Dean’s Message

Welcome to HKU Faculty of Architecture. Whether you are a new or existing student, alumnus, researcher, teacher, industry collaborator or just a curious visitor, I hope that you will find inspiration in these Web pages. I was very proud recently to receive a letter from the authoritative QS university rankings agency announcing that our Faculty is ranked 13th in the world, especially so since the QS methodology gives a high weighting to reputation, measured from a survey of employers and academics.

This is an exciting time to be associated with the Faculty. We have re-launched our research and knowledge exchange activities as the HKUrbanLabs, bringing together researchers from architecture, conservation, construction and real estate, landscape and urban planning and design to work together to answer big urban research and design questions facing society. We are building five new specialist labs filled with state-of-the-art technology to support this work (Sustainable High Density Cities; Healthy High Density Cities; Smart High Density Cities; 5D-Building Information Modelling Lab; Architectural Conservation Lab). We are also building a new architectural gallery and heavy architectural construction workshop and have set up three new architectural research centres.

We research and teach using specialist labs but we also live in a laboratory. HK and the Pearl River Delta, home to a population approaching 100 million, is arguably the greatest experiment in city building that human civilization has ever embarked upon. We study, research, learn and teach at its epicenter.

Having been training Hong Kong and the regions’ architectural leaders for over 60 years, we now provide undergraduate, masters and doctoral education across the built environment subjects, with BSc degrees in architecture, architectural conservation, landscape, surveying and urban studies and 11 specialist and professional masters courses. Our 1300 students are taught by some of the very best teachers, researchers and professionals in the world.

Students learn in and out of the classroom; in Hong Kong, in Mainland China and beyond. The Faculty of Architecture has active research and teaching collaborations with top international institutions. Through a diverse mixture of pathways such as student exchange programmes, collaborative courses, joint-studios, class travel abroad fieldtrips, and international summer workshops, our students have substantial learning opportunities around the world. The Faculty also has long-term programmes and partnerships in specific sites within the region, such as Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, the Greater Bay Area, Shanghai, and rural China, where our teaching and learning activities can give back to local communities. International programmes and initiatives are continuously reviewed and readapted to reflect larger world events and changes.

Our Architects, Landscape Architects and Urban Designers are inspirational designers, pushing boundaries in the way we imagine and shape buildings and cities for the next generation. We are home to leading urban social scientists, architectural historians, urban theorists and sustainability scientists. Our special blend of subjects and methodologies gives us the opportunity to re-invent urban professional scholarship, research and teaching; promoting design as a unique form of normative intervention, while retaining the very best of scientific, arts and humanities scholarly traditions. This is brilliantly exemplified by the Ronald Coase Centre for Property Rights Research, one of four centres internationally that carry the name and personal endorsement of the Nobel Prize-winning economist. Why did a Chicago-based celebrity economist endorse a HKU Faculty of Architecture centre? Because he recognized that architects, planners, urban economists and other urban professionals and scholars are at the forefront of tackling some of civilization’s most pressing resource allocation problems, including shaping living-working habitats for centuries to come.

Linking all we do, across design and science, is technology and data. Together, 5G, AI and Blockchain, will change some of the fundamentals of how markets and governments work to order society. And without a doubt, they will fundamentally change the nature of cities. FoA aims to be at the forefront of the academic research that understands these changes and predicts what they mean for society and for the built environment professions. Autonomous people and freight transport will be with us within a decade and will reshape our cities for drone transport, as 19th century cities and early 20th century cities were totally reconfigured for rail and motor vehicles respectively. Energy conserving master plans will rely on buildings and public spaces that ‘talk’ to each other to adjust smart building facades and adjust heating and cooling systems. Blockchain-enabled land transactions will make landed assets completely decomposable and separable (rooms I houses, building frontages for advertising, building rooves for energy generation) and subject to investment and trading like shares in a company or like derivative instruments in the financial sector. The same technologies that will change the shape and function of our built environments also offer new ways of designing, planning, managing and governing them. Decennial surveys of populations, and expensive one-off surveys of traffic, shoppers, water and air quality, commuters, housing and other vital stocks and flows in the urban eco-system, will soon seem quaint antiques of the 19th and 20th centuries (modern decennial census started in the mid 19th century). They are being replaced with real-time monitoring via social media, mobile devices, ground and air sensing, individual, record-matching across health, welfare and commercial domains and so on. The Faculty of Architecture is playing a leading role internationally in embracing the new urban science that is emerging from these new urban data sources, with a family of master’s programmes covering urban analytics, sustainable city planning, smart architectural facades, healthy cities, and data modelling for urban design.


Chris Webster