Introduction to Landscape Design Studio

In this studio, students explored the core practices of landscape design in the context of high-density, dynamic urban sites in Hong Kong. Focusing on the everyday landscapes of urban enclaves and engineered slopes, students discovered the exceptional opportunities for landscape design and social and ecological enrichment of urban sites. The semester was divided into two projects, each tackling urban landscape concerns dealing with the edges, the gaps, and the overlaps of the city. In Project 1, ‘Exquisite Corpse, Sectional Surgery’, students explored the nature of spatial interventions in Hong Kong’s physical structure with a focused study of man-made slopes, which are essential in supporting our inhabitation of a geologically unstable terrain. After a focused investigation of the site conditions, students used the method of ‘exquisite corpse’ as a driver for generating design processes, inviting chance and unpredictability. In Project 2, ‘Sacred Spaces, Common Places’, students focused on the minority cemeteries in Happy Valley. After investigating aspects of practices and provisions relating to the dead in urban Hong Kong, students proposed interventionist strategies to untap potentials of these often-overlooked urban enclaves, cultivating new relationships between the living and the dead, the past and the present, and the tangible and intangible heritages within a high-density urban setting.

Domestic Landscapes: Foreign Migrant Workers and the Production of Public Space

This studio examined the relationship between people and the built environment in the city, with a focus on an often overseen community: foreign domestic workers. Foreign domestic workers, mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia but also from other countries in Southeast Asia, account for a labor force that, according to the law and unlike any other group of migrant workers, must live-in with their employers. Propelled by this condition, domestic workers flee the confines of their employers’ homes on Sundays and occupy large portions of Hong Kong public space to socialize and attend to personal matters. The studio relied on ethnographic fieldwork as a way to complement the production of spatial mappings. The examination of domestic workers as peripheral communities and the surrounding competing narratives allowed the students to ask questions about the centers of power and in this way explore notions of migration, ethnicity, class, gender, and domesticity projected onto Hong Kong’s public space. Through a series of exercises, students learnt to identify, analyze, and document the key dimensions and functions of the urban public realm; to build a vocabulary that communicates an externally- informed process; and to propose appropriate forms and conditions of intervention.

Home away from Home: Foreign Domestic Workers, Public Space and the Negotiation of the Commons

The contemporary morphology of urban Hong Kong is the result of rapid population growth, land scarcity, diverse cultural identities, and social, political and economic determinism. Its unique and ever-evolving urban forms are imprinted with the history of more than 150 years of piecemeal aggregation through reclamation, development, and renewal. To work in this urban context, designers must develop a keen understanding of, and ability to engage with, its complexities and multi-layered conditions. The studio examined the relationship between people and the built environment in the city. Although a variety of communities in different contexts and locations use public spaces in Hong Kong, this studio focused on an often overseen community: foreign domestic workers and their use of public space. Domestic workers flee the confines of their employers’ homes on Sundays and occupy large portions of Hong Kong public space to socialize and attend to personal matters. Over time, foreign domestic workers filling central locations of Hong Kong have become a well-accepted part of the urban landscape. Yet, despite the massive presence of domestic workers in these spaces, landscape designers of these areas have often neglected to engage with this community. This studio relies on ethnographic fieldwork as a way to complement the production of spatial mappings, and demonstrate how the different stakeholders inform an urban political economy that is not reflected in official reports. Through a series of exercises, students learned to identify, analyze, and document the key dimensions and functions of the urban public realm; build a vocabulary that communicates an externally-informed process; and propose appropriate forms and conditions of intervention.