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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.

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.

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Prison + Mall Hybrid?

Thesis Abstract

History has shown that the conflicting relationship between Hong Kong and China as the product of accumulated failures, defective communication and interpretative differences. The social movement since June 2019 acted as a trigger for series of protests and violence, and got citizens into the active debates about the future of the city. Challenging the status quo through acts of design and capitalizing upon architecture’s powers of anticipation to imagine something new, this thesis proposes to create a prison and mall hybrid, which responds to issues of high demand of imprisonment and the increasing retail activities near Hong Kong/Shenzhen boarder. The hybrid places prisoners and mainland shoppers side by side, providing spaces for both parties to meet and interact, expressing views in a secured way, both as surveyor and spectator to each other.

The contradictions and complexities nurtured in this thesis reflect the collective struggles of our time, unprecedented and provocative, radical yet contemporary. The hybrid intervention explores ideas of physical separation versus emotional connections, boundaries, surveillance, and various levels of behaviour control. The research re-assesses prison and mall separately, before combining them to explore the potential of housing both typologies within it. Seeking hybridization through fixed and interchangeable spaces, the modular system allows spaces to unfold naturally, anticipating how prison and mall eventually morph into each other over time. This speculative proposal questions the uncertainties of our time, the anticipation of changes before 2047, and the spatial and emotional connections among different people.

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Add-on Housing: Alternative Redevelopment Model for Hong Kong

Thesis Abstract

In face of the decaying urban fabric of Hong Kong, the current pace of redevelopment under the existing model is far from efficient. At the same time, the issue of Housing shortage of our time in Hong Kong is unprecedented. With shrinking living spaces and monopolized markets, middle-class and grass root residents have little to no influence on the market.

Instead of purchasing the properties of existing buildings, which is an expensive and lengthy process, the development potential of the space above existing buildings are acquired. New developments with structural steel as main structures are erected on top of the existing building while minimizing the disturbance of the current structure and inhabitants.

At the same time, the proliferation of homogenous new housing developments featuring podium-tower approach, and glass curtain walls prohibits residents of any chance of customization and expansion, which otherwise is enjoyed and celebrated in many tenements buildings of Hong  Kong. In James Wine’s High Rise of Homes, the theoretical project was re-envisioning the possibility of high density living with individual character of a house. The thesis attempts to re-interpret such thinking by using timber structures as unit in-fill, which allows unit mutation and varying facade choices according to the tenement’s needs.

By making use of lightweight hybrid structure of steel and carbon-sequestrating construction materials of timber, the thesis seeks to explore the potential of proposing an alternate housing redevelopment model led by architects and aims to offer more reasonable options for homeowners and tenants.

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Masque/Mediatheque

Under the unprecedented influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, this design studio was conducted entirely online and split into two parts: Masque project (4 week duration) and Mediatheque project (8 week duration).

In project 1, each student is assigned with one of the 69 subjects/objects in John Hejduk’s The Lancaster/Hanover Masque project. Through the process of close reading, students are expected to see the unseen, and decipher the enigma of Hejduk’s masques, then reinterpret and reconstruct the investigated masques into a collection of 60 second stop-motion films.

The exercise of close reading is then shifted from the site-less masques in project 1 to a highly specific site of project 2 – Matthäikirchplatz, Berlin, a site heavily charged with the history of Berlin, and the history of Kulturforum in particular. Each student is required to design a 3000m2 mediatheque building on site. Being surrounded by iconic buildings such as the New National Gallery, the Philharmonie and the recent winning museum proposal by Herzog & de Meuron, the mediatheque proposed on site is expected to form a unique dialogue with the context. Meanwhile students are challenged to question and explore the role of mediatheque in relation to the past, present and future of Berlin, and of the world 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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Heat: Architecture under the Weather

Course Description

Situated within this semester’s overall theme “Architecture under the Weather”, this studio investigates the relationship between architecture and weather/weathering through the enquiry on heat. Heat is a latent element vital to the design of built environment. From the environmental science perspective, the examinations of how heat is stored or released by thermal mass, inhaled or exhaled by air flow, and blocked or contained by shading/insulation are the determining factors of thermal comfort. Whilst from the phenomenological perspective, how architectural form, space and materials are manipulated could largely affect one’s perception of heat, i.e., the feeling of hot/cold/warm/cool.  This studio intends to investigate the nature of heat and explore potential architectural responses within both the scientific and phenomenological realm.

Throughout the semester, students are required to conduct progressive and in-depth research on the characteristics of various climate zones, the properties of heat versus building materials, and the precedence of climate responsive vernacular architecture.  Taking these research findings as the design driver, students shall establish their own proposition, design from part to whole, and deliver a 150m3 architectural intervention situated at one specific climatic context as the final design outcome.

In this studio, architectural response to heat is not considered as additive environmental features on buildings.  Architecture and heat are indeed two indivisible entities which inhabit and react to each other. It is not about architecture confronting heat. Heat cast architecture, and architecture grows out of heat.  Form, space and material of architecture should clearly manifest its reaction to heat.

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Revitalizing Castle Peak Pottery Kiln: the Transformation into a Living Museum

Background

Dragon kiln, a traditional wood fire kiln, is one of the best and oldest technologies for firing ceramics at high-temperatures. Invented in China during the Han dynasty, they are still in use in many countries where ceramics are highly valued. In China, the most famous kilns are located in Jingdezhen. Not even the most modern and expensive electric or gas kiln can reproduce the same effects on ceramic wares as a traditional wood fire kiln.

Dragon kiln consist of one long brick chamber, where the wares to be fired are positioned, before undergoing a wood firing – a type of ceramic production that creates beautiful, natural glazes. These kilns are built on a slope: as the heat moves upwards, temperatures in the sealed chamber can reach up to 1300 degrees Celsius.

Being constructed in the 1940s, the Castle Peak Pottery Kiln is the only complete and intact dragon kiln remaining in Hong Kong.  A pottery craftsman Leung Sum took over the kiln in 1951. Having started making pottery in Shiwan, Guangdong province since the age of 8, Mr Leung came to Hong Kong in 1949 when the pottery industry in Shiwan underwent a downsizing. He at first worked as a foreman at the kiln, but later in 1951, he bought the kiln. Under the management of the Leung family, the kiln produced a variety of household ceramic items such as cooking utensils, flower pots, small saucers for lighting oil, traditional Chinese money boxes which were sold to Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and elsewhere in the territory.

Due to the competition from the cheaper products from other parts of Asia, the business gradually diminished. The kiln ceased industrial operations in the late 70s, but in 1982 – when Edward Youde was Governor – it was earmarked as a potential “Working Museum” when Dr. Solomon Bard, the first Executive Secretary of the Antiquities and Monuments Office, was struck by the kiln’s uniqueness and rarity. Initial plans to turn it into a “Working Museum” were dropped, but the site was designated as one of archaeological interest in 2012, and then again in 2014 when it was granted Category III Grading. However since 2017, the government has initiated a proposal to change the uses of the land surrounding the kiln and make it part of the future housing development. This has placed the Dragon Kiln under direct threat due to the uncertainty of potential damage by the housing construction. The loss of the surround open space also makes the revitalization much more difficult.

In order to conserve and revitalize the Dragon Kiln, and promote public awareness, engagement and education, Hong Kong Dragon Kiln Concern Group has been formed to seek for better solutions and urge the government to rethink its development plan. Taking the view points, comments and suggestions from the Group as the points of departure, this studio aims at exploring the potential and opportunities to transform the Dragon Kiln into a living museum and ceramic community center.

Site and Program

The Dragon Kiln is located at Hin Fat Lane, Tuen Mun, off Castle Peak Road. It is right on the edge between urban development and natural landscape where various large residential and school developments are located at the west of the site and a vast green open space with slopes and dense vegetation at the east. The twenty meter long kiln structure runs along the 15 degree slope from west to east. A timber frame roof structure was constructed to protect the kiln as temporary shelter. A large flat open space is located at the south of the kiln. However, if Planning Department’s change of land use proposal is approved, this open space will become part of the public housing development. At the south west corner of the site, the abandoned Pui Oi School building will be demolished for proceeding the housing development project.

Students are required to propose an approximately 5000m2 architectural compound including a museum showcasing the history of Dragon Kiln, a ceramic community center (with workshops and artist residence) promoting the art of ceramic making, a permanent shelter to ensure the sound operation of the kiln, and an outdoor activity area opens to public. Other program types could be considered according to each individual design concept.