Misused Architecture

Thesis Abstract

The thesis is dealing with the problem of Sanhe Masters/Legends (三和大神)within Shenzhen, an industrialized city and also a polarized city with numerous wealthy people, but at the same time a lot of destitute laborers who have no future and no way out.

The young laborers in Sanhe are falling into an endless loop that they keep finding temporary jobs, quit the job after one day or two, then quickly spend their wages and start searching for jobs again. Even though they have a destitute state of living and ridicule themselves a lot, they keep a high degree of self-esteem and self-respect. Sanhe Masters are desperate to find jobs only if the job is tidy and decent. Otherwise, they would rather stay hungry and wait.

To address this social problem, the project uses a series of amenities and fictitious facilities as a tool to highlight the issue. It does not need to be real. The thesis radicalizes, exaggerates, and fantasizes the scenarios where these Sanhe Masters (ف‮٢‬ْگ‮$‬j‮/+‬) occur to arouse awareness and catch public attention towards the social issue.

Hong Kong Tomorrow Vision

Thesis Abstract

The thesis criticizes the government’s proposal of building an artificial island at the eastern coast of Lantau Island as land reserve for housing supply and another core business district. The research analysis looks into current land distribution in Hong Kong, housing supply and demand, average living area and rent and housing development trend in order to reflect on the necessity of expanding the land territory into the ocean for additional land supply.

Comparing the current land use in Hong Kong and the zoning plan, 8.5% of the total landmass is unplanned while 24.3% is built up land and 40% is country park. It is estimated that there are about 1300 hectares of brownfields in the New Territories. Part of them have been included in the new development areas but there are still more than 700 hectares of brownfields not included in any development plans. On the other hand, comparing the number of domestic households and the number of residential flats in the current market, there is in fact a surplus of 200,000 flats. This indicates that land supply or housing supply is not the real issue that we should look at.

Inspired by Rem Koolhaas’s ‘Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan’, in which Coney Island is used to solve the problem of pleasure and becomes a testing ground for Manhattan, the thesis carefully evaluates stages in the evolution of Lantau Island and projects its future development in conjunction with Hong Kong in order to open the discussion between political and social ideology, architectural discourse and city development.

The Parliament of The Greater Bay Area Union

Thesis Abstract

The thesis resists the top-down planning and data control from the Central Government at the Greater Bay Area. The project is designing a moving vessel that contains a parliament and a data center based at the international waters.

Politically, China has assigned the 11 cities at the Area each with a specific role without the consensus of its local citizens. Economically, China is using the data collected from its citizens as an instrument for surveillance, and control.

Instead of seeing the Area as 11 cities, the vision of the thesis is to see the Area as 131 individual districts. Each district will elect representatives to join the parliament at the vessel according to the proportion of population. This is to ensure an equal say between districts.

The vessel constantly travels around the Area, collects data through cables, and retreats back to the international waters. Data collected will be shared at the parliament as a reference for making democratic decisions for the Area.

The floating vessel would be a heterotopic space as discussed by Michel Foucault. It would be a new site for law making and a site that resists data dictatorship. It would be a self-contained city, referencing Le Corbusier’s Ocean Liner and Unité d’habitation.

Tower of Blah

The Tower of Blah attempts to reveal (or expose) through infographics, rather than design, the particulars of Hong Kong and its relationship to Towers. Its status as the city with most towers requires close inspection, for this condition need not mean richest, densest or most livable. How then, does Hong Kong compare to other territories, other incomes, and other areas? Are towers, as evident in this exhibition, to be perceived as opportunities to showcase prowess (of all sorts), or should they be seen as telling symptoms of the state of the economies, territories and societies that harbour them?

Blah 塔》試圖通過信息圖形,而非設計去揭示香港的特質及與塔樓建築的關係。香港作為一個擁有最多摩天大廈的城市需要我們仔細檢閲,因為這種情況不一定意味著最富裕、最密集或最宜居。那香港與其他地區、收入和領域相比會如何呢?在這次展覽中,塔樓應被視為展示各種實力的機會,還是應被用作能夠呈現地方經濟、領土和社會狀況的分析工具?

What Ever Happened to the Garden City?

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Whatever Happened to the Garden City? is a unique design and research project that proposes a new strategic plan for Le Rheu, a town of 7,600 inhabitants situated in the region of Île et Vilaine in north-western France.  It was developed in the 1960s as an alternative plan by the French urban planner Gaston Bardet, who was a fierce critic of Le Corbusier and follower of Ebenezer Howard’s ideas of the “Garden City.” Our project expands upon his initial vision for cities composed of a more humanist rigour and structure, including public and cultural shared facilities as well as four major public parks of various themes.

Our strategic plan, awarded through an international competition, builds upon the prophecies of Bardet and imagines a new town that incorporates landscape as a structural device for city planning.  As chief architects and urban planners of the town, we have developed a ten-year plan that proposes a new urban extension through a “concerted open method” of design—one that will include spontaneous urban growth generated by specific economic and demographic constraints within the pre-existing town and its rural periphery.

This method led to a concerted project and its appropriation by the public.

The strategic urban plan was implemented through the construction of 450 housing units completed in 2018.

More generally, the project has stimulated a rediscovery of the work of Gaston Bardet, his ideas on social urbanism, his writings, and the wealth of research he produced based on the work he did on the town.

Following our proposed interventions, the town was registered as a “Cité Jardin”, with a registered ecological sector/corridor safe guarding rare species passage on the northern part of the site as well as ensuring a humid corridor/zone in case of drought.  It currently forms the core of a new “Plan Local d’Urbanisme” which has transformed the regional policies, urban, and landscape regulations of the town of Le Rheu.

The community’s understanding of the proposed actions has been largely improved by the concertation methods we used for planning.

Our proposal has been exhibited at a range of venues and locations, including the Town Hall of Le Rheu, and at the forum des “Projets Urbains” at the Palais des Congrés at Porte Maillot, Paris.  It has been reviewed in a dozen of popular local and regional journals as well as professional magazines, including Place publique, Amc, and Le Moniteur.

Romeo and Juliette

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Romeo and Juliette is a mixed public and private housing project that demonstrates the capacity of architecture to invent new ways of living, even with high structural, economical, urban, and environmental constraints.

In 2006 an open competition was launched by the housing agency Ophis du Puy de Dôme.

Proposals for 65 public housing units and 74 private units were submitted to the competition.  Following the jury’s analysis (90 teams first phase, 5 teams final phase) two teams were selected to work on the project, including one local team to work on the social housing and our practice to work on the private housing.  However, this changed in the course of the project and we worked on a 50-50% mix of social and private housing.

  • The project tackles important, discipline-specific issues including: Economy and cost effectiveness – Repetition and economical construction
  • Material and structural research — How can solid brick, an ancient material with a high capacity to adapt to contemporary qualities such as insulation and aesthetics, be reintroduced to a culture of building where the construction industry habitually uses concrete and finishes the façade with cheap veneer materials.
  • Seismic constraints and the role of structure as an architectural elastic stabiliser.
  • Architecture as “urban connector” enabling the accessibility of the site and its environs.
  • Architecture cannot be exclusive.  Architecture is a right and not a privilege.
  • The seismicity of this region specifically this site with a steep gradient can be successfully integrated in the design process and be an element of architecture.
  • The rigor of economic and environmentally friendly solutions does not prohibit the notion of offering real quality of life to the inhabitants.
  • Naturally ventilated car parks on street level are possible without degrading the streetscape.

“Nautrestation Parc” – Rives des Gaves

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In 2009, the municipality of Pau Pyrenées launched a call for what is known as Études de definition, a preliminary study to define the limits of a future urban planning study.  Five architect-urbanists were shortlisted, amongst them Manuel de Sola-Morales, the famous Spanish urbanist adhering to the urban thinking of Jaussely, Cerda, and Sert. The project called for a method of work and not necessarily an urban plan.  All other competitors designed and filled the entire site, with road infrastructure as well as housing.

Our scheme, by contrast, critically questioned the utility of the urban master-plan model, and suggested that the site and zone of influence could not be treated in the same manner.  As a result, we proposed a method for collectively drawing up a “guide plan” for the municipality of Pau and the four neighbouring towns.  This was not an urban development plan, but a proposal that would allow subsequent urban plans of various complexities to be drawn up depending on land divisions, financing bodies and ecological landscape repairs.  This method necessitated the production of a collective, communal budget as well as a clear collaboration between the five municipalities.

The Project has catalysed shifts in regional/ governmental policies through new regulations for development of urban plans in flood plains.  It has also created a new set of regulations for the development of the site and its 650 hectares environs.  These new regulations such as building heights, flood proof ground level programmes, and the spreading of water retention basins throughout the site allow rainwater absorption over a large surface.

Two books have also been commissioned on the project by the City of Pau, one by Jean Attali (philosopher) and the other by our studio.

Big Heavy Beautiful

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Big Heavy Beautiful (BHB), or Les Ateliers Jourdan-Corentin-Issoire, is a multi-use architectural complex consisting of several distinctive programmes located in the14th arrondissement of Paris.  The project was selected through an international architectural competition organized by the Paris Transport Authority (RATP) in 2006 to renovate and restructure a bus depot which had been in use since the late 19th century and did not suffice neither in its storage and maintenance capacities nor its technological compatibility to cope with new hybrid buses (Gas and electric) and the new computer technologies  which are used to manoeuvre the vehicles.

The project’s originality stems from the series of seemingly contradictory programmes it supports, each of which is allowed to project their own autonomy and specificity.  Such a diverse array of programmes offers a particular urban quality that suggests a city within a city—the renovation of an industrial site in the city’s centre that incorporates new technologies and electric bus infrastructure superimposed over housing, a kindergarten, a day care centre, as well as retail to generate a new form of social housing.

Nine major meetings and interviews with the public prompted changes that were subsequently incorporated into the project during the construction period.  An hourly photographic record of the 32-month construction was broadcasted to the neighbourhood through the support of an NGO association.  This ensured that the public felt they were an active, participatory force in the project’s materialisation.

The project’s rigor is also embedded in thousands of  iterative drawings and 3-D models produced throughout the design and construction phases. 3-D BIM modelling was used for the first time by the contractors in a housing project which enabled the various teams, including architects, engineers, and the contractors, to work around the same changes and variations of the project (in the construction phase).

BHB demanded thorough research into five domains considered crucial to the design of extra large-scale architecture in Paris, including historical, structural, material, typological, and sociological investigations.

Breathing Space by the Dead

My thesis questions the potentials of the cemetery in Hong Kong as an infrastructure through redefining the limit of boundary between the cemetery and the city, specifically the in-between edge condition.

Cemetery in Hong Kong is an open space that will not be removed from its original setting, under the circumstances of our cultural taboo towards the notion of death. It performs as an urban anchor which resists the pressure of urban development in Hong Kong. Locations of cemeteries that were first situated as infrastructures in the rurals of Hong Kong, eventually transformed into various scales of voids within the dense context, as the urban substances expand radically beyond its city’s edge. The cemetery in close proximity to the urban, however, remain as a demarcated segment from the city defined through an undulating buffer zone along the line between the death and living, where the edge can be as intimate as a cliff within hand gripping distance.

With cemetery stemmed as a burn mark in the city, along the demand of growing capacity to accommodate the death and living, the cemetery and the city will collide. This is an opportunity for new definitions of boundaries to rise!

Architecture and Public Ground: Dazibao d’architecture HK

Amongst the most difficult yet fundamental questions in architecture is the relationship between ground and building. Our society of spectacle, obsessed with the monetary value of things, has transformed the idea of the ground into a singular debate on property ownership. To whom does this ground belong? Studio Dazibao d’architecture HK investigates this fundamental question.

Architects are not problem solvers. We are innovative critical thinkers who strive to formulate the relevant questions and know where to look for solutions to problems, which may be invisible or may not yet arise. Each proposition begins with the study of the formation of the ground(s) in Hong Kong by observing and drawing through its section and plan(s)-isometric, its geology, its geography, its consistencies, its fertility, its structure and its value. Each interrogates the relationship of private to public so as to draw the specificities of Hong Kong.

The collective attempt of the members of the studio was to organize the ground sometimes as public realm, sometimes as shifting ground, sometimes as double ground, however, always as programmed ground.

The underlying premise is that research is design, design is drawing and drawing is describing, describing the story of Hong Kong. We propose that ground, filled with program in order to activate life in dense urban conditions, must remain public and shared even when elevated. Privacy exists only above this level, in private spaces and in a variety of housing types that reflect the various modes of urban living.

Each project is a proposition, not a solution to a problem.