By: Melissa Stevens
If you’re thinking of studying art and design in Hong Kong, a commitment to heritage preservation is just one part of what makes studying at this unique college so special.
When the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) opened its doors, it had just 71 students. Forty years on, it now has nearly 14,000 students from more than 100 countries, across campuses in Savannah and Atlanta in the US, Lacoste in France, and here in Hong Kong.
What makes its story even more remarkable is that this global university for art and design began as the vision of a 29-year-old primary school teacher in the US state of Georgia. It was 1978 when SCAD’s president and founder, Paula Wallace, saw a need for a higher education institution that offered creative courses in a nurturing environment. When she couldn’t find a college with that kind of offering, she took the plunge and opened one herself. In the years since, she has broken many barriers, smashed a few glass ceilings, led the way in education innovation and created a university for creative careers that’s like no other.
One of the hallmarks of Paula’s leadership is the commitment to the built environment, and the preservation of historic buildings. This is evidenced in the Hong Kong campus, where, in 2009, SCAD revitalised the North Kowloon Magistracy Building in Sham Shui Po. Speaking on a trip to Hong Kong to mark the college’s 40th anniversary, Paula outlined how the revitalisation project honoured the heritage of the building, while transforming it into a leading site in the region for the study of the arts and design. The magistracy’s courtroom, for example, is now a hall for speeches and ceremonies, but the original seating of the judge, jury and defendants has been retained; offices have been turned into state-of-the-art teaching facilities; and holding cells have been preserved in a nod to the building’s storied past.
This is just one of more than 100 buildings SCAD has preserved and revitalised since it was founded, garnering prestigious education and heritage awards. Not surprisingly, the college is a leader in design education, providing a path to careers in architecture, interior design and preservation design.
To mark its 40th anniversary, a book has been published – SCAD: The Architecture of a University – to celebrate the exquisite buildings (available for purchase at shopscad.com).
“SCAD comprises a menagerie of extraordinary historic buildings,” says Paula. “Together, these properties form a global exhibition, an epic work of art curated on an international scale. The book is our grand exhibition guide – a key to the places, spaces and events that have shaped the college into the world’s preeminent source of knowledge in every discipline we teach.”
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This article first appeared in the August/September 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.