Design Shaping

In Year 1 we were studying the relationship of the human body to their immediate surroundings and how proportions affect the functional aspect of design. In Year 2 we will expand that objective to a larger environment and will study the relationships of built environment and natural environment.

The objective of this year is to learn how to 1. Observe and draw a phenomenon, 2. Translate it into a conceptual idea in form of models and sketches, 3. Create architectural drawings of the design up to a detail level.

Every building is bound to a specific environment, which is influenced by all kinds of natural phenomena. Standardisation and proprietary solutions of the construction industry have negated the specific relationship of a building to its surrounding with the result that we build similar in Nordic climates as we build in tropical environments. The studio will be an introduction to a critical discourse about designing in a specific environmental context from an technological point of view. We will investigate techniques and technologies that deal with the relationship of building and nature in the context of Hong Kong.

The HKU campus will be the basis of the investigation. Students will start off with a chosen topic and observe, analyse and draw how those topics affect the building and the external and internal spaces. Based on that topic, students will develop an idea for a specific architectural intervention on campus, that either enforces the topic or counter balances it or takes it as an inspiration for spatial experimentation. The program of the design intervention will be given by the studio supervisors, but will not exceed the size of a small pavilion of 150 sqm.

Urban Resilience by Design: Adaptive Landscapes for the PRD

This thesis initiative builds on a joint research and design partnership between HKU and UC Berkeley to develop policy, planning and design responses to coastal vulnerability in the face of climate change in the Pearl River Delta and San Francisco Bay Area. This collaboration is driven by a set of design interests and research projects at both institutions and themed around transdisciplinary issues of coastal adaptivity, water security, sustainable infrastructure, and urban environmental resilience. Landscape architects and planners have a critical role to play in these dialogues, and the MLA thesis group will contest the boundaries, precedents, and practices of the landscape architectural discipline in order to argue for new roles, new visions, new methods, and new partnerships, thus positioning landscape at the forefront of adaptive design and planning in regions at risk. Beyond physical design, students are expected to address overarching questions of equity, agency, and governance in order to explore how systematic change can be harnessed to sustain appropriate forms of settlement and infrastructural development. Building on themes developed in research seminars in Hong Kong (ARCH7175) and Berkeley, the thesis group will work together with instructors and guest critics to develop an account of the real or perceived environmental risks threatening to undermine the Greater Bay Area’s stability and coherence. The thesis group’s research will also disentangle the region’s fragmented approach to understanding and mitigate these threats. These narratives will guide the selection of a number of sites and strategies to be explored in individual or small group design projects. Our critique will draw in resiliency strategies world-wide, but especially in the dominant discourses emerging in the past decade in competitions and design projects in Europe and North America. To what extent can or should urban resiliency/adaptive strategies be globalized? What lessons are to be found in the PRD’s approach to climate change and how might strategies developed in a densely populated subtropical conurbation?

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!