Living in the Valleys: Alternatives Futures for Hong Kong’s Vanishing Landscape Heritage

This advanced design studio engaged holistically with Hong Kong’s neglected landscapes heritage through the design of long term scenarios for the valleys of the North East end of the New Territories. By exploring the value of landscape heritage in the distant future, which is unavoidably marked by climate change and a global mass extinction, this studio problematized two forms of contemporary disappearance. First, the loss of historical knowledge and survival strategies which shaped the traditional agrarian landscape and enabled the inhabitants of Hong Kong to live sustainably in the valleys for centuries. Second, the invisibility of the current and future environmental footprint of Hong Kong’s lifeways and the landscapes they generate, both locally and globally. In order to address these issues, students reflected on the following questions through their research, analysis, and design proposals: How can the legacy of abandoned vernacular landscapes in the New Territories become an opportunity to question and rethink the current model of development? What alternatives have already been designed and tested in Hong Kong and globally? And what can be learned from them? What will be the aspirations of future communities and how can they inhabit the land differently? What is the role of landscape architects in designing long term strategies for a sustainable, local, and alternative future?

Entangled Futures: Designing Posthuman Landscapes at Lau Fau Shan

Entangled Futures Studio assumed that design does not necessarily serve only the human, and is shaped around ecological thinking. Based on imaginative propositions at the intersection of landscape design, strategic planning, and environmental sciences, the aim of this studio was to engage in issues of sustainability and environmental balance, scarcity of resources (such as food, water, energy), the implementation of lived indigenous knowledge, and maintenance/ continuity of ecology and biodiversity. The studio focused on designing landscapes as a habitat for a diversity of life forms and developed proposals for the waterfront at Lau Fau Shan. Entangled Futures studio started with design research on posthumanism and ecology through case studies of landscape design projects that deal with similar issues as in Lau Fau Shan. Second phase was site research and analysis. Landscape design proposals started with scenario and strategy building focusing on Lau Fau Shan village and the Deep Bay at a larger scale. Following, each student continued with their individual design proposal on a part of Lau Fau Shan waterfront. The methodological assumptions of this studio are that research and design continuously inform each other, design proposal considers the role and responsibilities of the landscape designer, “time” is a medium of landscape design, and “site” is always trans-scalar.

Communities at the Edge: Negotiating Transitions and Adaptations in Tung Chung

This advanced design studio investigated the role that landscape design, architecture and planning will have in shaping the land-use, settlement, habitat, and infrastructure of Hong Kong in the face of dynamic social, economic, and environmental change. Hong Kong faces a host of environmental challenges, from predictable decreasing in habitat and environmental degradation, water-pollution, and flooding, to the unknown threats driven by global warming, such as more volatile weather patterns and rising sea-levels. The studio considered Hong Kong as a city in flux. Working between the watershed and the coast, students investigated ecological dynamics, urban transformations, and different transitions at the edge. The studio worked in collaboration with the MArch Adaptive Tower Studio. For the first project, students explored different transects in Hong Kong where hydrological, ecological, material and structural systems were affected by climate change and sea level rise and defined issues, potentials and relationships to improve the edge. For the final project students, speculated on an adaptive and resilient landscapes in Tung Chung, an area with high ecological value that is threated by urban development. Taking a time-and-process based approach, students developed scenarios that proposing landscape-driven interventions that dealt with development and adaptation. This studio asked: How might the environmental change be leveraged to drive new forms of development and reshape conservation? Can new water and circulation networks increase important native habitats? How can hybrid landscapes of infrastructure and architectural systems offer?