

An inclusive soundscape – The semi-open setting of PMQ enables natural ventilation as well as the penetration of sounds from the surroundings. While wind (instead of air conditioning) caresses your hair, it carries with it sounds wafting from different locations inside and near PMQ: traffic sound from Aberdeen Street where PMQ is situated, sound of kitchen utensils clashing from a cooking studio, shrieks of a coffee machine in motion from a café, and laughs of children from a design studio.

Incorporating nature – PMQ introduces natural sounds into the complex by including a small garden named Plateau, harmonising man-made sounds mentioned above. Plateau on the 4th floor is perhaps the most outstanding feature of PMQ. They are landscaped open spaces which connect the two main blocks of PMQ. The greenery space has created a natural habitat for birds and insects, bringing liveliness and diverseness to the sonic environment.

PMQ’s semi-open design enables sound to reach a wider audience. Sounds heard from different spots tell a different story. Each sound perceived promises an experience for you to discover. Contextualising sounds make our experiences of PMQ more complete.

Harmonising Indoor Soundscape of Shopping Malls

Soundscape falls on deaf ears – Growing up in Hong Kong, you may have often heard the metropolis is described as a shopping paradise. Malls in Hong Kong are plentiful and varied, they come in all shapes and sizes, promising and offering something for everyone. For many tourists visiting the city, shopping is at the top of the must-do list. For locals, shopping is one of the most popular social activities which malls are one of the most frequented hang out indoor locations. You shop in a mall; you dine, chill out with friends in a mall; you take photos with mall decoration; but can you recall the soundscape of any mall you have been to? If you struggle with the recalling, it may point out the common fact that people seldom hear a mall.

To hear is part of the experience – Being in a mall is an experience. It is an experience contributed by your senses, including sight, hearing, and smell. Soundscape refers to the component sounds of an environment, or elements in a sonic environment. You see a variety of products in shop windows and they stimulate your sight; you smell the perfume suffused in the mall with every breath you take. Have you ever paid attention to what you hear in a shopping mall? What do you expect or want to hear in a mall?

Consensus on a soundscape – Each mall-goer may prefer or expect a particular sonic environment, which may be at odds with what the shop owners and mall managers want customers are to perceive. How to make the soundscape favourable to everyone when various stakeholders have different considerations or prioritisation in mind? While malls define themselves by varied soundscape, you may not be aware of what they are trying to do to you.