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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.


Building Principles

Students: BAAS Year 2, 2019 Fall


‘There is simply no Architecture without Structure’ Jean Prouve

This course addresses the fundamental principles of structure. It presents building structures in masonry, timber, concrete, steel, glass and composite and examines the structural possibilities and limitations of these materials. It seeks a broad understanding of the reciprocal dependencies of structure, material and construction and their impact on architectural design.


This core course was taught in lecture series in 3 blocks, focusing on structural principles, structural systems, and material.

The students were asked to:

maintain a handwritten, individual, well-structured, comprehensive diary, that documents the lessons learned, the questions asked, and the experiments conducted through text, sketches, technical drawings, photos and collages.

create a physical, educational model, exhibiting structural principles. This model displays the simple, but fundamental behavior of linear elements under tension, compression and bending, and the relationship of load, system, element and supports. Each team picked from a pool of topics and use predefined materials, formats and annotations to build an interactive display.

choose a reference project and adapt its design to build a partial model at 1:20. The model showcases a spatial arrangement of primary and secondary structure and supports, including exterior (and interior) facades. Special focus is set on the specific use of materials, and how they influences the sizing, connection of members as well as the overall space and elevation.

Learning outcome

+ Learn about the behavior and terminology of tectonic systems, material properties, structural principles, in correspondence to a historic, technical and social context.+ Critical reflection of structural behaviour in relation to form and topology and spatial impact of architectural design.

+ Develop an intuitive understanding of structural behavior, the dependence of form and force, and its impact on structural design.

+ Attain the skill to communicate structural constructive systems efficiently through drawings and presentations.

+ Attain the ability to critically situate a specific work of architecture and elaborate on its broader intellectual pursue and social and historical context.

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Transfer – Structural Transformations

The studio was a continuation of the experimental structural high rise studio. The studio’s objective was to revisit structure as the main methodological design tool to explore the spatial potentials that lie within the relation of structure and program. Students started their projects with basic structural principles such as shear walls, arches, etc. and transformed them through a series of loading experiments. The principle was then aggregated to a site less tower of 200m as a final prototype.


Course Description

This studio challenges students to observe, analyze and speculate the past, present and future of municipal service building (MSB), a unique building type in Hong Kong which vertically accommodates a diverse mix of public programs often including wet market, performance venue, library, recreational facilities and hot food center. For the recent years the role of these MSB in Hong Kong has been diminishing as various new forms and operations of public and commercial programs emerge to cater for the changing need of the community.  Apparently the government has stopped developing this building type for more than a decade.

Stage 1 of the project consists of the study on 18 existing MSB buildings which are categorized with three specific site conditions: i) Edge/Island; ii) Sectional/Mountain; iii) Inner/Dense. Students in group of three or four are required to conduct their investigations on the issues of urban context, structure, circulation and programs of the existing MSB.  The research outcome of stage 1 forms the basis for the individual design task at stage 2 – a maximum 3000 square meter of additional space for the existing MSB. Through various ways of architecturally intervening with the existing MSB, students are expected to reinterpret and transform this building type and speculate the future role of civic building at large.

The expected learning outcome of this studio is:

  • To understand design as an ongoing process, not as a product;
  • To develop an ability to use the technical tools associated with contemporary architectural practice;
  • To examine, appreciate and challenge traditional design and thinking processes;
  • To develop and propose new ways of representing architectural concepts verbally, textually, sonically and graphically.


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Architectural space and structure are symbiotic in a building. However structure is the domain of engineers has lost its relevance as an imminent design tool for architects. In the contemporary production of architecture, structural models merely solve problems of the shape of architecture. The studio studied the spatial and design potentials of structure, becoming the driver of concept and space and the resulting spatial opportunities. The studio challenged the high rise typology and it’s predominant podium-tower configuration and specifically investigated the idea of structural transfer.

The studio was a single term research and design project. The project was a hybrid structure on HKU campus, built over the existing heritage building of UMAC. The new structure was not allowed to touch the existing building. However, full air rights were be granted. The program was framed in terms of two structurally opposing conditions: A generic mass program and a specific site related program. The proposed project was a single highrise structure of 150m. The purpose was to explore the structural transfer between two opposite programs.

Installation view on Sai Wan Pier

Proximate Space

The studio engages with multiple, proximate spatial practices – dance, film and architecture – to consider how we design for the public realm. Working collaboratively in groups and with a site of their choosing, students experimented with different modes of documentation, producing fixed frame films, closely observed site drawings, and notations of movement and activity. These tests allowed each group to identify a working method and a set of interests in relation to the public realm.

In the second half of the semester, each group worked with these methods and interests to develop an intervention for a common water-front site not far from the university. Interventions were built and tested at 1:1 with given wood sections. Interactions and discussions with passers-by fed into the iterative development of projects. In considering how different modes of observation, description and projection mediate our relationship to a site and to each other, the students also questioned the architectural practices that constitute “designing”. Guest interventions from a wide-range of disciplines fed into the larger discussion on spatial practices in the public realm.