Mechelle Tian

Mechelle Tian
12:45 pm - 2:00 pm
To be held virtually via Zoom
The Floating Life - Boathouse, or Boats and Houses?
Dr. Mechelle Tian

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Whether a large or small cargo ship, a boathouse for the fishermen, a ferry ship that connects different ports, or a floating market, kinds of boats representing diverse occupations and identities formed a “floating” social network, it is a continuation of the urban and social space on the land. This research focuses on the transformation process from boat to house and its socio-environmental issues. It discusses the difference between the process of “from boats to house ” and the object “boathouse.” It argues that the merging of the functions of a boat and house and the transformation from a boat to a house are related to the users’ social and natural environment and the spatial usage of the building or artifact, which can be extended to the organization of specific social and community group. The difference in function, scale, and purpose of living in the boathouses demonstrates the social and environmental disparities of the region in which it is located.

This seminar presents findings for the research project, “Boat and Invisible Sands: uncovering a floating world of Pearl River Estuary,” conducted during the Canadian Centre for Architecture Doctoral Research Residency Program 2020. Dr Tian will also discuss ways to expand research ideas and develop research questions by selecting these literature and image sources from the CCA collection.

About the speaker

Tian Mengxiao received her Ph.D. in Architecture from the University of Hong Kong in 2021. Her dissertation focuses on the reclamation landscapes and settlements on the Pearl River Delta. Tian is now undertaking teaching and research work as a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Chinese Architecture and Urbanism, HKU. Her broader academic interests include delta settlements and urban development, village and architectural heritage preservation and regeneration, and interrelations between water environments and landscape settlements.


Ying Zhou is an architect and urban theorist who researches how spatial productions manifest the relationships between urban restructurings, new economies, and institutional frameworks in contemporary East Asian cities. She also writes about heritage conservation, contemporary architecture and visual art. Trained at Princeton (BSE), Harvard (MArch), and the ETHZ (PhD), she is an assistant professor at HKU.