Author: Sony Devabhaktuni
Research Assistant: Amanda CHAN Shu Man, Jasmy CHEN Chieh-Hsuan, Minia CHEUNG Hoi Ching, Vernon Cheung, Vincent CHOI Chung Hei, Kevin LAI Shu Fun Cynthia LEUNG Sin Tone, Sigo LI Xuechen, Provides NG Tsing Yin, Alana Tam, Tod ZHU Jiqi
Curb-scale studies in Hong Kong began in the summer of 2018 as a response to the increasingly peripheral role that architecture plays in the design of the street-scape. The research uses an innovative methodology for drawing and photography at the ‘curb-scale’ to analyse the relation between the elements of the street, their articulation as the infrastructure of everyday experience and the complex network of negotiated administrative, technical and appropriated relations that inform them. Indeed, one could argue that the street has become a techno-bureaucratic infrastructure with little room for architectural intervention, or that as a subject, it has largely been given over to urban planners, traffic engineers, sociologists and ethnographers, among other disciplines. As Bernard Rudofsky argues in Streets for People: A Primer for Americans (1969), this is due in large part to architects themselves and their failure to represent the street as anything more than the blank space between two parallel lines. While recent studies—for example Cities Without Ground (Solomon, et al., 2012)—have documented Hong Kong’s urban networks, Curb-scale is unique in its emphasis on conditions on the ground as they reflect a larger techno-bureaucratic context.
This work’s significance lies in the way it opens the possibility of addressing and assessing a number of issues that are critical to the role of the street in contemporary Hong Kong: walk-ability and the possibility for civic affordance; accessibility for an increasingly aging population; the performance of the street as a critical element of a resilient infrastructure for a more sustainable urban environment; and assessments of how the street is shared between pedestrians and automobiles. The detailed and coded nature of the drawings makes it possible to use the drawings to engage with a larger public and also renders legible the policy decisions, management protocols and design decisions that inform its fabrication.
Project deliverables include large scale photo-collages and measured drawings of sections of nine streets in Hong Kong along with a catalogue of the curb-scale infrastructural elements that comprise the drawings. These elements are coded with information about the Hong Kong government departments responsible for their design, installation and management and accompanied by an analysis of relevant planning documents.
The project was first disseminated in a presentation to the private developer who originally contracted the work and more recently at an international symposium at the University of Montreal at Quebec titled ‘Urban Inventories’; this presentation has since been accepted for a collected edition of essays based on the symposium presentation.