Cover Photo courtesy of Jackey Ip

Jackey Ip, founder and design director of Monotype Studio, on creating Golden Scene cinema in Kennedy Town

Back in May, Peter Cheung, Tatler’s regional advisor on engagement, PR and business development, sat down with Jackey Ip, founder and design director of Monotype Studio, during an intimate fireside chat on the future of architecture and design in a pandemic-stricken era. Ip spoke of his experience working for Hong Kong’s EDGE Design Institute, designing compact homes and luxury residences, and co-designing the first MoMa store in K11 Musea. 

In 2019, Ip founded his own multi-disciplinary design firm, Monotype Studio, which he says draws inspiration from Hong Kong’s rich cultural heritage. A career highlight was the recent opening of Golden Scene cinema in Kennedy Town, which he and his team had been working on since 2017. Though the project was a labour of love, it wasn’t without its challenges.

Here, the Bartlett School of Architecture graduate tells Tatler about completing the project in record time, why Ashton Kutcher should play him in a movie, and why Hong Kong will forever be his home.

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How did you get your start in design and architecture?

I was born in Hong Kong and a few years later, my parents, two elder sisters and I moved to Canada. In 1997, our family returned to Hong Kong. I went to the Diocesan Boys’ School and I’m very grateful that I learnt Cantonese and Chinese properly before I left for Toronto again to pursue my design studies. During my time at the Ontario College of Art & Design, I felt product design was not fulfilling my design sensibilities in terms of scale and interests, so I applied to architecture schools in the UK, where I was admitted to the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. I then did my Master’s at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. After all these hectic years, I have realised that Hong Kong has always, truly, been my home. 

What does Hong Kong mean to you? 

Hong Kong is a very special city for me as it’s my hometown. With Hong Kong’s hyper-density and hyper-intensity, it remains a unique city of extremes—full of hustle and bustle. You either love it or hate it. With the city’s unstoppable momentum, we all just try to find our own pace within the chaos.

Describe your business ventures in one sentence. 

We’re trying to bring a lifestyle change to a big city, bit by bit. 

What was your first job? 

I was interning at a local interior practice in Hong Kong during one summer break and I was assigned to a senior designer to assist in designing a house in Kowloon Tong. This project is very memorable because the walk-in closet design had to accommodate more than 1000 pairs of shoes. It shaped how I thought about certain design conventions and it taught me to keep an open mind about client briefs.

See also: Get To Know Fashion Designer, Saloni Lodha

Tell us about your work on Golden Scene cinema. 

We actually started off designing Golden Scene’s offices and then one thing led to another and we took on the cinema. The journey was a long one, but we’ve now been able to see the movie industry through a completely new lens. We appreciate all the hard work that movie-making practitioners put in and with time, this project has become personal and meaningful to me. I have witnessed first-hand the determination of Winnie Tsang and Felix Tsang from Golden Scene as they’ve persevered through all the obstacles caused by Covid-19. We had been searching for cinema sites with Golden Scene since 2017 and it was not until Christmas 2020 that we finally got consent from the government to proceed with the build. At that point, we only had two months to get the cinema ready.

One of the biggest challenges was to create a design suitable for our limited construction timeframe, and also create something that would allow Golden Scene to become a Hong Kong classic. We wanted to create a design that adopted a wide spectrum of architectural detail. This was an opportunity for design diversity: to create a timeless and familiar motif and palette that resonated with our sense of nostalgia and belonging to the city. Luckily, black has always been Winnie’s favourite colour, so our rigid monotone colour and material palette was immediately embraced by the client to contrast against the movie posters. We hope that the design truly showcases what Golden Scene is: a strong advocate for a new wave of local Hong Kong film, which champions and nurtures new talent. We look forward to Golden Scene cinema becoming a significant part of the Kennedy Town community.

If a movie was made of your life, which actor would you want to play you and why? 

Ashton Kutcher in The Butterfly Effect. Ashton Kutcher was an architecture student in the movie and it always amazes me how much difference we could make if we stayed true to ourselves and did good for others. 

What is a common misconception about you? 

People tend to think I’m very stern and stand-offish. Perhaps I look older than my actual age and it could be for the better, I guess. 

What are your three favourite things to do? 

Drink, eat and listen to great music. Best when all three are done together. 

What’s the best concert you’ve been to and why was it so good? 

CIAO 2021 by Cantopop quartet RubberBand. Their eclectic and delicate mixture of genres has created an indie style of Cantopop filled with passion and character. Without gimmicky stage effects or fancy costumes, their foot-stomping music is infectious and vocally stunning.

What luxury is totally worth the price? 

There’s nothing a great wine cannot solve. 

What are you hilariously bad at? 

Whenever I am in the zone at work, I tend to lose myself, which makes it difficult to remember appointments or reply to messages. My family and friends are used to it and they know the best way to reach me is always the most direct way – by calling.

What product/service do you love so much that you would happily be their spokesperson? 

I am the biggest fan of terrazzo tiles from Verona, Italy, and have been using them in most of my projects— no matter how big or small. My friends have even joked that if I ever have children, I would name my son Terrazzo, and my daughter Terrazza.

What is your favourite childhood memory? 

When I was in grade one, our school had a giant green playground. My music teacher Ms. Burlo caught me trying to measure the height of the soccer goal from afar by pinching the height of it between my thumb and finger. She knelt down and asked me what I was doing, and in the end, she joined me by squinting and measuring with me. Little moments like these really made a difference to me as a kid.

Do you have any new projects in the pipeline? 

We are currently working on office showrooms as well as a carpark design. We also constantly take on residential projects of different scales to help clients express their personalities. 

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