The Yangon sustainable design studio was a research led design endeavor on understanding issues of ‘sustainable development’ in relation to the specific urban and architectural challenges within the Yangon region. The studio explored these challenges via an adaptive reuse operative on three existing building typologies: a historic public building that houses various Ministries and NGOs on the building sector; a heritage building formerly the HQ Office for the Yangon Railways destined to be converted into a six star boutique hotel; and lastly the row house (‘slave’ house) which is part of the Colonial legacy of former Burma. The multiple challenges posed in relation to design projects called for a series of theoretical questions that prompted critical reflection on the role of ‘sustainability’ and ‘green design’ in a developing south Asian city. The student projects reflected innovative approaches to the questions of; how one could re-design and transform prevailing building typologies into sustainable and livable places, how a design schemes aimed at the sustainable regeneration of these particular typologies work at multiple levels of creating a positive effect of the development of the city and its inhabitants, how architects, academics, professionals, students, Yangon residents, and government institutions can from collaborations to overcome these challenges and how one could rethink the role of elements like the courtyards, existing facades within the adaptive reuse strategies. Special emphasis was placed on the deployment of ‘passive design techniques’ instead of active technologies of harnessing climatic elements in the given settings.
The Master Architecture Studio entitled ‘Benchmarking Sustainability – Greening of an architectural school in Shanghai’ was host to 11 students from the Master Architecture Year 1 to engage in a 16-weeks academic endeavors. The challenge is a three-folded one, similar to the commonly deliberated ‘three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social and economics’, challenged these young architects to acquire a thorough understanding of both theoretical and technical basis to procure green design first, in the orthodox way, and second, in an unorthodox way. For the beginner, the Studio serves as a primer to contemporary green design pedagogy with a critical exploration and review of both inspirations and limitations implied by established green concerns and practices. Eleven students, three from Hong Kong, three from Mainland, and five returning Hong Kong students studied in USA, Canada and Australia, worked together as sub-groups each responsible for one of four existing buildings of the College of Architecture and Planning Tongji University. The learning process includes the principles and details of green building design and assessment tools, primarily those prescribed by the China GDL and LEED Protocols. Specifically, the architectural students were requested to learn from tutors from the HKU Department of Mechanical Engineering principles and operational skills of wind modeling protocols such as AirPak, to ascertain an essential aspect of environmental design capability. One week was arranged at Shanghai where students met and presented their interim design to Tongji stakeholders – professors and students.
The Studio received sponsorship from the Hong Kong practice TEN Design in the form of tutoring and reviews, in the form of knowledge exchange and professional engagement. At the end of the Studio, all realized that it is not important about the actual product from the individuals, or groups; more of relevance is that these students are exposed to the art and skill of implementing, and measuring green design.
The studio focused on what it means for an Architect to think ecologically and sustainably in the context of a real life architectural-planning project in Hong Kong.
The on going real life debate on “development vs conservation” concerning the southern portion of Lamma island provided the studio with a unique site and theoretical departure point prompting students to question prevailing conceptions of Sustainable design, aesthetics, ecology, sustainability, design strategies and green technology and address the concept of “development” in an allegedly radical way.
The students were required not only to “analytically read into” the debate but to empathetically “feel in to” the narratives of the debating parties the developers and the environmentalists as well as the complex natural ecological system of Lamma Island through a series of exercises thereby generating their own design response to the complex ecology of inter relationships and forces of the site. In response a variety of designs and programmes, ranging from a public resource and research facility, visionary housing schemes in the air and the water, and a healing centre and museum space were proposed .
As a whole all proposed schemes attempted to search for architectural responses going beyond technocratic, rational conceptions of identifying nature as an “object” that can be controlled, managed and dominated through Architecture at will to a more “empathetic” encounter that is driven by an urge for reconciliation.
My thesis takes the idea of phenomenology, by treating architecture as a form of art, to use form as a medium to express meanings and effects. Started from 1970s, phenomenology was first advocated by Martin Heidegger, a German Philosopher, to investigate the inner meanings of architecture in people’s minds that are established through material properties of buildings. This thesis starts to investigate the meaning of form and how it relates to the meaning of buildings. When architects try to manipulate the outer layer, which is the form, there is actually an alteration of the inner layer, which is the meaning of buildings and people experiences within. By doing so, buildings are constantly changed to fit the city cycle.
Fotan is originally an industrial district, it gradually becoming desolate as economic structure of Hong Kong changes. My thesis aims to propose another type of development in the Fotan site, which is continuous construction. Through inserting different plug-ins that modify different aspect of buildings in the area, Fotan is turned into an embraced cultural area with vibrant cultural activity. The six plugins are sometimes subtly connected through visual connections, but others are also separated to convey totally different experiences. These segmented experiences together form the whole new experience of the new Fotan Art area.