Urban Resilience


The University of Hong Kong
Cecilia Chu, Landscape Architecture
Ashley Scott Kelly, Landscape Architecture
Michael Kokora, Architecture
Eric Schuldenfrei, Architecture
Ivan Valin, Landscape Architecture

University of California, Berkeley
Renee Chow, Architecture and Urban Design
Nicholas de Monchaux, Architecture and Urban Design
Kristina Hill, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning
Elizabeth Macdonald, City and Regional Planning, LAEP, Urban Design
Daniel Rodriguez, City and Regional Planning

The University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design will collaborate with the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Architecture to form a multi-year research studio program to develop strategies for a more resilient resilient urban environment for Hong Kong and across the Greater Bay Area. Specifically, they will develop solutions to integrate the linked issues of transportation, ecologically-focused and pedestrian-driven planning of public and waterfront spaces, and sustainable management of water infrastructure and natural resources.

Through a comparative analysis of innovative strategies of the San Francisco Bay Area, cross-disciplinary teams in the faculties of architecture, landscape architecture and urban design will shape a vision to influence a clear policy for Hong Kong’s long-term sustainable growth.

This endeavor begins on May 10, 2018 from 3-6 p.m. with a CED Talk titled “CED Talk: Pacific Rim – Urban Resilience by Design,” raising questions about urban futures. All are welcome to join in 170 Wurster Hall.

Speculative Urbanism: Modernist Planning and Housing Practices in Colonial Hong Kong, 1912-1939

Project title: Speculative Urbanism: Modernist Planning and Housing Practices in Colonial Hong Kong, 1912-1939

Principal Investigator:
Dr. Cecilia L. Chu, Division of Landscape Architecture

Funding body: Research Grants Council’s Early Career Scheme (ECS) Award


This research traces the history of modernist planning and speculative housing practices in colonial Hong Kong between 1912 and 1939. It aims to explore three central but under-examined aspects of colonial urban development in the period: the advent of modernist planning practices that were closely entwined with early segregation policies in Hong Kong and other British colonies; the adaptation of official narratives by local developers in large-scale housing projects; and the emergence of a distinct urban milieu in which a growing number of the propertied class sought to claim a stake in the evolving colonial society amidst ongoing modernization and economic growth.

The ultimate goal of this project is to identify the interwar years as a significant historical moment in which a particular mode of speculative development and urban “governmentality” became consolidated in Hong Kong. A careful study of the transnational flow of knowledge and its uneven translation into specific projects will offer critical insights on how conceptions of race, class and property ownership became key elements in the shaping of the urban milieu and emergent sense of Hong Kong identity. It will also show how discourses and policies established in the colonial past have remained powerful frameworks for urban change in the post-colonial present.


  • To reposition the early 20th century as a significant moment where emergent ideas of planning, housing and urban reform were debated and implemented in Hong Kong.
  • To illustrate the multifarious networks that connected Hong Kong with other regions, and by doing so challenge the previous “diffusionist,” “derivative” models of urban development and longstanding conceptions of “centers” and “peripheries” in urban studies.
  • To address the significance of property relations facilitated by colonial capitalism and to provide a more nuanced understanding of the relations between the government and the “governed” under colonial rule.
  • To enable more critical revaluations of urban development and governance in the post-WWII period.
  • To make the case that historical research is an essential component for pedagogies of planning and policy practices.


  • “The Garden Cities of Hong Kong.” A conference paper presented at the Association of American Geographers, 2015.
  • “Housing as Social Experiment: Rethinking the Legacy of Modernist Planning Outside Europe, 1900-1950.” A conference panel organized for the Association of American Geographers, 2015.
  • “Shaping New Playscapes: The Emergence of Modernist Recreational Spaces in Hong Kong, 1920-1945.” An article for a proposed special journal issue, “Asia at Play: The Emergence of Modernist Recreational Landscapes, 1900-1970.”
  • “Mapping Hong Kong Architecture.” A series of exhibitions organized by Docomomo Hong Kong Chapter between 2013-2016.

Anticipated impact

  • This project will make a significant contribution to the scholarship of international planning history and to the urban history of Hong Kong. The new historical perspectives offer by this work will enable more critical evaluations of urban development in Hong Kong in the post-WWII period and the present.
Hong Kong’s infrastructure projects (Source: Heather Coulson).

Landscapes of Infrastructure

Project Title: Landscapes of Infrastructure

Project Team:
Dorothy S. Tang (Co-PI), DLA HKU
Cecilia L. Chu (Co-PI), DLA HKU
Iris Chan, Special Collection, HKU Library
Heather Coulson, Construction Photographer

Project Funder:  Currently in preparation for funding bid.


Landscape of infrastructure is an exhibition and publication project centering on the exploration of ecological, technological, and social dimensions of infrastructure in the shaping of Hong Kong’s modernist landscapes from 1970 to the present. The project, which includes a public exhibition, a lecture series, and publication of research articles, is three-fold. First, it will help facilitate interdisciplinary discussions between academics, built environment professionals and members of the public with a shared interest in the histories of infrastructure. Second, it will offer an opportunity to reflecting on Hong Kong’s phenomenal infrastructure development in the past and envision ways to shape the city’s urban futures. Lastly, the project will act as a catalyst for much-needed research on the roles of infrastructure in shaping the forms of the city and everyday life of citizens.

The proposed public exhibition, entitled “Infrastructure Imagination: Hong Kong City Futures: 1972-2017,” will revisit infrastructure projects in Hong Kong in the last four decades. The exhibition will center on the Heather Coulson Photograph Collection, which has been generously donated to the HKU Library by Heather Coulson, a construction photographer who worked in Hong Kong between 1972-1988. Photographs of the collection, many of which have never been shown to public before, comprise a valuable documentation of major infrastructural projects implemented in Hong Kong. The exhibition will be supplemented with personal stories, historic films, oral histories from professionals and community members, and archival records that document the construction boom in Hong Kong in the last quarter of the 20th century.

Anticipated Outputs:

  • Lecture series organized by the Division of Landscape Architecture.
  • Public Exhibition and half-day symposium on infrastructure in Hong Kong.
  • Two research articles for publication in refereed journals.
  • Edited book, with curated photographs, interviews, and essays.


“The provision of adequate infrastructure of every kind – for power and water supplies; transportation of every type; land creation for new towns and for many other purposes – has created significant design challenges for Hong Kong’s engineering fraternity, and resulted in some extraordinarily brilliant solutions. The exhibition will surely be a tour de force!”

(Richard Gamlen, Civil Engineer, Hong Kong).


urban dialogues

Remaking City Futures: Heritage and Urban Regeneration in the Asia-Pacific

Project Title: Remaking City Futures: Heritage and Urban Regeneration in the Asia-Pacific

Principal Investigator: Cecilia L. Chu (DLA)

Project Funder:  Seed Funding for Basic Research, HKU (in preparation for application)


This research project aims to contribute to the scholarship of urban futures in the Asia-Pacific by examining heritage conservation as a specific kind of future-oriented urban intervention through which different social actors participate in reshaping the forms of cities. More specifically, it explores how these dynamics have been unfolding in Macau, Hong Kong and Singapore, three metropolises that have witnessed a significant surge of public debates and advocacy activities on the conservation of natural and cultural heritage in recent years. Through a series of interviews with built environment professionals, government officials, NGOs and other community members involved with conservation work, this research will illustrate how accelerating urban change have helped galvanize particular ethical positions toward urban regeneration and produce new knowledge of cities. The comparison of situations in Macau, Hong Kong and Singapore will further elucidate how these initiatives have been significantly shaped by specific historical experiences and that the different colonial “heritage” of each place has continued to serve as key sources for generating collective aspirations for the urban future.

Anticipated Outputs:

  • Two book chapters for publication in edited books.
  • Two scholarly articles to be submitted to refereed journals for publication (targeted journals: Geoforum, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Studies ).
  • A series of public forums on urban regeneration and conservation in Hong Kong (organized by Docomomo Hong Kong Chapter).


Outputs Already Disseminated:

  • “Spectacular Macau: Visioning Futures for a World Heritage City.” A refereed article published in Geoforum, October 2015.


  • Spectacular Cities of Our Time.” An editorial article for a Special Issue published in Geoforum, October 2015.


  • “Envisioning Urban Futures: Spectacle, Heritage, and Emergent Activism in Postcolonial Macau and Hong Kong.” A conference paper presented at “Urban Asia: Futures Pasts, Present and Yet to Come,” a workshop organized by National University of Singapore, February 22-23, 2016.
  • “Urban Dialogues: Reconfiguring Hong Kong’s Central District.” A public forum organized by Docomomo Hong Kong Chapter, March 24 2016.
  • “Cities by Experts for the People? In Search of Spaces of Hope in the Intersection of Power and Knowledge.” A conference panel organized for the Association for Asian Studies in Asia (AAS-in-Asia, Kyoto, June 24-27, 2016).

Shaping a New Moral Topography: Emerging Roles of Landscape Design in the Planning of Chinese Cities, 1911-1949

Project Title: Shaping a New Moral Topography: Emerging Roles of Landscape Design in the Planning of Chinese Cities, 1911-1949

Principal Investigator: Cecilia L. Chu, DLA

Project Funder: Hong Kong Research Grants Council’s General Research Fund (GRF) Award


This research aims to explore the growing significance of landscape design in the planning of Chinese cities from 1911-1949. It seeks to explore three under-­‐examined aspects of this shift. The first is   the changing meanings ascribed to new types of landscape spaces that emerged in this period; including public parks, botanical gardens, children’s playgrounds and other recreational venues,   which had by the 1920s become key sites of modernization and nationalist social reform under the government of the Republican of China. Second, it considers the interconnection between studies of landscapes and other newly established professional disciplines, including botanical science, civil engineering, public health, urban planning and urban administration. Third, it examines how modernist landscape spaces were articulated in a variety of narratives, such as academic writings, social commentaries, fictions, textbooks and children’s primers. By tracing the multiple interpretation of the roles of landscape and connecting them with key planning projects initiated in this period, this research elucidates the complex forces behind the shaping of forms and norms of cities in China in  the early 20th century, an unsettling epoch in which social discontent, simmering nationalism, and emergent aspirations for a better urban future intersect.

Anticipated Outputs:

  • Two full-­‐length scholarly articles for publication in refereed journals (targeted journals: Environment and Planning A, Planning Perspectives, Journal of Historical Geography).
  • Production of a database on the history of modernist landscape design and planning in China for use by other
  • A book proposal on the history of modernist landscape architecture in China