The Tidal Stool

Department: Architecture
Research Centre: Centre for Chinese Architecture and Urbanism; Fabrication and Material Technologies Lab;
Active Dates: November 2021 - May 2022

The Tidal Stool
Enhancing natural shorelines through a robotic 3D clay printing method

 Project Credits:
Christian J. Lange
(Team Leader)
Weijen Wang (Team Leader)
Chen Zhaowei
Yin Fangyi
Chan Ching Yin

Between high and low tide lies the tidal zone. In Hong Kong, this zone fluctuates by about 900 mm. The animals and plants that live in this zone have to cope with different conditions throughout the day. They are submerged underwater at high tide and exposed to the air at low tide. Every twelve hours, this ecology changes on such a shoreline. Shorelines in Hong Kong have been redefined for decades. Many large land reclamations have heavily reshaped the city’s edge condition and destroyed the existing habitats. However, there are still many that remain intact. The shoreline in Kuk Po village, Sha Tau Kok, is one of those and is exceptionally picturesque. For many of us, the shoreline has a magical attraction. It is an interstitial space that invites us to dwell and contemplate. It offers views of the shore and the landscape and brings us closer to the natural forces surrounding us.

The tidal stool, which is part of a larger conservation project in Kuk Po is a critical commentary on the common practice of how we deal with shorelines in Hong Kong. Rather than separating through an artificial intervention, the project brings together two different ecologies, the anthropocentric and the natural environment. Both are the beneficiaries of its functional design approach. With its intricate spaces and crevices, the stool provides for many creatures hide-outs from predators and enhances the ecology of the shoreline. During high tide, the stool is partially submerged in the water. During the low tide, it invites the villagers and its visitors to take a break and enjoy the beach.

Three main ideas inspired the design of the stool. On the one hand, it references classical ceramic stools. These stools have a rich history in China. They have been around for at least 1,000 years. They have been mainly used in the landscaped gardens and were made from various materials such as stone, wood, glazed stoneware, and porcelain. Secondly, the stool takes inspiration from mangrove roots, which are typical for this place and grow along the shoreline and support sustainable coastal and marine ecosystems. And thirdly, the stool’s dark brownish earthen colors reference the rocks on this specific shoreline to integrate nicely into this natural habitat.

Overall, the team produced 30 unique stools with different heights for different users and varying degrees of surface complexity. The goal in producing the multiplicity of solutions was to understand which geometry would, in the end, perform best for the natural environment. All stools were produced using a standard industrial robot with a linear ram extruder. They were made using a unique mix of terracotta clay, which is very suitable for natural habitats due to its Ph-level. So, in case the stools deteriorate over time, they get back to nature without any harm.

The stools were installed on a beach in Kuk Po village in March 2022 and will be tested for their performance throughout 2022.

Completion Year:  2022

Location: Kok Po Village, Sha Tau Kok, Hong Kong

Funding body:  Countryside Conservation Office

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