Drawing as Thinking, Drawing and Thinking, Thinking about Drawing and Making, Drawing and Making, and Re-Thinking and Making

Platform: Ecology, Regeneration, and Sustainability

Agencies involved in the field of architecture and the city, often use terms borrowed from science, to understand and communicate relationships of architecture and the environment. Ecology is one such term. The city can be seen as a physically built environment, or a permanent human settlement in which people live together[1]. Architecture forms a part of this environment but is also a product of it and of the society it is situated within; influenced by social, cultural, and often political forces. In this context, regeneration can be seen as the process by which architecture adapts and readapts to changes in society and the physical environment; and sustainability as an evaluation of the performance and productivity of architecture within its environment – the city and its people. This studio looks in detail at a particular site in the city to investigate ideas of ecology, regeneration and sustainability within the context of the Central Harbourfront of Hong Kong.

Studio: Observing (Site), Imagining (Programme), Contextualizing (Reference), Experimenting (Prototyping), Discussing and Negotiating (Evaluation)

With the rebuilding of Central Hong Kong, the ecology of the city is undergoing tremendous change. The Central master plan suggests a tabula rasa approach in which the existing waterfront and the Victoria Harbour will be replaced. This Studio takes another look at the potential of the architecture that currently exists, in particular that of the Star Ferry Pier Car park. The Studio will pay particular attention to the ecology of this built architecture and its relationship to the city and its people.

In the context of ideas of regeneration the Studio will develop programme ideas that could alter this found ecology. The car park will be used as a testing ground to reimagine what this open structure could become and how we, as citizens or students within the city, would like to use it as an element of the waterfront.We will investigate this piece of architecture as a means of testing ideas to re-generate this part of the city, and its use of architecture.

Issues of sustainability will be interrogated through discussions held throughout the semester. We will investigate the consequences our ideas could carry, and how these ideas and consequences could evolve over time.

Tools and Method: Drawing as a Means of Observing, Thinking,
Discussing and Communicating

Drawings are tools to communicate and to visualize ideas, but they are also a means for learning, and driving or evolving a thinking process. Within the Studio we will use drawing not just as a still but as a tool to allows us to diverge our thinking; discuss ideas and findings; and communicate this process, not only between ourselves but also to others.

The Studio will start by observing the place of the ferry car park with scaled architectural drawings. These drawings will be aimed at investigating and highlighting relationships of architecture to the city in different scales, paper sizes and types of drawings: Artificial and Natural, Material and Social, Built and Experienced.

Building towards an optimistic scenario that allows us to speculate about uses for this site; the Studio will then experiment with responsive drawings to drive and discuss narratives for a possible future for the Star Ferry Car Park. Interviews with potential agencies for the site will support the development of those imaginations. (examples could include events such as the Clockenflap Festival; institutions such as City Hall with its wedding events; or other such inhabitations).

Reading week will be an opportunity for individual study of past and contemporary architecture practices that have dealt with regeneration in the field of architecture. The discourse of those practices will be documented and discussed with words and diagrams within one drawing. Each student will take on the standpoint of a particular practice and argue through their position, with the other students representing the views of different practices.

(Discussing Amongst Others: Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood (Fun Palace),

Diller and Scorfido (Highline), Interboro (Holding Pattern), Raumlabor (Haus der Statistik/ The Osthang Project), Chora (Tempelhof) etc.)

The studio, both as a collective and as individual members, would by the end of reading week, have invested time in understanding the place, the architecture of the carpark, and the programme potential of the site, and will be ready to enter a phase of negotiating the design idea through the knowledge collected. They will negotiate regeneration as a communication process through several implementations on site. Rather than thinking through a linear design process the attitude will be to think in multiple scales, and options, or view points to again discuss and communicate the design idea via different modes of model making.

Discussions held within the studio, as well as thoughts should be processed and captured within a journal by each student.

[1] See: City Definition, Wikipedia

Back to the CO-mmune: Caring is Sharing

“Commonspace is a new way of living, working and making human connections. It is no less than revolutionary in its simplicity, but perfectly aligned with the human spirit.  We are all social creatures, and the best versions of ourselves are expressed when we do so in a group.” www.commonspace.io

 “It has absolutely validated that, for many New Yorkers, quality of life is not measured in terms of square feet. We believe ‘millennial’ is more aptly defined as a mindset rather than an age group, characterized by individuals who are favoring acquisition of experiences over ownership of things.” Co-Founder Ollie, Chris Bledsoe, www.ollie.co/carmel-place 

Whereas the overcrowding of traditional housing units is pushing the permanent living arrangements of urban inhabitants into extreme conditions, the shared economy market, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, have derived global business models for temporary living and Co-living by exploding private markets, or re-altering the concept of shared living.

Some AirBnb hosts have pushed limits to extremes by offering wooden boxes for rent, as living spaces within flats. In another example, a pod-based community in LA, Pod-Share, has marketed a form of transit community living, with bunk beds. The membership model in this case goes beyond the common and traditional understandings of hostel living, or shared housing. ‘We are trying to strike a balance between social good while creating enough of an economic reserve to keep building more pods,’ says Evina Beck, Co-Founder Pod-Share. ‘The nightly, weekly or monthly membership is meant to be set up in a way that if you just have a toothbrush and clean underwear, you can survive here like a baller on a budget.’ [1]

Co-living brands like Welive, The Common in New York, or upscale pod-housing like the Campus in Hong Kong have started to challenge and develop the private formal housing market. These entrepreneurs collaborate with property developers on housing, that is in line with ideas of upscale communal living. While personal space is reduced, communal space is extended and upgraded with quality communal facilities and services.

The Campus Development in Tsuen Wan, New Territories, is a conversion of 48 four-bed dormitories containing individual pods that each house a desk and wardrobe, under an elevated bunk bed. The communal aspect of these living arrangements is key. Campus events offer a bonding mechanism for inhabitants of the neighborhood and there is much praise for the shared facilities that are part of communal life within the development.

The supporters of Co-Living see a solution to the problem of housing by fostering the notion of communal living, and opening up an experimental field for the global city. This is aimed at single transient people who are looking for better housing and are attracted by the social aspects of communal living,

Critiques argue that the implementation of micro units forms a vicious circle: Tiny flats achieve better profits with higher prices per sq ft and smaller lump-sum amounts in their investment. Developers in Hong Kong have been putting up ‘shoebox units’ for rent in the housing market with an average area of just 200 sq ft. In their proposed 3,400-unit project in Sham Shui Po, the Sun Hung Kai Properties mini-flats start from an area of just 160 sq ft per unit — excluding the kitchen and bathroom. ‘From developers’ point of view, strong demand for these flats will also reduce their investment risk, so why not build more small flats?’[2], says Charles Chan, Savills’ Managing Director for Valuation and Professional Services. — Turning anything into micro units, however, does not make them necessarily affordable and in fact can have quite the opposite effect. The micro accommodations are not cheap and are comparable with renting out a single unit. The average wage in Hong Kong is HKD 14,877 (ca. 1,670 Euro) with the minimum wage set at HKD 10,382 (ca. 1,150 Euro)[3] per month. An upscale bunk bed in the New Territories Campus Development on the outskirts of the city, costs HKD 7,800 (ca. 880 Euro), or HKD 162,5 per sq sf, per month, while a 200 sq ft single unit in a privately developed inner-city housing tower can be rented for HKD 17,000 (ca. 2000 Euro), or HKD 85 per sq ft, per month.

With this in mind, this studio looks at how to develop the minimum amount of space while integrating the concept of Co-Living. How can we learn from existing Co-living models? How can shared housing within the global city generate new architectures in either addressing different life style groups, or the issue of affordability, or the minimum space available? Is there room for invention and new typologies for housing when linking these to the global network and the shared economy? How does the traditional understanding of the flat and plan change, with a paradigm shift in ideas of private and communal space? How does the transit nature of the global city can be considered? Can we design flexible transit housing? How can we, as architects, find responses to the growing demand for flexibility within housing, but also the need for communal living? More importantly how can we engage as architects with the emerging field of the shared economy?

This studio will analyze the current debate on Co-Living and Micro-Housing. It will dive into an analysis of the shared economy and start-up businesses around Co-Living and Co-Workingboth globally and locally. The studio investigates how the notion of ‘share’ is understood in each of the investigated Co-living models. We will study how these are branded and engineered, how they are calculated, whom are they made for, and how they are eventually manifested in architecture. The studio will also contemplate the future of housing, taking Hong Kong’s requirements as the best and worst extremes, with a view to innovating ideas around the Co.

[1] “In pod based community living, rent is cheap, but sex is banned”, motherboard.vice.com, 03.28.2016


[2] “Developers squeeze out tiny flats as home prices soar”, Sandy Li, South China Morning Post, 20.10.2014.


[3] Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong, July 2015.