COVID-19 Spatial Contact Tracing

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When future epidemic waves of COVID-19 occur, near- instantaneous contact tracing will be essential to lower the transmission growth rate. The recently released Google Apple Contact Tracing (GACT) system only traces device-to-device proximity for users of its app and neglects other crucial spatial- and temporal- aspects of disease transmission. We solve this problem with a simple idea: a Spatial Contract Tracing (SCT) system that tethers static devices (“SCT devices”) to specific spaces.

This idea improves the precision of exposure risk estimates by providing more accurate measures of environment (type of room), distance (between individuals), time (duration and contemporaneity of exposure), and location  (horizontal and vertical coordinates). In the immediate term these metrics enable rapid and comprehensive contact tracing. In the near term they provide an essential natural experiment if transmission models are to be refined and more efficient responses developed.

In the baseline GACT system, mobile devices act as proxies for people, and thus one may speak of devices that are “infected” with COVID-19. GACT detects contact between an infected device and another device when they are within each other’s Bluetooth range. SCT devices mounted on the ceiling of rooms will better detect the presence of all GACT devices. More importantly, these detect contact in five additional situations: app users beyond the GACT detection range; app users occupying the same space at a later time; users holding low-cost Bluetooth beacons; and those reachable by managers of these spaces for users who do not have the app installed or do not own a mobile device.

Alerted contacts could then decide on the relevant level of response to take, which is especially pertinent to those with preexisting health conditions or for contacts who live with or frequently visit individuals at higher risk. Further, because SCT devices run an app following GACT, they inherit the security and privacy features of the GACT system. Lastly, data collected through SCT could be used by epidemiologists to refine the transmission model, thereby enabling more effective contact tracing.

COVID-19 Geolocation

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COVID-19 is primarily spread two ways: 1) Via respiratory droplets; and 2) Transfer from a contaminated surface to the face via your hands (WHO, 2020). Awareness of both colocation and whether an individual has contacted a contaminated surface, such as a doorknob, is important and could better guide individuals toward self-quarantine and COVID-19 testing. Therefore, to contain the periodic spread of COVID-19 in communities, it is vital for individuals to know their personal 14-day exposure risk, which is a combination of having crossed paths with a confirmed COVID-19 case and having contacted a potentially contaminated surface.

Our proposal is a smartphone application and exposure risk assessment model that leverages existing technologies supplemented with the crowdsourced data outlined in this paper. The COVID-19 Geolocation App (the “App”) records an individual user’s location history and computes their exposure risk by cross-referencing that history with an Infectious Space-Time Map (ISTM). Exposure risk is computed entirely on one’s personal smartphone using a geographical subset of the ISTM, which is updated daily from a central server. If heightened exposure risk is detected, the App displays a notification on the user’s smartphone that suggests further action, such as self-quarantine, based on current epidemiological understanding. The ISTM is our proposed model that synthesizes the 14-day location history of voluntarily disclosed (and, in many contexts, health-authority confirmed) COVID-19 cases with existing outdoor and indoor geolocation technologies in public and semi-public spaces. The ISTM focuses explicitly on rapid deployment, user privacy, and flexible adoption of new epidemiological knowledge, such as increased risk due to prolonged exposure to a potentially infected user’s symptomatic phase, and geolocation technologies as they become available.

Industrial Forest

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Industrial Forest is an installation, publication, and set of instructions that examines the transformation of a postindustrial urban site, charting the relationship between nature and spaces of manufacturing within an evolving economy. Recording the growth of nature and the eventual decay of the installation, the study provides a unique idea of continuation after the installation has been dismantled. The work is conceptualized as a reproducible set of instructions that could be duplicated by others, not only in the tangible physical aspects of the work, but the ephemeral qualities of the context of the site and the documentation process. Currently being collected by M+, a museum designed by Herzog & de Meuron under construction in Hong Kong, Industrial Forest does not depict a fixed result, but describes a process of becoming and undoing.

Industrial Forest was one of two enduring works on display at Spring Workshop, which was bestowed the Prudential, Parallel Contemporary Art, and Saatchi Gallery’s ‘Prudential Eye Award’ for ‘The Best Asian Contemporary Art Institution’. Spring is a Hong Kong entity with an international presence due to its prestigious residency and arts programme with visitors received from around the globe.

Spring Workshop had a predetermined finite duration of five years and that limitation contributed to the idea of Industrial Forest, since the project would not be a permanent entity. Therefore, the permanency of the project is positioned as a process, a natural progression reflecting the natural cycles found within constructing and documenting an artificial forest – evidenced in the evolution of building codes, seasonal cycles, political cycles, economic and entropic cycles.


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ESKYIU PLAYKITS is a temporary exhibition, permanent playground, public dialogue, film, performance, and publication which investigates architecture at the intersection of multiple disciplines. In PLAYKITS, creating a sustainable design is positioned as a catalyst for innovation, proscribing not a reductionistic mindset but a maximizing one. Doing more with a finite resource, each element transforms into another – for instance, several track and field hurdles become a chair for the public dialogue, and components of musical instruments for the performance. The idea is to create an exhibition space as a transforming public space, bringing divergent communities together to make use of a collective resource.

The position is that resources do not necessarily need to belong to an individual, they may have productive lives beyond each of us. Materials within the exhibition transform over time, from a water bottle to a shoe, to a temporary exhibition with numerous configurations, and finally to a permanent playground. A primary question considered is how to reconceptualize the idea of ownership – how to recapture the hundreds of thousands of discarded bottles and transform them into shoes, or to take over 50,000 shoes to turn them into material for a temporary exhibition that eventually transforms into a permanent playground for a local school. These are not technical questions of establishing recycling collection points and recycling centers. Instead, this project investigates larger cultural questions of how to reposition recycling away from something that one must do, an obligation, into a unique creative challenge.

Invited to create a retrospective exhibition on our design work, we proposed a ‘projective retrospective’ illustrating how we are shaped by our past work to project a new future. Instead of limiting the exhibition focus to design, we purposefully included elements of music, sports, and dialogue to reach a wider audience. We collectively worked with our prior collaborators in the disciplines of film, music, athletics, and numerous divergent fields in order not to create an isolated, reductionistic, investigation of an idea to prove a position, but as the means to test an inclusive design which responds to a diverse range of criteria and use.

Extreme Optimism

Studio name: Architecture & Urban Design

Politics Art Media

Des Voeux Road Central’s spatial arrangement and its patterns of use.

This studio investigates the possibility for architecture to serve the common wealth of all by creating a new form of urban ecology. We do not only investigate innovative architectural prototypes, but also examine a diverse set of issues related to sustainability and quality of life. Projects respond to problems that are impossible to resolve through technical means alone, investigating issues which require significant changes in human values and relationships in order to address them.

The architectural solutions derived for the first phase are envisioned to encompass socially sustainable design concepts. Testing alternative models of sustainability by developing environmentally responsible techniques, we examine the issue of sustainability not only from a material vantage point but also from a social one. Contemporary buildings have the potential to reveal complex social relationships by juxtaposing programs together on the same site, from the more common programs such as office, commercial, and retail spaces to more specific programs of educational facilities, playgrounds, recreation, entertainment, restaurants, libraries, post offices, museums, markets, theatres, and cultural spaces. The designs respond to a specific site condition and from that analysis to devise an approach to multiply the ground in order to further develop a collective sense of shared capital. Reacting to the possibilities associated with having a condensed urban population, projects test strategies that defy the logic of the contemporary metropolis by proposing a new series of interactions within the public realm. The result proposes how buildings can perform as positive social registers and models of potential.

Central is one of the densest urban areas in the world and a district with some of the worst air quality in Hong Kong. While the urban plan calls for Des Voeux Road Central to be pedestrianized to mitigate the air pollution caused by the urban canyon effect, the cross roads will continue to have vehicular traffic – essentially creating individual islands of nature within the city in the form of an urban archipelago. In this context, the moment of interface with nature is critical, as the design outcomes create a sense of public space within the building that extends out toward the immediate urban context.

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.

Atmospheric Alterations

Set against a backdrop of continuing environmental pressure and uncertainty, this studio seeks alternative modes of architecture that respond holistically to the interrelated problems which occur when a city is designed for maximum efficiency. This studio investigates the possibility for architecture to serve the common wealth of all by creating a new form of urban ecology. Throughout this studio we not only investigate innovative architectural prototypes, but also examine a diverse set of issues related to sustainability and quality of life. Projects respond to problems that are impossible to resolve through technical means alone, examining issues which require significant changes in human values and relationships in order to address them.


This thesis explores architectural interventions to humanize an undesirable, pre-existing, infrastructure which has had a negative impact on surrounding neighborhoods. Such NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) facilities, perceived to be negative assets, can be made beneficial to the community by using diverse types of architectural strategies. Apart from conventional mediation treatments of enhancing the envelope, a number of disciplines are harnessed in this thesis to show how subversive combinations of programs and interventions at different scales can allow a NIMBY asset to contribute to its locality as its fundamental function intended it to, while also being transformed into a PIIMBY (Put It In My Backyard) facility. Beyond conventional physical construction, this thesis project manifests the potential of the cross-disciplinary nature of architecture.

The Films of Charles and Ray Eames

Project Title: The Films of Charles and Ray Eames
Project Team: Eric H Schuldenfrei (PI)

The Films of Charles and Ray Eames traces the history of the Eameses’ work, examining their evolution away from the design of mass-produced goods and toward projects created as educational experiences. Closely examining how the Eameses described their work reveals how the films and exhibitions they generated were completely at odds with the earlier objectives exemplified in their furniture designs. Shifting away from promoting the consumer-culture, they turned their attention to the presentation of complex sets of scientific, artistic, and philosophical ideas.

During a critical period from the late 1950s to the early 1960s there was a moment of introspective self-reflection in the West stemming from the events of the Cold War. This moment of uncertainty was crucial, for it provided the incentive to question the values and concerns of society as a whole. In turn, designers began to question their own sense of purpose, temporarily expanding the purview of design to a broader field of inquiry. In the case of the Eameses, they identified an overriding problem related to consumerism and excess in America and sought to resolve the issue by creating a network of communication between universities, governments, institutions, and corporations. The solution of promoting greater education experiences as an alternative to consumerism in America required that different sectors of society functioned in unison to address political, social, economic, and educational concerns. The Films of Charles and Ray Eames reconsiders how design intersects with humanity, culture, and the sciences.

This publication was made possible through generous funding from the Graham Foundation. Founded in 1956, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts makes project-based grants to individuals and organizations and produces public programmes to foster the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture, and society.

Inaccessible Air

Inaccessible Air examines Central, one of the densest and most congested urban areas in the world and one of the districts in Hong Kong with the poorest air quality. Working together with the DVRC Initiative, a nonprofit coalition of organisations advocating for the transformation of Des Voeux Road Central into a pedestrian and tram precinct, this studio investigates strategies for creating a new type of linear, catalytic public space in Hong Kong. Going beyond the city’s prevailing technocratic approach to planning, the proposals aim to expand the discussion about the public realm in Hong Kong and its possibilities.

Severe traffic congestion and consistently high levels of air pollution are some of the critical problems facing Des Voeux Road Central. Located in the Central Business District of Hong Kong, the street is one of the busiest and most polluted areas in the city. According to a study conducted by The City University of Hong Kong and Civic Exchange, the air pollution along DVRC is worse than Connaught Road Central and Queen’s Road Central, despite lower traffic flow. Tall buildings with contiguous facades line both sides of DVRC creating a canyon effect which greatly suppresses the dispersion of air pollutants. The unpleasant pedestrian environment drives people to take road transportation even for short walking distances, further exacerbating traffic, congestion and air pollution along DVRC. The studio project aims to spark the public’s imagination about how Des Voeux Road Central can be transformed into a pedestrianized, green thoroughfare—and one of Hong Kong’s great public spaces—in the CBD of Central.

Focusing on the HKU-Columbia University research and collaboration, within the context of the broader initiative, this studio presents both the conceptual and very real possibilities for reimagining Des Voeux Road Central and rethinking the entire Central Business District through design, architecture, and urbanism. The project envisions a highly possible lush-green precinct for pedestrian and trams, reviving the area of abundant public space, cultural elements and artscape. Des Voeux Road Central can be an experimental start, shaping the direction of the city’s future sustainable planning.

As part of the initiative, talks have been held at Asia Society in Hong Kong, Docomomo, and the Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture. An exhibition at Central Market featured the studio designs, a workshop was held for children, postcards describing the work have been created, and a book on the project is forthcoming.

The masterplan and axonometric drawings are created in collaboration with Columbia University GSAPP Studio-X under the direction of Jeffrey Johnson with adviser David Grahame Shane and researchers Li Yang, Boyuan Jiang, Lai Jing Chu, Natasha A. Trice, Akil Matthews, and Julio Cedano.