Maxime Decaudin

Maxime Decaudin
12:45 pm - 2:00 pm
Room 622, Knowles Building, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s Nature:
Landscape Discourses and Environmental Transformations in Early Colonization, 1841-1941
Maxime Decaudin
Assistant Lecturer,
Division of Landscape Architecture,
The University of Hong Kong

Vincci Mak,
Senior Lecturer ,
Division of Landscape Architecture, The University of Hong Kong


Thought today as an ecological asset threatened by urban development, “nature” is in fact constructed and a consequence of colonization. Indeed, before its possession by the British, the landscapes of Hong Kong presented typical features of southern Chinese coastal settlements following the prescriptions of Feng Shui. This presentation narrates three types of environmental transformations (quarrying and reclamation, water drainage and supply infrastructure and afforestation) before investigating their political, cultural and scientific implications. In terms of politics, nature was used to legitimize colonial power as it was misused by the Chinese. Landscapes were also a point of cultural encounter, where each side projected its own references onto the foreign territory. And unstable sciences prescribed various landscape manipulations according to their development but also helped objectified nature legitimizing colonization and the European civilizing mission. This talk aims at contributing to two debates. First, contrasting with most colonial settings, Hong Kong landscapes are a hybrid production rather than a mere imposition of the European model onto the colonized population. Second, differing from today’s ecological understanding of nature and its apparent incompatibility with urban development, the improvement of nature in the second half of the nineteenth century was part of the development of the city where natural and urban landscapes were co-produced.

About the Speaker

Maxime Decaudin is a PhD student in Art History at the University Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) under the supervision of Hervé Brunon of the Centre André Chastel (INHA). His dissertation, titled “Hong Kong’s nature: a cultural history of environmental transformations and landscape discourses from British colonization to the ecological crisis”, consists of writing an environmental history of Hong Kong. Currently Assistant Lecturer in the Division of Landscape Architecture at The University of Hong Kong, he was a PhD fellow at the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China (CEFC) based in Hong Kong where he conducted a research project titled “Hong Kong’s nature: environmental activism since the handover” for the year 2016-2017. Maxime was trained as an architect in Paris where he graduated from École Spéciale d’Architecture (ESA).

The DLA Research Seminar Series provides a platform to discuss scholarly research on the built environment that is interdisciplinary in nature. The series aims to identify common research threads from landscape architecture, architecture, planning, urban design, and conservation, and by doing so instigates critical reflections on the different approaches to the study of landscapes and cities. For the list of seminar topics, see


All are welcome. For enquiries, call: 3917 7699