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Weak 2.0: Weather Estates

Course Description

Situated within the semester’s overall theme “Weather Estates”, this studio investigates the relationship between architecture and weather/weathering through the enquiry on Weak. Architecture is obliged to stay intact and permanent after its completion, and continuously resist the forces of nature and shelter people from extreme weather. However the strength and integrity of architecture is constantly weaken under the weather and this process is irresistible and irreversible. Instead of perceiving this process of weakening as mere negativity, this studio challenges students to observe, analyze and speculate on the strength of being weak. If incapable of fighting with nature, could architecture submits, embraces and grows with it? Could the process of weakening be transformed into one that is able to strengthen, enrich and prolong the symbiotic relationship between architecture and nature?

The studio starts with group investigations on self-selected organisms, artefacts, machines and building components. Through drawing and modelling, the various ways of how these “weak” objects react to natural forces such as light, heat, wind and water are recorded, analyzed and speculated. These investigations and speculations are in turn carried gradually to the city and regional scale and form the basis for students to establish their individual design propositions on architecture and weather.

Architectural responses to weather are not simply additive environmental features. Architecture and weather are indeed two indivisible entities which inhabit and react to each other. It is not about architecture for or against weather. Weather casts architecture, and architecture grows out of weather.

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Alternative Reclamation: The Floating Vertical City

Thesis Abstract

Architecture is a tangible representation responding to a place’s urgencies and also the aspiration of human living quality. Under the crisis of land scarcity in Hong Kong, architecture should show certain autonomy to adapt, move and transform in order to survive from the reality. Revolution of architecture is needed engaging with the environment and human fulfilments that reverberates to the present day.

Reclamation has been a prevalent solution since the first day of British colony in 1841 and even ongoing today. The thesis criticizes the conventional reclamation methods and technologies that greatly cause environmental, economical and ecological degradations. Through a series of researches, designs and testing processes in exploring generative large scale floating structure, an alternative reclamation proposal which is a vertical floating city by creating permanent dwellings at the sea through aggregation was established. It is a methodical proposal speculating the innovative land and urban formation through architecture. As a result, architecture became a leading instrument of social change.

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Back Alley Filter: Urban Environmental Interventions in Hong Kong

Thesis Abstract

With increasing demands for public space, the redevelopment schemes in Hong Kong led by the government and real estate developers aim to create an image of clean alleys to relieve the urgency. Although the city’s back alleys are usually cramped with building service equipment that have negative environment impacts on the environment, the functionality of these space is not addressed in the schemes. By looking into environmental principles, the proposal treats back alleys as a filter rather than the source of environmental harm, reversing the negative connotations through passive and active strategies and eventually providing a hygienic and pleasant environment for the public.

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The Shipwright’s Anthology

The Shipwright’s Anthology’ explores the potential of the architect – as narrative cartographer to engage and interface with ‘Place’ as defined by recent psycho-geographers as the confluent space of diverse and simultaneous spatial narratives or stories. Within the thesis project – multimedia vocabularies of storytelling and recording become divergent approaches toward generating architectures of intervention. In acting upon what Doreen Massey called the ‘Chance of Space’ – the architectural proposal becomes foremost a set of new, counter-narrative future possibilities for a marginalized industrial site; unfolding over time as a series of discrete, specific and sensitive spatial instruments. These devices, in stitching themselves into the tissues, temporalities, agents and exchanges already at play, become tools for narrative editing or re-composition; a series of ‘Knots’ enabling new celebratory frictions and forms for extant narrative threads.

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Dialectic Observatory: Hope Bay Gold Mine Reimagined

The thesis project proposes an observatory. Through amplifying the movement of rocks to human perceivable timescale, changing the perception of space for its visitor. The observatory is imagined to translate the custom scientific apparatus that is used to detect ground movement in permafrost site, and translating them into an architectural kinetic experience. Located at Hope Bay Gold Mine, the project positioned itself at an existing raise tunnel at Doris Mine site, one of the three mining camps in Hope Bay. The goal is to provoke a shift of perspective and provide imagination in similar mine sites in in the area, and responds to the larger environmental issue of Canadian Arctic.

Emma Letizia Jones

Jones, Emma Letizia

Emma Letizia Jones teaches design and the history and theory of architecture at HKU. She is an Italian-Australian architectural historian researching the translations occurring between architecture and its drawn and printed representations, particularly in early nineteenth century Berlin and London during momentous transformations in the printing and building trades; and the relationship between books and buildings in globalised architectural culture during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. She is currently researching Hong Kong’s role in the global building publication and prefabrication trade of the mid-nineteenth century.

She was educated at the University of Sydney, the Architectural Association and the University of Zurich, where she was awarded her PhD on the drawing practice of early nineteenth century Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, currently being developed as a book with MIT Press. She previously worked as a Lecturer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, and is also a Swiss National Science Foundation/UTS Postdoctoral Fellow in residence at the Victoria and Albert Museum London with her project “Built by the Book: The Global Impact of the Building Manual and Trade Catalogue in Nineteenth Century London”. She was a co-founder of TEN, a Zürich-based association of architects and researchers who won the Swiss Art Award for Architecture in 2018.

Emma has been the recipient of fellowships, awards and residencies from the Harvard Richard Rogers Foundation London, the Swiss Institute in Rome, the Graham Foundation, the Bundesamt für Kultur Switzerland and the Swiss National Science Foundation. She recently co-curated an exhibition titled “The Hidden Horizontal: Cornices in Art and Architecture” at the Graphische Sammlung Zürich, which opened in August 2021. She is also co-curating an upcoming exhibition on the drawing practice of the mid-century Brazilian architect Vilanova Artigas, to open at the forum d’architecture Lausanne in 2022. Her articles have appeared in AA Files, gta papers, the Architectural Theory Review, Drawing Matter and Architectural Histories, among others, and she currently sits on the Editorial Board of Architectural Histories, the open-access peer-reviewed journal of the European Architectural History Network.

In the first half of 2022, Emma will a be a fellow at the Swiss Institute in Rome, researching the Roman origins of the famed architecture library acquired in the nineteenth century by the Catholic missionary and first Archbishop of Melbourne, James Alipius Gould, and subsequently transported to Australia to inspire an alternative urban and aesthetic vision for Melbourne which resisted dominant British colonial narratives.

Publications (selected)

Journal articles

Jones, Emma. “From Pattern to Product: The Recasting of the Ornament in Victorian London”, gta papers, Journal of the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture, ETH Zurich (November 2021).

Jones, Emma. “Karl Friedrich Schinkel.” Oxford Bibliographies in “Architecture, Planning and Preservation”. Ed. Adam Frese. New York: Oxford University Press, 22 September 2021. doi.org/10.1093/OBO/9780190922467-0057. Prepared by invitation the definitive reference entry for Oxford Bibliographies on the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781–1841).

Jones, Emma. “The Wanderer”, AA Files, 72 (June 2016): 152-160. A long-form article resulting from the research of the applicant’s PhD thesis “Schinkel in Perspective.”

Jones, Emma. “Rediscovering The Australian Ugliness: Robin Boyd and the Search for the Australian Modern”, sITA Journal, Vol. 2 (2014): 94-114.

Magazine/online articles

Jones, Emma and Wegerhoff, Erik. “ETH Zurich: Casting the Cornice in Ticino” for Drawing Matter, 8 January 2020. Available online.

Jones, Emma. “On Cornices: Part 1” for Drawing Matter, 17 June 2019. Available online.

Jones, Emma and Delbeke, Maarten, “Temples of Ignorance”, Architectural Review: The Book Issue (December 2018/January 2019): 8-15.

Jones, Emma and Shelley, Philip, “More than Living: How Zurich Housing Co-operatives built a city”, The Architectural Review (AR), 4 October 2016. Available online.

Jones, Emma. “Australian Ugliness”, The Architectural Review (AR), vol. 237, no. 1417, (Mar 2015): 106-7.

Jones, Emma. “Berlin Green Band: The Interrupted History of the First Urban Parkway”, San Rocco 10: Ecology (October 2014).


Jones, Emma. Schinkel in Perspective: The Architect as Illusionist in Nineteenth Century Prussia. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2023 (forthcoming).

 Book chapters

Jones, Emma. “The Cornice (A Recent History)”, in House Tour: Views of the Unfurnished Interior, edited by Adam Jasper, as part of the Golden-lion winning Swiss Pavilion project ‘Svizzera 240: House Tour’ at the Venice Architecture Biennale, 2018. Zurich: Park Books, 2018. 92-101.

Jones, Emma. “The Backward Avant Garde”: Bruce Rickard and the Sydney School”, in Bruce Rickard: A Life in Architecture, edited by Julie Cracknell, Peter Lonergan and Sam Rickard. Sydney: NewSouth Books, 2018. 253-270.


Jones, Emma. A review of Kurt W. Forster, Schinkel: A Meander Through His Life and Work, Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag, 2018. Jones, E., Pollard, C., Lending, M. and Kodzhabasheva, A., 2019. Reviews Summer 2019.  Architectural Histories, 7(1), 17. Book review.

Lectures and conferences

Session Chair EAHN2022 (forthcoming). European Architectural History Network Biennial Conference, Madrid 2022. Co-chair conference panel with Dr. Gregorio Astengo (ETH): “Building from Print: Reconsidering the Agency of the Building Manual.”

Jones, Emma, “The Merseburg Homage: Ephemeral Public Entertainment Infrastructure in Early Nineteenth Century Berlin,” at EAHN Biennial International Conference, Edinburgh, 10-13 June, 2020 (postponed to June 2021 due to covid-19). Panel Chair: Prof. Richard Wittman (UC Santa Barbara)

Open-access online in-progress presentation on Postdoctoral research project ‘Built by the Book’, hosted by Funes. Talk recorded and available online.

‘The Lineage of the Line (The Origins of the Schinkel Style)’: Invited Public Lecture at University of Technology Sydney, 14 May 2020. Recorded and available online.

Jones, Emma, “The Great Labyrinth: Schinkel’s Struggles Against History”, at EAHN Biennial International Conference, Tallinn, 13-16 June 2018. Panel Chair: Prof. Mari Hvattum (OCCAS)

Jones, Emma, “Schinkel’s urban agency of the Interior”, at Architectural Theory Colloquium: Civic Architecture, Werner Oechslin Library Foundation, Einsiedeln, 19-22 April, 2018.

Jones, Emma, “Messbildkunst in Berlin: Albrecht Meydenbauer and the Invention of the Photographic Survey”, at EAHN Conference: Tools of the Architect, TU Delft, 22-24 Nov. 2017.

Jones, Emma, “Charles Barry: Drawing the Panorama”, at Drawing Matter symposium on Architectural Drawing, held at the Drawing Matter Trust Collection, Shatwell Farm, Somerset, 23 – 25 April 2016.

Jones, Emma, “Schinkel in London: “Die Ausdehnung der Stadt nimmt nie ein Ende”, at Architecture and the Globalisation of Knowledge in the Nineteenth Century, Accademia di architettura, Mendrisio; Università della Svizzera italiana, 2-3 June, 15.

Jones, Emma, “The Art of Siting in the Drawings of Karl Friedrich Schinkel”, at Society of Architectural Historians Annual Conference, Chicago, 15-19 April, 2015.