Adam Fingrut, CUHK Prof., Shares His Love for Architecture


Architect Professor Adam Fingrut Shares His Passion for Teaching and Design

Form and Function is our home to explore the journeys of Hong Kong’s physical makers, the architects and interior designers who design and create defining spaces that we use to live in, party, eat, and breathe. Behind every building and room in our architectural-marvelous city is a master of their profession.

If you're interested in architecture, design, and technology, then you need to know Adam Fingrut. He's an Assistant Professor and a researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), where he teaches and conducts research on computation, fabrication, and construction systems.

Adam's passion for architecture has embarked on a 15-year career that took him around the world, working with international practices in Hong Kong, China, the US, and Canada, including the famed Zaha Hadid Architects.

At CUHK, Adam is Co-Director of the Centre of Robotic Construction and Architecture (CRCA), where he collaborates with the Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering (MAE) on innovative architecture and robotics research. He speaks to The Beat Asia about his commitment to teaching the next generation of architects, and why its study holds great importance for every aspect of life. 

CUHK Prof. Adam Fingrut Shares His Love for Architecture

Why did you want to be an architect, Adam?

I was into computer science in the nineties, very trendy and nerdy, studying at York University in Toronto. It was not tactile and unsexy. I was interested in architecture at school, where creativity fell short with computer programming, which was done for money.

I entered an anti-digital, hands-on programme at Ottawa University, crafting a portfolio of design. We drew for one hundred hours a week sketching buildings and architectural structures. I learned the great rudiments of design, rigour and criticality.

What brought you away from the study of architecture into the real practice world of creating architecture?

At school, we focused on drawing and criticality. When I ventured out to California to study at the University of California Los Angeles’ architecture programme, I became familiar with the obsessively digital aspect of my surroundings. Architects brush shoulders with Hollywood and Pixar to create animation.

There are many that would leave architecture and not enter the space of built architecture but go into 3D design for motion pictures. At the turn of the 2008 financial crash, with the economic downturn and no jobs available in North America, I had a friend ask why don’t I come to Beijing to work as an architect.

I interviewed [with them], but declined to work for studios in Beijing due to low pay. I found myself in Hong Kong after an introduction from a contact to work with Kristoff Crolla and his studio.

CUHK Prof. Adam Fingrut Shares His Love for Architecture

How did you begin your design and architecture career in Hong Kong, and what did you want to create?

I wanted to get into powerful public spaces, I wasn't interested in designing additions to people's apartments and houses.

We began competing in competitions to design for Hong Kong spaces, winning first place designing “Golden Moon,” a Mid-Autumn lantern sculpture for Lee Kum Kee Lantern Wonderland in 2012. The structure was made from bamboo, steel, LED lighting and fabric.

The government praised us, Tourism Board too, we were put on pamphlets, bus advertisements. It was awesome!

I worked with Zaha Hadid in Guangzhou, working on crazy projects, such as the Guangzhou Opera House and the Poly U Hong Kong campus.

You mentioned to me that you entered the other side of architecture, teaching at Chinese University Hong Kong. Tell me about that.

I was offered a position at CUHK as a lecturer. I knew a lot about education and would translate my greatest hits of urban practice to providing an international perspective of architecture to a largely local demographic of students.

For my students, who are majority female, Hong Kong-Chinese, and from the Mainland, I fine-tune my teachings to focus on design and drawing skills, courage and confidence, and to improve language skills. 

CUHK Prof. Adam Fingrut Shares His Love for Architecture

Why did you want to enter academia and teach the next generation about architecture?

I am compelled by achievement and motivation. I wanted to correct the misconception that architecture is about making buildings. Architecture is more of a universal discipline. It becomes intertwined with everything in society, feeding into the humanities, geography, typography, urban life, material, space.

Architecture can be seen as a multi-faceted approach to learning and creating things.

What makes Hong Kong a great place to study and practice architecture?

The real answer why is the region. We are not just about Hong Kong, but the real growth, insanity of growth, of the Greater Bay Area. A new centre of growth in design. Hong Kong is the ideal place in the region to deploy resources and materials.

If you have ambition here and an entrepreneurial spirit, you can succeed here. If you have an idea, this is a place that will surprisingly allow you to do everything in an uninhibited way.

Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Form and Function interviews here.

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