Lego display tells tales of Hong Kong

Kwan dedicates exhibit to her late father and husband

As a little girl, Joey Kwans father used to take her downtown to see some of Hong Kongs cultural landmarks.

Kwan remembers fondly that her dad would take her to visit the Clock Tower, the Legislation Council Building, the Peak Tower, Ocean Terminal, as well as his office in the renowned HSBC Bank Headquarters.

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My dad, Ming Kwan, would take me to see both sides of Hong Kong, the privileged and the not so privileged, said Kwan, promotion and public relations manager for Aberdeen Centre. He even took me to the street food vendors, and he didnt even like street food.

Another thing her father did was buy her a set of Lego blocks.

Dad thought that Lego could train my brain to think more logically, she quipped.

Last year, after Kwan lost both her father and husband Patrick Hung, she decided as a tribute to both she would put together an exhibit about Hong Kong. Thus was born In My Life, Pearl of the Orient Hong Kong.

My husband and I met and fell in love in Hong Kong, so this exhibit honours him as well, added Kwan. I think they both would have loved this exhibition.

In My Life, Pearl of the Orient Hong Kong takes visitors through a series of artistic and nostalgic exhibits, including multimedia, photo and antique displays.

The large-scale exposition, in the central atrium of Aberdeen Centre, takes visitors on a journey through Hong Kongs Victoria Harbour over time from when it was a small fishing village, then as it would have appeared in the 50s and 60s, during its early industrialization, right up to today as a leading international financial centre.

Hard at work on a Lego skyline of Victoria Harbour is artist Robin Sather. Sather, a certified Lego professional one of only 13 worldwide and the only Canadian is working on 10 iconic buildings created solely out of Lego blocks. The Abbostford artist is recreating the HSBC Bank headquarters, Central Plaza, Legislation Council Building and the two International Finance Centre towers, to name just a few.

Ive been studying hundreds of photos of Hong Kong for more than two months before starting on this project, said the 47-year-old Sather. The HSBC building alone took me a week to complete.

The self-described ardent Lego fan will use more than 100,000 Lego blocks to recreate the recognizable attractions.

The backdrop will be a mosaic of the Hong Kong skyline and we are inviting kids and adults to participate in decorating it, said Sather.

As homage to Hong Kongs humble beginnings, the Lego scene will also feature traditional fishing boats making their way across the Victoria Harbour.

We will have water made out of Lego blocks right at the front of the exhibit with the boats floating by, as well as the island of Kowloon, he said. I have a few volunteers helping me out as I will continue to build during the exhibit as well.

Sather said hes been a Lego fan since he was a child and it continued throughout college and into adulthood. He quit his IT job to pursue Lego building full time in 2004.

Pre-internet I never knew that there were other adults who love it as much as I did Ive since learned there are thousands of adults out there who love it as much as I do, Sather said, adding he will be on site during mall hours from now until July 15. I have a million Lego bricks in my inventory at any given time.

Just around the corner from the Lego display is a replica of a typical home circa late 1960s.

During lean times, after the war, lots of middle class immigrants from China came to live here, so some of the items are what they would have had in their homes as well, Kwan said.

She held up what looks like a flower vase and said: This is actually for spitting or to go to the bathroom. You see, while the men played Mahjong, they didnt want to leave the table, so they used the vase.

Many of the items in the model home were donated or borrowed from antique collectors or purchased in Chinatown, said Kwan.

We will also have on display the art work from four well-known Hong Kong artists, said Kwan. One or two artists will be here during the exhibit and one pixel artist will demonstrate her work.

In another corner, Kwan showed the News a rickshaw a two-wheeled passenger cart pulled by a human runner.

We will have people dressed up as rickshaw drivers from the 1950-1960s and people can have their photo taken sitting in the rickshaw, she added.

Aberdeens famous musical water fountain will dance to a number of songs, including the tune to Kowloon Hong Kong.

That was one of my dads favourite songs, said Kwan. There will also be the British and Chinese anthems and the Beatles song, In My Life.

This is a very fun and interactive exhibition.

In My Life, Pearl of the Orient Hong Kong is on exhibit until September 3 in the central atrium at Aberdeen Centre. For more information, call 604-273-1234 or visit

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