Tradition and technology meet in this Hong Kong penthouse

Robert Cheng, founder of Singapore-based practice Brewin Design Office

The Morgan, the luxury residences from Phoenix Property Investors in Hong Kong’s Upper Middle Levels, may have opened its doors last year but it has only now unveiled its crowning jewel – the penthouse.

Robert Cheng, the eminent creative force and founder of Brewin Design Office, was appointed the task of designing the interiors for the 3,962-square-foot property. The result is an amalgamation of Cheng’s love of both traditional craftsmanship and smart home features for 21st-century luxury living.

Property Report caught up with Cheng to find out a bit more about his vision for the project:

Why is this penthouse different from others on the market?

In Hong Kong it’s such a luxury and rarity to own a whole floor in an amazing building like this one.

Our design balances moments of privacy and intimacy, while offering a special connection with the serene landscape. The penthouse is in close proximity to the mountain, and the juxtaposition of such a close-up view of the intense steepness of the rocks, to the large and flat open space of the terrace encouraged us to keep the space relatively undecorated and unfurnished.

The penthouse includes several smart home elements. Are they becoming standard for high-end homes you work on?

I think home automation has become an important feature that can add value to a luxury home. My clients are increasingly including these elements into their design briefs, but we will always approach each residential project holistically, carefully considering how these automated systems can integrate with and add to our overarching concept.

How have you done this in the penthouse?

A notable design feature in the living area through to the dining and family room is the necklace of vertical, solid white oak fins that line the entire perimeter. Aesthetically, the design delivers a strong statement, but also addresses the functional requirement of ensuring privacy, while not reducing the space. The fins are operable and remote-controlled, closing out views when in function, or acting as struts that add a sense of crafted luxury and warmth to the long and wide living space. Drapery and lighting are operated by the home automation system to offer a range of mood settings for different occasions.

In the outdoor terrace, we incorporated a self-sustaining, app-controlled green wall to echo the lush greenery of The Peak. The green wall adds another layer of depth to the design of the outdoor space while complementing the additional landscaping.


As a designer, do you ever feel you have to compromise your aesthetic ideas to include high-tech features?

If we look at a detailed staircase by Carlo Scarpa, we see the beauty in its hand-made qualities, where each balustrade might be slightly different, depending on the piece of timber used, its grain, its coloration. The staircase detail is a reflection of the master who created it, and remains alive even after a century. In fact, it has bloomed with age.

I try to incorporate these traditional principles in my work, but I also admire advanced ways of fabrication and construction. Take for instance a staircase in an Apple Store – a triple-height volume of carved solid stone where every step is embedded into what looks like a solid continuous curved stone wall with a groove-indentation tailored to a user’s hand. This form of detailing is only beautiful when technology is advanced enough to produce it quickly, consistently, economically, and deliver it conveniently, from where the stone is three-dimensionally laser-cut in Italy, to the store on Orchard Road in Singapore.

My role as a designer is to learn about new methods of fabrication and allow technology to transform my work to be appreciated and admired differently from how one might look at traditional design work, and yet not lose the important principles and qualities that are timeless which come from the past.

More photos of The Morgan penthouse: