Artists Turn Famous Hong Kong Building Into Massive Tetris Game

This footage shows how two artists turned a famous building in Hong Kong with circular windows into a massive Tetris game.

The work of art was made by Blair Sugarman and Will Markezana, and Asia Wire spoke to Blair in an exclusive interview and he said that the game is actually playable.

Blair explained that when he first arrived in Hong Kong in 2013, he saw the Jardine House building, which is locally known as the ‘building of a thousand ars*holes’, and thought to himself that it kind of looked like a giant Connect 4 game.

Hong Kong skyscraper as a massive Tetris game board. (Blair Sugarman/AsiaWire)

He said: “Every time I walk past it, I’ve always imagined what it would be like if the lights were coordinated in a way that shows the game being played. I actually work in the building next to Jardine House, so for the past few years it’s really driven me crazy to look at the window and be reminded of a vision that I hadn’t yet completed.”

He added: “One day I woke up and decided I needed to complete the project. A positive side of being stuck in Hong Kong during COVID is that you can have time to actually complete these projects and work with people to make them a reality.”

But he said that the Connect 4 project turned out to be too difficult to turn into a reality and so he and his fellow artist Will Markezana decided to make a Tetris game art project instead.

Blair said: “Connect 4 requires two players, which would have meant using two colours for the lights. We actually have some other games planned, including Connect 4, but it would require further work.”

He said that their work of art is playable, adding: “We actually made a playable version at beyondvisuals.hk/pages/urban-tetris where players can compete to win one of our prints. The game was programmed in python and is bigger than a usual game of Tetris.”

He explained that it is not actually hooked up to the building in real life, saying: “It’s just a digital version that relies on photo composites and python programming. This work involves a mix of aerial photography, Photoshop and python coding.

Hong Kong skyscraper as a massive Tetris game board. (Blair Sugarman/AsiaWire)

“I took numerous shots of Jardine House with as many of the lights on as possible and stitched them together, then used Photoshop to clone the windows that didn’t have lights.

“Although this was quite tedious, I wanted the windows to look like actual windows, rather than just circles with lights, but this means that some rooms are different colours, different brightness, different shades etc. I also had to make one with no lights on at all.

“My friend Will is a coding genius and used python coding to mask out the two images so that it became an actual playable version of Tetris, using the keypad to control the blocks. Unfortunately, I’m terrible at Tetris…”

Blair added: “The idea was pretty tricky, but fortunately no planning or management permission was needed. It would be a dream to turn the building into a full game though. I’ll see if we can get permission one day.”

Jardine House is known locally as the ‘building of a thousand ars*holes’ and Blair explained: “It’s because of the porthole designs of the windows that it got that nickname. Although, because it’s located in Hong Kong’s financial district, there are rumours that it’s because of the people who work there that it has that name. No comment from me though…”

He added: “It used to be called the Connaught Centre, but as it’s now owned by the Hong Kong Land Centre which is a subsidiary of Jardine Matheson, it now has the name ‘Jardines’.”

Jardine Matheson is a Hong Kong-based Bermuda-domiciled British multinational conglomerate listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Singapore Exchange, as well as the Bermuda Stock Exchange.

Hong Kong skyscraper as a massive Tetris game board. (Blair Sugarman/AsiaWire)

Blair said that the decision to go with Tetris had nothing to do with the fact that it is the bestselling video game of all time (“No, although that helps!”), with over 500 million copies sold and counting.

Asked if he was a fan of Tetris, Blair said: “Yes, although the video of me playing it was about the 10th time I’d tried to play for the sake of recording the video, hence my terrible gameplay. I’ve had many, many people tell me about how bad my Tetris skills are so I kind of regret not doing better.”

Speaking about the feedback that the artist duo has received from locals, he said: “People in HK have found it hilarious, especially the people that work in the building. We’ve enjoyed the feedback and will see if it’s possible to try some more games in the future. Hopefully the sky is the limit.”

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