Since approximately a decade or so we are witnessing a shift in architecture that has the capacity to bring us closer again to materiality, craft and technology. Computation, new software packages and innovative CAD/CAM construction methods have paved the way for designers and architects alike to engage again much more in the construction process and the making of a building. With the advent of robotic fabrication in Architecture we are now witnessing the next step in this evolution. While previously CAM systems were borrowed from different industries and applied to architectural purposes, the robot starts to give the opportunity to open up an entire new paradigm. The architect him or herself can now invent and define the technology, craft and material system from scratch, giving new opportunities for innovation in Architecture but also allow for the possible redefinition for the role of the Architect in the industry itself.

With these exciting developments on the horizon, the studio had two main objectives. On one hand it was a hands-on investigation on how to generate new technologies, material systems and craftsmanship with the aid of the robot, on the other hand the studio looked at in what way we can apply those for the development of full scale performative architectural prototypes.

As a point of departure, the studio looked into traditional architectural elements, such as the column, the wall and the roof. China has a rich history of those in timber construction.  The studio will investigated the specific material systems, technology and craft involved and tested in which way we can use this knowledge to generate new interpretations.

Re-forging Fragments

This thesis develops a method for dismantling and transporting large decom­missioned ships and remodeling them into architecture. It applies this process to developing a cruise terminal in the port of Dalian, China, one of the container ports the government plans to transform to encompass cruise homeport functions. The thesis suggests an unconventional but emerging method of reusing steel: ‘recycling without melting’. Typically steel is melted and recycled but that process uses 1/3 of energy of making new steel from iron ore. Thus there is an emerging practice of reusing end-of-life steel components in a non-destructive way, whether in modular component structure, or in large-scale designs such as the trusses of London Olympic stadium, which uses abandoned gas pipes. This thesis experiments on the reuse of shipping vessels, because while avoiding the emissions involved in melting mass of steel, the project suggests that the shipping vessels themselves offer interesting opportunities architecturally and aesthetically. The project investigates how the dismantling and reassembly of ship parts generate spatial conditions that are diverse yet of a similar aesthetic language.

Downtown Athletic Club HK | Architecture Upside-Down:

In 1853 American inventor Elisha Otis presented at Manhattan’s first World’s Fair a tiny but important addition to his invention of the elevator. A simple add on, the automated brake prevented elevator platforms from crashing. With this discovery the typology of the modern high-rise was born and its development and success unstoppable. With this technology, it was now possible to access easily all repeated planes of the original plot and new skyrocketing heights started to occur that were unthinkable before. Triggered by technology and a prosperous economy the high-rise became the building type of choice for any investor in the major cities in the US, and architects, engineers and film directors rendered a whole new utopic world on the canvas with vertical gardens and cities in the air.

Today high-rise buildings shape many of the global metropolises around the world, and even more so the fast developing cities in Asia. In Shanghai alone more than 3000 buildings labelled as tall were build in the past 25 years. With many urbanization projects on the horizon Chinese cities will soon be dominated by this typology. Though high-rise buildings have developed over time and structural evolution has made them higher and higher, the early visionary promises were seldom realized. In most cases today they are single programmed entities disassociated from the horizontally dominated urban context, making them at times rather a problem than a solution for the quality of urban life.

Nowadays architects, engineers and contractors have a whole new set of technologies at hand to render, calculate and construct high rise buildings. While many new shapes have occurred in recent years, in most cases the logic of the typology has rarely been challenged and is merely old wine in new skins. – In essence the studio had two main objectives. On one hand it was a hands-on investigation on how new technologies in the design industry can trigger innovative approaches for architecture, on the other hand the studio developed alternative manifestoes for high density urban structures that have the capacity to translate vibrant urban qualities of a horizontal user surface into the vertical domain and challenge the limitations of generic tower typologies of today.

The site for the project was in Hong Kong, a city that through its limitations of land supply has been for long a testing ground for towers. Until today it’s still the place with the largest agglomeration of high-rise buildings in the world. As a point of departure and a programmatic source, the studio took on one of histories most iconic and programmatically diverse high rise structures, the downtown athletic club, “one of the rare 20th century buildings that is truly revolutionary, … a masterpiece of the Culture of Congestion.” (Rem Koolhaas)

CeramicINformation Pavilion

CeramicINformation Pavilion
Rethinking structural terracotta bricks through robotic 3D printing technologies

Project Leaders: Christian J. Lange, Donn Holohan

Research Assistants: Mono Tung, Kristy Chow, Pamela Maguigad

The Fabrication and Material Technologies Lab of The Faculty of Architecture at The University of Hong Kong has recently finished its second robotically manufactured intervention called “CeramicINformation Pavilion.”

The project is part of an evolving series, which aims to reconcile the material intelligence of vernacular crafts with the specificity and flexibility promised by digital design and fabrication technologies. This particular iteration explores the process of construction, and seeks to find an appropriate level of automation suitable for emerging and transitioning economies.

Each of the approximately 1000 components that make up the experimental structure is unique and has a specific immanent relationship to its neighbors. This approach allowed the complex construction to be realized using unskilled labor, over a short period, without the need for typical architectural drawings. 

As a point of departure, this project examined the ubiquitous terracotta brick – common in modern Chinese construction, and explored it’s potential re-shaping through the process of robotic 3d printing. Approximately 1.5million lines of code were generated – with each brick containing an average of 1400 individual target-points.

The bricks were manufactured over a period of 20 days before the lightweight elements were shipped to the site and assembled into the multifaceted wall. The project not only highlights the new possibilities for architectural expression, but also the capacity these systems have to change the way in which we fashion the built environment.

The project was part of the 2017/18 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture (UABB) in Shenzhen, China.

Completion Year:  2017

Location: No. 82 East Zhongshan Street, Wanli Industrial Zone, Nantou Old Town, Nanshan District, Shenzhen

Built Area (m2):  3 sqm

Funding body:  UABB Shenzhen

Ceramic Constellation Pavilion

Ceramic Constellation Pavilion
Spatial shifts through robotically fabricated terracotta bricks

Project Leaders: Christian J. Lange, Donn Holohan, Holger Kehne

Research Assistants: Tony Lau, Anthony Hu, Teego Ma Jun Yin, Ernest Hung Chi Lok, Chau Chi Wang, Ren Depei, Mono Tung, He Qiye, Henry Ho Yu Hong

Workshop students: Go Yi, Sisay Sombo, Cheung Hoi Ching, Cheung King Man, Cheung Pak Yin , Ho Pui Lun, Verena Leung , Sharon So Cheuk Ying , Xu Junjie, Zhao Jinglun, Sampson Ip Cheuk Sum, Tan Shaoying, Yeung Tsz Wing

The Fabrication and Material Technologies Lab of The Faculty of Architecture at The University of Hong Kong has recently finished its first robotically manufactured intervention called “Ceramic Constellation Pavilion.”

The Pavilion, which was built by researchers and students utilizing robotic technology, is the first outcome of a new collaboration between The Faculty of Architecture at HKU and Sino Group.  The research initiative that supports arts, cultures, and technology is intended to foster cultural awareness of new technologies for the built environment.

In a context that has been largely shaped by standardization and mass production, the project seeks to overcome the constraints of today’s architectural production through the introduction of a structure made entirely of non-standard components.

This inaugural workshop of the “Sino Group Robotic Architecture Series” utilized terracotta clay to test the possibilities and limits within robotic fabrication and to revitalize a material system that has a significant tradition in Asia.

Departing from traditional brick bonds, the 3.8m tall project articulates a load-bearing composite structure with timber – where each of the nearly 2000 3d printed terracotta bricks is unique and different, enabling varying degrees of transparency, morphological shifts, and new experiences.

Around 700 kg of raw terracotta clay was printed over a period of 3 weeks into individual bricks that were then fired at 1025 degrees Celsius. With 2-3 minutes average printing time for each brick, the pavilion is one of the first of its kind in the world that incorporates this specific material system.

All components were fabricated with the equipment in the newly fitted Robotics Lab at HKU’s Faculty of Architecture and assembled during a ten-day workshop by students from the Department of Architecture.

The project was on show from June 19th to July 6th 2017 in the North Atrium of Olympian City, West Kowloon.

Completion Year:  2017

Location: North Atrium of Olympian City, West Kowloon, Hong Kong

Built Area (m2):  2.5 sqm

Funding body:  Sino Group

Structural engineers:  Goman Ho & Alfred Fong – Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd


Cities of Repetition: Hong Kong’s Private Housing Estates

Principal Investigator: Jason F. CARLOW (Co-PI), Christian J. LANGE (Co-PI)
Funding body: HKU Small Project Grant; FoA dean’s start-up fund


Throughout the 20th Century, in Hong Kong and around the world, the prefabrication of standardized architectural elements has enabled builders, governments and developers to increase the scale and pace of construction. During the influx of new residents to Hong Kong in waves throughout the mid-20th Century, new high-rise housing types were invented and built all over Hong Kong. The housing produced was tall, dense and standardized and built to house as many residents as possible as quickly as possible. While the history and architecture of public housing has been well researched and documented, relatively little has been done to trace the evolution of Hong Kong’s private housing estates.

The Cities of Repetition project provides a comprehensive graphic documentation and analysis of the largest Hong Kong housing estates built by private developers from the late 1960’s through the early 2000’s. The original drawings and diagrams illustrate and compare the ultra-dense, mass-produced, highly repetitive built environments in which tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents live. Drawings and plans not only display the immense scale of the housing estates within the city, but also present the hundreds of similarly planned housing units and their subtle differences. The exhibit and larger research project present a comprehensive analysis of the architectural and spatial realities of some of the most densely populated, urban environments ever built.


The project sets out to document degrees of repetition and standardization across Hong Kong’s largest housing estates and to visualize the close relationship between building code and building form in profit-driven housing projects.


The project shows that most all of Hong Kong’s largest housing estates share a single tower type with minimal adjustments for site conditions or unit variation. Over the course of the late 20th Century tower blocks became more repetitive as land value increased, code restrictions became tighter, advances in structural engineering allowed buildings to become taller and design was digitalized.


  • Exhibition, Cities of Repetition: Hong Kong’s Privately Developed Housing Estates, July – August 2015, HKU Shanghai Study Center, Shanghai, China http://ash.arch.hku.hk/2015/06/16/16-july-9-august-cities-of-repetition/
  • Lecture, AA Symposium, “Cities & Specificities, AA Visiting School Shanghai, Shanghai, China.
  • Book (Forthcoming) Cities of Repitition: Hong Kong’s Private Housing Estates, co-authored book with Christian J. Lange, (in contract negotiations with publisher).

Anticipated Impact

The project forms a critical graphic history of the densification of Hong Kong over the last 50 years. Broader publication will provide architects and urban designers across China, East Asia and the world with examples of extremely dense development and warn them against the possible dangers of overly standardized and monotonous urban environments.

Summer workshop 6

Building Community Projects in Hong Kong: Summer Workshop for Rural Village

Date/ Time: 13 September 2015, 4:30pm
Venue: Au Law Organic Farm, Tai Kong Po Village, Kam Tin
Supervisors: Wang Weijen, Christian J. Lange
Tutor: Rosalia Leung
Students: Hilary Chan, Charity Cheung, Dicky Chu, Simon Lai, Debby Lam
Volunteers: Adam, Ah Wing, Alfred, Ankie, Anna Mak, Bonnie, Connie, Ellery, Elsa, Faem, Gilbert, Harrison, Henry, Howard, Jamie, Julian, Leo, Shelly, Wing, YK
黃生, 張生, 阿滿, 林志豪, 阿單, 短俊, 呀六, 呀袁, 威哥, 柴狼, 偉仔


After almost two months of engagement from our students, we are happy to announce that the construction of the eco-toilet has been a success. An opening celebration was organized on 13 September 2015 to celebrate with the villagers, numerous volunteers and various donors. This memorable moment has marked an important leap in the communal and rural architectural development in Hong Kong.

Institute of Topology

Since the early 1990’s the architectural discourse has been influenced largely by digital technology and concepts of mathematics. Many architects have borrowed such theoretical models for their own designs and their philosophical position. The rise of digital technology and the infiltration of it in architecture have lead in general to a much more complex formal and spatial language in the profession. Although some architects have mastered to deal with the complexities and contrac­tions of intricate spaces and morphologies, the majority of architects who are dea­ling with digital forms today are lacking the ability to formulate meaningful spaces. A fundamental question in Architecture is still how the inside relates to the outside and vice versa.


The studio therefore investigated topological surfaces as a driver to generate alternative approaches to architecture. These surfaces are highly intricate systems that reveal complex spatial qualities. Unlike Cartesian Geometry, Topology is not de­fined by points in space and is not concerned with shape and size. It mainly deals with properties such as connectivity and continuity, which is a prerequisite for a holistic approach to Architecture.


The studio had two main objectives. On one hand it was a hands-on investigation into topological systems and their potential of creating continuous space. On the other hand the studio sought to tackle the issue of a coherent architectural spatial and morphological language that addresses exterior and interior but also structure, organization and circulation. The studio used the fictitious program of an Institute of Topology on the campuses of Poly U in Hong Kong as a testing ground to experiment with these concepts.

Serial Architectures | Systems of Multiplicities

With an estimated increase of around 300 million village dwellers becoming city dwellers within the next decades in China, the building industry is facing a challenge unprecedented. If in average a housing tower can provide living space for around 450 people, China would have to build around 650,000 of them.

Hong Kong has experienced a building boom already quite some time ago. Due to the historical circumstances and the lack of space, the tower typology became eventually the modus operandi within the city boundary. In the last two decades the podium tower typology emerged as the predominant building model of efficiency and economy for high-density housing in Hong Kong. Now this model has become a reference for contemporary urban housing developments in China. Although nothing is eventually wrong with this building type per se, if deployed in large numbers urban spaces turn into highly repetitive organizations, lacking orientation, identity and specificity. As a result architecture and urban form turn into pure monotony.

The key questions that must be asked: Is the podium tower typology aggregated in huge numbers the right model for high density living, and if not what are the other models that could be suitable? On the other hand how can we architects avoid the pitfall of producing one of a kind designs that get repeated over and over again? The studio tried to find answers to these questions and invested deeply in the experimentation and production of alternative solutions by establishing new design techniques that can produce difference, variation and specificity.

Trigger(Arch): Reality Game

Over the years, video games have grown to become more than just a time-wasting escape from reality. Their existence has become more relevant to the built world – and, consequently – the lives of everyone in our modern society. The impact of this vastly growing medium can be divided roughly into three main categories: the expansive use of its Technology, the constant exchange of ideas of Spatial Design between the real and virtual worlds, and its overall Social Impact on society as a medium – which consequently transforms existing physical space. The goal of this study is to produce a catalog of examples of where video games are having significant impact on modern society. Each category is briefly discussed with examples, and a conclusion is drawn for each topic – questions are also posed for the future of architecture.