Research Centre: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Initiative
Active Dates: September 2016 -
Principal Investigators: Xiaoxuan Lu, Ivan Valin, Susanne Trumpf
Research Assistants: Howe Chan, Yuk Lun Allan Chong, Hiu Yan Monique Wong, Chun Ting Nick Yau
Division of Landscape Architecture, Department of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture, HKU
Design Trust Seed Grant (2017, 2018)
In Hong Kong, a tightly-controlled supply of land and great demand for development sustains some of the highest land values in the world and drives a notoriously dense form of urbanism. At a granular level, however, density, land-value, and land use are unevenly absorbed into the planning and development of the city. In the not-quite-meeting edges of introverted residential complexes, tethered to the unbuildable spaces of flyovers and on-ramps, clinging to steep hillsides and in the odd lots traded by planners and developers as they aggregate density, a counterpart urban form emerges: one of the in-between spaces revealing gaps and discontinuities in the urban fabric of the city. Studies about Hong Kong’s urban public space often contort definitions of publicness and openness to include the ambiguous, the informal, the hybrid, the quazi-, the fleeting, or the accidental. Hyperbole and phenomena notwithstanding, it is possible to see much of the city’s public realm as the straightforward spatial consequence of three circumstances of Hong Kong: its geology, ecology, and political economy.
Interstitial Hong Kong is a research-based project focusing on Hong Kong’s Sitting-out Areas, a unique public space typology distinguished by their small size and incidence in the interstices of Hong Kong’s physical structure. While the Hong Kong government maintains about 60 ‘parks’, it oversees more than 500 Sitting-out Areas and Rest Gardens that account for a significant proportion of its portfolio of parks, zoos and gardens. The spaces, together with district-level mini-interventions in the public realm, form the smallest features in the city’s formal network of public open space amenities.
Referred to locally as saam kok see hang, or ‘three-cornered shit pit’, most Sitting-out Areas in Hong Kong feature little more program than, eponymously, a place to sit and rest. Sitting-out Areas do not impact the city’s formal structure and are relegated to the scraps of urban space with lesser value: the anomalies, gaps, interstices and mismatches. Nor do these spaces fit into a common typology of public space; they fall distinct from the square, street, and garden. Nevertheless, Sitting-out Areas form a unique type of shared space in the city and function as a synthesis of engineered infrastructure and leisure terrain.
Interstitial Hong Kong has been developed and promoted through various outlets. With research funding from Design Trust as well as HKU Department of Architecture, key works have been completed by the project team, notably a journal article and 2 public exhibitions in Shanghai (Oct 2017 – Jan 2018) and Hong Kong (April-May 2018). A bilingual illustrated survey on Hong Kong’s Sitting-out Areas will be published through LUMINOCITY Press (光明城) by the end of 2018. LUMINOCITY is a high-end professional publishing brand specialized in urbanism & architecture, which, was initiated in 2012 as a subsidiary of Tongji University Press.