Transfer 01


Architectural space and structure are symbiotic in a building. However structure is the domain of engineers has lost its relevance as an imminent design tool for architects. In the contemporary production of architecture, structural models merely solve problems of the shape of architecture. The studio studied the spatial and design potentials of structure, becoming the driver of concept and space and the resulting spatial opportunities. The studio challenged the high rise typology and it’s predominant podium-tower configuration and specifically investigated the idea of structural transfer.

The studio was a single term research and design project. The project was a hybrid structure on HKU campus, built over the existing heritage building of UMAC. The new structure was not allowed to touch the existing building. However, full air rights were be granted. The program was framed in terms of two structurally opposing conditions: A generic mass program and a specific site related program. The proposed project was a single highrise structure of 150m. The purpose was to explore the structural transfer between two opposite programs.

Material Settings

This course serves as an introduction to architectural design and the design.

Studio – and explores making as an essential component of design. The theme for this first studio is the Table – understood both in its functional and structural terms but also in its cultural value as a place of exchange and community. With a strong emphasis on the collective, this studio introduces and promotes the principles of collaborative learning. Working with tutors, experts and each other, students are immersed in the complex, interrelated problems presented by the city, while simultaneously tackling material and logistic problems related to construction.

In The Universe of Small

Thesis Abstract

“For our house is our corner of the world… our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word. If we look at it intimately, the humblest dwelling has beauty.”

Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard 1958

‘In the Universe of Small’ seeks to reconsider the overtly utilitarian and automatic thinking of multi-residential design. Specifically, it responds to a new housing typology emerging in Hong Kong where apartments are approximately the size of a standard carpark space. Despite its physical constraint, they continue to act as miniature houses, containing a private bathroom, kitchen, living and outdoor area. The thesis questions this current practice of repetitive individualisation and aspires to liberate architecture from the functional stacking of units. Three canonical houses are chosen and then interpreted through writing, iterative drawings and physical models. This methodology allows for a theoretical ground to produce a cross dialogue between the chosen projects and the micro domestic condition of today. While discovering architectural strategies for unravelling the universe of the small, the project simultaneously evaluates the challenge for a new notion of unit in the city.

Making Architecture: Shophouse


Under the unprecedented influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, this design studio was conducted entirely online. The use of digital media, referencing and student interaction was incorporated to foster an online studio environment.

Hong Kong is based on trade and commerce. Subsequently, many commercial typologies have emerged. The Tong Lau is its most prominent Hong Kong specific type of the shophouse, consisting of a ground floor shop and an upper floor which is used for storage and/or the owner’s living quarter. A courtyard is located either at the backend or in the centre.

This project introduces context, program and volume for architectural design. Students were asked to work in thee neighbourhoods with different topologies, interacting with their neighbours and the urban slope. The studio was focused on two streams of output: A portfolio, documenting the separate steps using multimedia of photography, text, sketches and technical drawings, as well as digital drawings, which were references to a collective plan displaying the interaction and creating a sense of team effort in the neighbourhood design.


1 Analysis. The first exercise focused on observation and abstraction. Students learned from an existing context by observing, studying and drawing. Students chose any shop in Hong Kong (hawker stalls, wet market, shopping mall etc.), took one specific spatial photo in b/w of that space and drew an isometric drawing, a section, and write a 100 work analytic text.

2 Speculation. The reference project only acted as a starting point to critically investigate a spatial idea and its potentials. Students sketched a speculative section and wrote a 100-word concept about its purpose and function/performance.

3 Variations. Each student proposed three options for a single shop focusing and emphasizing aspects of their speculative section. This created an important transition from abstract drawing to a scaled and functional architectural intervention.

4 Design. Three imaginary urban sites were given with specific site conditions. Each student designed a spatial concept for their Tong Lau based on the previous steps 1-3, interacting with their neighbours and taking into consideration aspects of the environment, context, tectonics and construction.

5 Detail. This exercise focuses on synthesizing the conceptual idea of the shophouse into a constructive detail. A pars pro toto emphasized the consistency of design from big idea to small detail. Students summarized their shophouse in one particular spatial detail at scale 1:20.

Learning outcome

+ develop an intellectual and consistent argument for the development of design
+ understand the impact of structure and construction on the design
+ develop a project based on creative and innovative use of drawings and models
+ design with study models on various scales

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


Sun Room

Shelter and Resting Place
Peitian Village, Fujian Province, China

Location: Peitian Village, Fujian Province, China
Design: Donn Holohan / the University of Hong Kong
Construction: Peitian Community Craftsmen
Funding: Supported by the Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Fund, HKU
Project Team: Elspeth Lee, Jiang Hejia (Team Leader) HKU Architecture Students
Size: 20 sqm

Sun Room is an in-situ composite woven bamboo shell, which explores the potential of digital design and fabrication techniques to reinvigorate traditional craft.

Bamboo weaving is both a sustainable and culturally significant method of construction in China, but due to its complexity and reliance on skilled labour, is in deep decline. The Sun Room project sought to apply digital design methodologies to break down the complexity of this age old craft – simultaneously exploring its potential at an architectural scale and its accessibility as an alternative construction methodology for local people. Over the course of the project, students from the University of Hong Kong and local villagers worked with the last remaining bamboo weaver in Peitian to re-learn, adapt, and evolve this traditional process.

The village of Peitian has been a focus of study for a number of years at HKU, with the initial speculation engaging with issues of village reconstruction and development. Through this study, it came to be understood that aside from the pressing issue of village regeneration, there is an equally urgent crisis underway – in the decline of traditional crafts and trades and the significant loss of intangible cultural heritage that this represents.

The genesis of the project centres on reviving Peitian’s unique “Tea House” typology. These earth and wood structures, embedded into the landscape, act as shelters for local farmers – and also as meeting places, stores or small workshops. Historically, these pavilions were often used by craftsmen to demonstrate their skill or to trial new construction methodologies. Today these structures have, for the most part, been replaced by generic outbuildings in concrete and brick.

Sun Room is a community space that provides a respite for villagers who work the land in the hot growing season. The form and siting of the shelter are carefully considered to maximise ventilation and view and to respect protected viewsheds that are a major feature of the landscape.

Project Information:

Supported by the Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Fund, and integrated within the University of Hong Kong’s Introduction to Architectural Design course, The Sun Room project took 60 students to southern Fujian to aid in the construction of this community structure.



Wind and Rain Bridge

Wind and Rain Bridge
Covered Walkway, Shelter, and Meeting place

Project Team: Jiang, Hejia (Team Leader) Man Ho Kwan, HKU Architecture Students
Funding body: Supported by the Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Fund, HKU
Design: Donn Holohan / the University of Hong Kong

This project seeks to offer an alternative mode of community redevelopment that references local crafts and traditions, and utilizes sustainable materials and methods, to create both social and physical infrastructure. Critical to this process is the integration of digital design methodologies, which allow for the planning and testing of complex assemblies. The high level of training and labor associated with these assemblies has been a barrier to the continued viability of complex, long-span, timber structures in China and other developing and transitioning economies.

Situated on the outskirts of Peitian Village, Fujian Province, China and designed to be constructed without the use of mechanical fasteners, “Wind and Rain Bridge” is a reciprocal interlocking timber structure which draws on the long tradition of wooden buildings native to the region. Each of the bridges’ 265 elements is unique and integral, assembled under the supervision of traditional carpenters, who number some of the few remaining exponents of their craft.  Central to this project is the idea of reciprocity, the bridge uses relatively short elements to build a structure with a span longer than its’ individual parts – where each beam is supported, and supports other beams in the structure. This structural system is generated to fulfil a spatial and social agenda, yet simultaneously the way in which the project is constructed underpins and informs these attitudes.

The bridge is constructed from locally sourced, sustainable timber. It is designed to achieve its’ relatively long span without the use of metal brackets, supports or mechanical fixings. This severe restriction, inspired by vernacular architecture ultimately led to the design of a complex jointing system, which harnesses timbers’ hydroscopic qualities -the expansion of the timber elements in reaction to its environment compresses each of the dovetailed joints which make up its superstructure.

Project Information

Supported by the Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Fund, and integrated within the University of Hong Kong’s introduction
to architectural design course, The Peitian bridge project took 70 students to southern Fujian to aid in the construction
of this community structure.

Location: Peitian Village, Fujian Province, China

Construction: Peitian Community Craftsmen

Size: 20 sqm