Resilient, Lively, Innovative: A New Option Studio at London’s Regent Quarter
Thanks to a generous gift from Nan Fung Development Group and Managing Director Vanessa Tih Lin Cheung MLA ’10, GSD students will have a chance to study the Regent Quarter of London, an area brimming with dynamism and opportunities for exploration in one of the world’s oldest cities
Regent Quarter, in the heart of London’s King’s Cross neighborhood, is an area brimming with dynamism and opportunities for exploration in one of the world’s oldest cities. Thanks to a generous gift from Nan Fung Development Group, the developer of Regent Quarter, and Managing Director Vanessa Tih Lin Cheung MLA ’10, GSD students will have an overseas studio in spring 2022 to study the Regent Quarter and its diverse metropolitan contexts—and make a real impact on a burgeoning neighborhood.
“My journey at the GSD played a crucial role in shaping me into someone who has a deep appreciation of the built environment, neighborhoods, and communities,” Cheung said. “My option studio experience was particularly impactful because it challenged me to come up with solutions that are thoughtful, practical, and innovative. Given the opportunity of the Nan Fung Group’s site at Regent Quarter, I thought it would be especially meaningful to invite the brilliant minds at the GSD to come up with creative and practical schemes based on the context to co-create a resilient and lively neighborhood with us.”
Regent Quarter sits at the intersection of two urban models: the cityscape of London, one of the world’s oldest cities, and the campus city, with the University of the Arts London nearby. Comprising 260,000 square feet of mixed-use real estate, across 12 office buildings and 20 retail and leisure units, Regent Quarter is situated to the east of King’s Cross Station and is surrounded by a dynamic mix of global brands, hotels, and restaurants.
As part of the studio, Cheung said, students will have the chance to challenge the conventional ways of designing physical spaces. The studio will encourage participants to consider the context of the Regent Quarter, investigate how technology and the COVID-19 pandemic have changed behavior in public spaces, and explore the future potential of the site. The studio will be led by Mark Lee MArch ’95, Chair of the Architecture Department; Professors in Practice Hanif Kara and Sharon Johnston MArch ’95; along with faculty Ali Malkawi, Krzysztof Wodiczko, and David Fixler, who will consult on issues pertaining to sustainability, art in public space, and adaptive reuse.
Cheung, who oversees Nan Fung’s entire real estate property portfolio, credits her time at the GSD with preparing her to undertake those types of exercises. She has also joined the GSD’s Dean Leadership Council, which she said has helped her discover new ideas for design research and development.
“It was through the GSD that I discovered my deep interest in working on the community and environmental aspects of the built environment, finding patterns and forming connections amongst different groups to uncover ways to better every individual’s life,” Cheung said. “This approach aligns with Nan Fung’s company motto, which has been passed down from my grandfather: ‘Care for others as you would care for yourself.’ In terms of design, essentially, put the users’ needs first.”
That philosophy has shone through in projects like The Mills in Cheung’s hometown of Hong Kong and manifested into “The Mills spirit,” which places leadership in social innovation at the core of real estate development.
Cheung has also applied her innovative, curious approach to her personal life. She serves on the Antiquities Advisory Board at the Antiquities and Monuments Office of Hong Kong, which provides a view into the history of sites all over the region, and the Hong Kong Tourism Board. She and her husband have a young son and also own Asphodel Fitness and Performance, and Cheung and her sister founded Quo Kefir Believers, a small coconut kefir business.
“Each one opens a window to other industries and people. At this day and age where everything is moving so quickly, when news and information are filtered according to your personal interests, I think it’s important to not get siloed and live in my own comfort bubble,” Cheung said. “All these new opportunities provide me the best excuse to learn and adapt. I bring in the same passion and value of social innovation and environmental respect into all the work that I do.”