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Apr 04 2019

Obituary: Tao Ho (1936–2019)

by Pamela Wong

Architect TAO HO passed away on March 29, aged 82. Image via Tao Ho’s website.

On the morning of March 29, Tao Ho, renowned Hong Kong modernist architect and designer of the Hong Kong flag, died of pneumonia in Ruttonjee Hospital, aged 82.

Born in 1936 in Shanghai, Ho immigrated to Hong Kong with his family in 1941. He studied art history, theology, and music at Williams College in the United States before he obtained a Master’s degree in architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. There, he was a student of German architect and Bauhaus School founder Walter Gropius, as well as the influential critic Siegfried Giedion. 

After his return to Hong Kong, Ho started teaching architecture and design at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and established his own multidisciplinary studio, Taoho Design, in 1968. Ho was one of the earliest architects who worked on cultural infrastructure projects in the city, including Hong Kong Arts Centre in Wan Chai, which was inaugurated in 1977. Local architect William Tseng Yen-wei, who worked for Ho for seven years, described the Centre to the South China Morning Post as a “timeless” building, “itself an art piece” as “all the cultural venues including black box, theatres, gallery and multifunctional areas [are integrated] into one vertical development.” 

Ho’s works, often incorporating geometric elements, reflect the constructive strength of architecture. He completed many public projects, including the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (1989), the old campus of Hong Kong Baptist University (1990), the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade (1991), the Engineering Building at CUHK (1995), as well as the renovations of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (1968), the red-brick Western Market in Sheung Wan (1991), and Hong Kong Government House (1992). In 1990, he was one of the three designers who were asked to design the flag and emblem for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. His proposal, featuring five Bauhinia flower petals, was selected and eventually approved by the National People’s Congress. 

Ho was respected in mainland China for his residential and commercial projects, and urban plans across the country, including for the 212-meter-tall King Tower office building, once the tallest building in the nation. Ho retired after suffering from a stroke during his business trip to China in 2002.

A promoter of Hong Kong architecture, Ho was also known for his many educational projects. Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor marked Ho’s passing and paid tribute to the architect in a statement: “Dr Ho’s name and works are world renowned. His achievements in the fields of design and art are also remarkable.” Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing wrote in a Facebook post that Ho enlightened a generation of architects: “He highlighted the importance of energy efficiency and harmony with nature. He was used to using philosophical means to present his design and concept.”

Pamela Wong is the assistant editor of ArtAsiaPacific.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

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