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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.

MSB

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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Weak: Architecture under the Weather

Course Description

Situated within the semester’s overall theme “Architecture under the Weather”, 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 students’ investigations on their self-selected household objects. Through drawing and modeling, 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 scale of building, city and region and form the basis for students to establish their 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.

AUTOBRICKFORMATION II

Mies van der Rohe once said “Architecture starts when you carefully put two bricks together. There it begins.” With recent developments in the digital fabrication sector, I believe we can now say Architecture starts when you carefully design and make a brick. There it begins. Over the past two decades, digital technology has enabled us to be much more involved in the making of a building and partially triggered a return to crafts and material. With the advent of robotics in architecture, this trend has even deepened. Around the world practitioners and researchers work on new material systems and technologies that not only involve the design, but also the design of the whole set-up of making, including programing, tool design, and much more. We are currently witnessing a fundamental shift in architecture that involves new modes of production, new material systems but also new roles for the architect.

The studio Autobrickformation II is a continuation of the Fall 2018 March studio and is aligned with the research that is currently undertaken in the Robotic Fabrication Lab at HKU. The focus of the studio is to understand the potentials of robotic 3d printing and its impact on architectural design and its production.

Fabricated Ground

The last decades have seen cities around the world regenerate their post-industrial urban waterfront. Sites that were once scattered with ships, factories and pollution are now spaces full of activity and programmatic innovation. The water’s edge is once again the locus of public space, mediating between the city and its immediate and abrupt absence. This is also a time when building resilient cities begins at the water’s edge.

In this context, the studio will be investigating, not the waterfront, but a distinct feature thereof; the Urban Pier. Primarily intended to facilitate access into maritime vessels, piers distance themselves from the water’s edge by stretching out into the sea. Conceived as infrastructure and built for different purposes, from cargo-handling, to transport, to leisure, once-obsolete piers have been repurposed for an even wider range of uses. The course will consider the pier in broad terms, as fabricated ground over a body of water tasked with negotiating passage from city to water. Working from the presumption that density plays a critical role in injecting program and volume into the pier, particular attention will be given to urban conditions.

Open Structures

Open Structures investigates architecture that has the capacity to operate as frames for a myriad of programs or activities: structures that may be have been conceived to fulfill a particular need or host a particular program, but that are nonetheless open in character and capable of assimilating undetermined futures or evolving contexts.

To that end, this studio offers a close examination of the trade of architecture focusing primarily on material experimentation and the design of construction processes, while developing an architecture of radically simplicity, chasing modesty and delight in working with the industry and the socioeconomic realities of a project.

Through an in-depth study of a particular trade, participants gain an understanding of the complexity involved in the realization of a simple work of architecture. Studying a selection of materials commonly used in the local building industry, their physical and chemical properties and how raw matter is extracted, transformed and assembled, the studio reflects on its inherent formal and aesthetic qualities.

The studio observes the construction site as a laboratory of scientific management; a place of highly organized labor, fast paced production and diverse social capital, asking participants to conceive of architecture as a dynamic process. Thus, instead of thinking of architecture as a static object, we address architecture’s capacity for reproduction and discuss the conception of an architectural work as multiple acts of synthesis and manufacture: building as structure and assembly— building as a verb.

The second semester, deals with the cultural and literary dimensions of the program through a parallel study of selected texts, films and surveys, addressing issues relating to context, division of labor, building ethics and the politics of the construction site.

From Rural to Urban

Tulou are large, introverted earthen buildings of the Hakka culture in Southern China that have emerged hundreds of years ago. Extended families built thick earthen walls for collective defense, while maintaining a shared open space for farming activities in the center. In the traditional tulou individual families live in a vertical section of rooms which are wrapping the collective courtyard space and are accessed through shared balconies. Having emerged as a form of communal dwelling, the tulou’s center has housed other functions over time: religious activites, marketplaces or schools. A proto-urban condition where the collective spaces were not only used privately but as public institutions in an increasingly developing region.

As a form of collective housing, tulou no longer correspond with contemporary desires for dwelling. Across Fujian Province, remaining spaces outside of, and inbetween, these large earthen buildings are quickly filling with a dense fabric of individual houses. As a result, the abandoned tulou would often preserve the only available open spaces in what nowadays are densely populated territories behind their protective walls. We are witnessing the tulou’s transformation from an urban building in the rural to a rural building in a newly surrounding urban context. The few remaining residents have often radically transformed or expanded their tulou. For example, by directly plugging in a modern house from the outside of the old house’s wall, or by rebuilding their tulou section by section in brick and concrete – each family with individual style and layout but retaining the collective courtyard in their middle. These adaptations are not only physical in nature but transform the notion of collectivity within the tulou. At the same time, they prove the tulou’s flexibility for programmatic, structural and spatial transformation.

Both the changing relationship between rural/urban and individual/collective ask to radically rethink the tulou. Within this transformed social and urban context we would like to propose a programmatic mutation and rethink the abandoned tulou as a public building. We explore how to renovate existing buildings for this programmatic change, exchange ideas with local communities and government and see how negotiating with reality grounds our ideas for prototypes of public buildings developed in the first semester. On three distinct sites the old house for collective living will be transformed into a new house for collective experience. As public institutions, could these abandoned structures become once again centers for a new form of collectivity?

Spatial Density

As a continuation of last semester, this studio will explore spatial and structural innovation through model making as a form of spatial research.  The work produced last semester is considered “collective research” and may be appropriated and critically reassessed by anyone in the studio. We will begin the semester by first looking at this “collective research as making” and use it as a spring board for projects throughout the semester. The studio will be divided into 3 parts, with 3 reviews.

The first part of the studio will work through a critical reassessment of last semester and production of new ideas. Any spatial technique, material, method may be used by anyone in the studio, which may or may not include the original maker. Exquisite corpse’s are possible from working with another student’s project, as are new experiments. This is done in part to integrate new students to the studio and part to critically reassess past work. The second part of the studio will respond to the first review and allow freedom for further experimentation before entering the third part of the studio and design development.

Emphasis will be on how density manifests internally and how the tall building relates to density externally and testing how new spatial/structural conditions can perform to those ends. The studio will work intensively in physical model form (sketch/concept/presentation). The models will eventually be sectional (in one or more axis) and can be photographed and collaged or drawn on top of where drawings help illustrate particular ideas. No renderings or computer generated images will be used, only physical models, photographic reproductions, and collage will be used where needed to describe an idea.

Situating Situation

There has been a growing interest in rediscovering the history and culture of Hong Kong since handover in 1997. Hong Kong has experienced the reawakening of its own history in the past 20 years through a form of post-colonial fascination — from the intangible cultural heritage of herbal tea and the egg waffle to the much debated preservation of Ho Tung garden  and King Yin Lei.

This studio highlights a few key moments that reflect the arrival of so-called “Hong Kong Modernism” through the lens of architecture. In the roaring 50s and 60s, Hong Kong experienced a big push for public housing development (Shek Kip Mei Public Housing) with the British-ruled government. With the sudden increase in population there existed a new demand for entertainment, thus Hong Kong witnessed a blossoming of cultural/infrastructural building types such as the New City Hall in Central(1962) as well as numerous theaters being planned all over the colony.

At the same time, the architecture program at HKU (the only Tertiary Educational provider at the time) was at its infancy, its first graduating class in 1955.

So the question remained: Who was prepared and had the expertise to respond to the increasing demand for housing?

Interfacing Chater Garden

Chater Garden (遮打花園) in Hong Kong serves as the point of departure for this  studio’s investigations of Locus as driver for architectural design in the city.

The choice of this site in Hong Kong’s Central is a continuation of an earlier, year long architectural design studio that focused on the same broader area of investigation. This year, students research and analyse the area around the garden which is at once an important office district and the historic center of the city. The studio asks how the interventions into the garden and its surroundings can make the site more responsive to its programmatic needs and civic potential. Students use their reading of the site to develop an architectural prototype that will be tested and refined as a design proposal.