Communities at the Edge: Negotiating Transitions and Adaptations in Tung Chung

This advanced design studio investigated the role that landscape design, architecture and planning will have in shaping the land-use, settlement, habitat, and infrastructure of Hong Kong in the face of dynamic social, economic, and environmental change. Hong Kong faces a host of environmental challenges, from predictable decreasing in habitat and environmental degradation, water-pollution, and flooding, to the unknown threats driven by global warming, such as more volatile weather patterns and rising sea-levels. The studio considered Hong Kong as a city in flux. Working between the watershed and the coast, students investigated ecological dynamics, urban transformations, and different transitions at the edge. The studio worked in collaboration with the MArch Adaptive Tower Studio. For the first project, students explored different transects in Hong Kong where hydrological, ecological, material and structural systems were affected by climate change and sea level rise and defined issues, potentials and relationships to improve the edge. For the final project students, speculated on an adaptive and resilient landscapes in Tung Chung, an area with high ecological value that is threated by urban development. Taking a time-and-process based approach, students developed scenarios that proposing landscape-driven interventions that dealt with development and adaptation. This studio asked: How might the environmental change be leveraged to drive new forms of development and reshape conservation? Can new water and circulation networks increase important native habitats? How can hybrid landscapes of infrastructure and architectural systems offer?

Constructing Landscapes

The relationship between the representation of landscapes and the production of landscapes are integral. Drawings, models, or other types of representational tools offer possibilities in understanding the landscape in different ways and are a critical part of the design process rather than simply a presentation tool. In this studio, we shifted between drawings and models, experimenting with an iterative and cyclical process of documentation and speculation. Students used established means of representation to develop a composite and complex understanding of the landscape. The studio examined the relationships between people and the natural and built environment. Through a series of exercises, students developed their skills in landscape architectural representation; identified and analyzed key aspects that shape a site context; developed a vocabulary to build landscape experiences and proposed appropriate interventions in natural and developed contexts. The final design exercise was sited on the Jubilee Battery, an area rich in history and subtropical ecology in Hong Kong Island. Remnants of Hong Kong’s coastal defense batteries are juxtaposed with a newly constructed educational facility, bringing a diverse set of users to the site. Students explored a dynamic palimpsest of the site which led them to the design of a path and a sequence of outdoor spaces.

The Urban-Rural Imaginaries

The urbanization of the world is a kind of exteriorization of the inside as well as interiorization of the outside: the urban unfolds into the countryside just as the countryside folds back into the city. … Yet the fault-lines between these two worlds aren’t defined by any simple urban-rural divide, nor by anything North-South; instead, centers and peripheries are immanent within the accumulation of capital itself… -Merifield (2011) as quoted by Brenner, N., & Schmid, C. (2014). The ‘Urban Age’ in question. International journal of urban and regional research, 38(3), 731-755. Rapid urbanization occurring in Asian cities over the last four decades has left a unique and expansive set of urban conditions that challenge traditional notions of the city and its hinterland. Urban development today extends well beyond core municipal boundaries in a dynamic landscape that, free of traditional planning restrictions, is driven instead by economic, political, social, demographic and ecological flux. Described variously as urban-rural fringe, peri-urban, or urban hinterland, these peripheral urbanized landscapes contain a spectrum of rural and urban land uses, assorted building morphologies and fragmented scales, and diverse economic networks. Due to their liminal condition-not fully urban but not at all rural, densely populated but frequently containing productive landscapes–these areas are frequently ignored by urban core-centric policies, plans, and development services. Likewise, their potential social and ecological services are usually overlooked as planners seeking to soften the negative effects of urbanization. This thesis track will seek to bring these peripheral landscapes to the fore by developing frameworks that conceptualize their hybrid conditions. Students will start by defining an urban fringe and understanding it’s spatial identity. Designs will ultimately project these conditions of settlement, infrastructure, and ecology onto the larger urban system to develop new imaginaries about nature and the city. Can we learn from these hybrid conditions and speculate on how they can be applied elsewhere? Can the urban rural fringe become a mechanism that allow for urbanization in a more sustainable way? Can we find an identity to these fringe landscapes? Ultimately, students must also consider the medium of representation itself to grapple with the imagery of design/ research in a pre-professional, post-digital context.

Successionary Urbanism: Adaptive strategies for Coastal Communities in the Greater Bay Area

This advanced studio investigated the role that landscape design and planning will have in shaping the land-use, settlement, habitat, and infrastructure of the Pearl River Delta in the face of dynamic social, economic, and environmental change. In less than 50 years, a lightly-settled landscape of tidal marshes and mudflats, rivers and fields, has evolved into one of the world’s centers of manufacturing and trade. The Pearl River Delta is now the largest urban conglomeration in the world hosting a population of more than 70 million. Nevertheless, this region faces a host of environmental challenges, from predictable decreasing in habitat and environmental degradation, water-pollution, flooding and salt-water intrusion, to the unknown threats driven by global warming, such as more volatile weather patterns and rising sea-levels along with social, economic, and political instability. The studio considered the PRD as a region in flux. Following models of ecological succession, we took a time-and-process based approach to urban design and landscape planning. Patterns and processes, driven by internal parameters and triggered by external conditions determined the delta’s urbanization and land development. Working between the watershed-scale considerations of the region’s urban and ecological dynamics, and site-scaled considerations of land transformation and urban development, students proposed landscape-led strategies for improving the adaptivity and resiliency of this region for the next five decades.

Constructing Landscapes

The relationship between the representation of landscapes and the production of landscapes is integral. Drawings, models, or other types of representational tools, offer possibilities in understanding the landscape in different ways and are a critical part of the design process. Throughout the studio, students experimented with different techniques to develop composite and complex understandings of the landscape. The course consisted of a sequence of three projects. In the first project, students explored the concept of ‘type’ though an analysis of modern garden and park case studies. By using two-dimensional and three-dimensional diagrams, students articulated each case study as a sequence of spaces and distribution of elements. In the second project, students explored the tectonics of the ground through a series of topographical studies, working primarily in collage, model, and parallel projective drawings. The final assignment was built upon the skills and knowledge acquired in the first two projects, with the goal being to design the integration between terrain, natural forces, and human habitation. Students designed a series of spaces along a trail on top of Mount Davis, a site that once served as part of Hong Kong’s defense system during World War II.

Misfit: Challenging Urban and Landscape Discontinuity

This thesis will consider the possibilities of the “urban / landscape misfit” in the context of the contemporary Asian city. In the last four decades, rapid urbanization, massive scales of investment, and weak development controls, have led to landscape of fragments and discontinuities. In this context, traditional concepts of viewing the city and practices of landscape and planning have become simplistic and outdated given the scale, speed and agents of development in these places. Reaching beyond urban design, these new realities will require a trans-disciplinary approach drawing from practices in the parallel fields of, architecture, landscape architecture, ecology, urban planning, and engineering. The contested space of the “misfit” become the opportunity to reexamine issues of scale, landscape, and space in the city and to expand notions of the modern urban ‘fabric’. As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, a misfit is “a person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way”. Individual thesis projects will explore the concept of misfit as it might apply to the urban and landscape environment. Although the term, when applied in a sociological context, has a negative connotation, one could also argue that a culture is defined by its misfits. Similarly, a vibrant city might also be defined by its misfitting urban pieces; landscapes might be defined by their extremes of diversity, by their invasives. Rural to urban transformation has left ecological misfits where towering developments sit adjacent to small-scale farmland and fishing ponds. Urban villages, widespread in cities of Dongguan, are a form of Political and Economic misfit, where legal status and land ownership laws mismatched with the scales and infrastructures of the modern Chinese city. Students in this thesis track will find their own examples of the urban / landscape misfit as they explore not only ways of ‘fitting’ appropriately, but also the productive aspects of being conspicuously unfit.

Cities at the Edge: Housing and Landscape in Hong Kong’s Hinterland

This advanced landscape design studio investigates a critical component of open space in high-density cities: the landscapes of public housing. In Hong Kong, this sector covers the living environment for nearly half of Hong Kong’s residents; and although its ‘green’ vocabularies are improving, an overhaul of urban design and landscape strategy is overdue. This studio has two primary aims: the first, to contextualize and catalog existing forms and practices of public space in Hong Kong’s housing estates; the second, to speculate on new forms of urban living that take into account the existing conditions and the surrounding ecological and urban contexts in order to build a collective infrastructure for the city. This year, students focused on public estates built during the “Ten-Year Housing Program” (1973 -1983). For the first exercise, students analyzed and documented the public realm of public housing built during this period and produced a typological collection of the different forms and practices of public spaces in each estate. For the final project, Towards a Collective Infrastructure, students investigated how public housing can become a wider resource in benefit of both its community and the larger city. They developed a series of urban design and landscape planning strategies to renew Tai Hing and Leung King Estate, two public estates in Tuen Mun. Ultimately, students developed a detailed site design for a selected area within their master plan.

Uncovering Landscapes

The relations between the representation of landscapes and the production of landscapes are integral. Drawings, models, or other types of representational tools, offer possibilities in understanding the landscape in different ways and are a critical part of the design process. Throughout the studio, students experimented with different techniques to develop composite and complex understandings of the landscape. The course consisted of a sequence of three projects. In the first project, students explored measuring techniques that document physical space and time. Students documented an assigned tree and produced a series of drawings and collages that reveal the form and character of its specific species and its relationship to its context. In the second project, students explored the concept of ‘type’ though an analysis of modern garden and park case studies. By using two-dimensional and three-dimensional diagrams, students articulated each case study as a sequence of spaces and distribution of elements. The final assignment was built upon the skills and knowledge acquired in the first two projects, with the goal to design the integration between terrain, natural forces, and human habitation. Students designed a series of spaces along a looped trail on top of Mount Davis, a site that once served as part of Hong Kong’s defense system during World War II.

Cities within the City: Renewing Landscape Strategies in Public Housing

This advanced landscape design studio investigates a critical component of open space in high-density cities: the landscapes of public housing. In Hong Kong, this sector covers the living environment for nearly half of Hong Kong’s residents; and although its ‘green’ vocabularies are improving, an overhaul of urban design and landscape strategy is overdue. This studio has two primary aims: the first, to contextualize and catalog existing forms and practices of public space in Hong Kong’s housing estates; the second, to speculate on new forms of urban living that take into account the existing conditions and the surrounding ecological and urban contexts. This year, students focused on public estates built during the “Ten-Year Housing Program” (1973-1983). For the first exercise, students analyzed and documented the public realm of public housing built during this period and produced a typological collection of the different forms and practices of public spaces in each estate. For the final project, students developed urban design strategies to rethink and renew Wo Che and Leuk Yen Estate, both build in the mid 1970’s on reclaimed land on Sha Tin. For the second part of the assignment, they developed a detailed site design within a strategic framework.

Constructing Landscapes

The relationship between the representation of landscapes and the production of landscapes are integral. Drawings, models, or other types of representational tools offer possibilities in understanding the landscape in different ways, and are a critical part of the design process. Throughout the studio, students experimented with different model and drawing technics to develop composite and complex understanding of the landscape. This understanding then evolved into an intervention in a given site. The course consisted of a sequence of three projects. In the first project, students explored the tectonics of the ground through a series of topographical studies working primarily in model and parallel projective drawings. In project 2, students explored the concept of “type” though an analysis of modern garden and park case studies. By using two dimensional and three dimension diagrams, students articulated each case study as a sequence spaces and distribution of elements. The final assignment was built upon the skills and knowledge acquired in Project 1 and Project 2, combining ideas of type, experience, surface tectonics and performance. By working at multiple scales through both physical modeling and 2D and 3D representation, students designed a series of spaces in a steep terrain on the foots of Mount Davis.