Studio HK: Landscape Peripheries

This year’s second core MLA studio engaged the dynamic natural systems and contested territories along the coastal edge of Hong Kong Island. The studio’s origin was the Hong Kong Coastal Trail, a working proposal for restoring pedestrian and recreational trails to create a continuous path around the island. Students worked with this initiative as a catalyst for additional strategies and interventions that amplified the connective, regenerative, community-focused ambitions of the existing plans. Students worked through a series of exercises framed at different scales to develop their proposals. The fist exercise examined the variety of landscape systems and communities that are crossed by the proposed trail right of way. After detailed spatial and material documentations, students isolated a user and designed an interface that augmented, adapted, or modified that user’s exchanges with the site. In a second exercise, students focused on 6km section of the trail and used maps and sectional diagrams to illustrate the network of relationships, decisions, and agencies that underlay the coastal trail’s development and structure its potential within the larger urban and ecological territory. The final proposals included landscape-led interventions augmenting the original trail planning to conserve critical habitat or improve water retention; expand the possibilities for green or multi-functional civil infrastructure; or to support local communities through access, mobility, and revitalization projects.

Landscape Media 2

This course introduced students to essential digital and manual tools of design and representation in landscape architecture. Students explored techniques in material testing and digital fabrication as an iterative part of the design process with digital platforms and procedural tools as key elements of a cross-media approach to digital production. Shifting from material analysis to visual programming and 1 to 1 fabrication, the course covered a variety of scales and modes. Three projects transformed the products of material observations into design methodologies and created an understanding of abstraction, rigor, and transformation through experimentation. The first project, ‘Material Diaries’ focused on material experimentations. Students analyzed and compared materials theoretically and physically. The hands-on testing gave students a sensitivity for designing with a range of materials and relevant production processes. The second project ‘Shaping Material & Terrain’ focused on parametric 3D modelling and digital fabrication technologies. It created familiarity with technologies of computational design and handle a range of tools for digital fabrication available within the faculty. Drawing inspiration from these two assignments, students developed in the final project a one-person seat or shelter. Material testing and tools of digital site analysis were ongoingly explored to help shape the device. Students worked with a combination of digital and analogue fabrication techniques; drawings, mock-ups, and a 1:1 prototype to communicate and test their design.

Man-made Ecologies: Interpreting Layers of Urban Landscapes

Nature in the city is unquestionable dominated by man-made landscapes. At its very basic, it is an accumulation of material – arranged, adjusted, disposed. But the question if nature is shaped by the city or if the city is designed upon its natural origin is more complex. In this densely intertwined system, concepts of the ‘natural’ and the ‘built’ environment cannot be read autonomously but have to be understood as layers of cultural, economic, social forces as well as its geographical conditions: exotic material superimposes local geology, the urban wild overlaps manicured green space, the built heritage overwrites natural history. Landscapes and micro ecologies in the urban context are in constant shift. The processes of changing shape and program, often influenced by piecemeal interventions on a comparatively small scale, build up a history of multi-layered landscapes which are directly connected to the very unique identity of a place. Even though documentation through surveys, photography and maps has never been as evident as in the past century, we are far away from fully grasping the impact of how these human interventions shape the environment. And, beyond comprehending, how do we engage with these urban ecologies bridging between acknowledgement of local history and opportunistic prediction of the future? How can we distinguish between material culture of significant heritage and redundant repositories of urban matter? Can we clearly define what is exotic and what is native to a place, what is intentionally developed and what an accidental by-product? Do we need to call for restoration or rather favour neglected maintenance? This thesis stream will investigate urban ecologies along with the human interventions that determine their evolution. It will emphasize on the interpretation of the material culture, the enclaved ecologies and the social history which shape the ground conditions and define the setting of one place. It will raise the challenge for landscape architects of how to deal with this sometimes unknown, invisible or only temporarily visible heritage and how to respond to the challenges of enabling the evolution of functioning urban systems considering their ecological and social sustainability.

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.

Landscape Media 2

The course explored the core practices of landscape representation, from analysis to fabrication, focusing on the understanding of representation and production. Shifting from site observation in an urban context to detail representation and digital and manual fabrication, the course covered a variety of scales and modes. Throughout three succeeding projects, students transformed products of a site observation into design methodologies while creating an understanding of abstraction, rigor, transformation, and experimentation. In Project 1, ‘Measuring terrain,’ students focused on representing a given site and interpreting its conditions and constraints. Site analysis and site representation were pursued through two-dimensional digital and manual output looking at registered reinforced slopes in Hong Kong. In Project 2, ‘Transforming Ground,’ students focused on the transition from drawing to object. The project explored rigorous methodologies to transform an in-depth site observation into a material- and site-inspired device. Students worked on an iterative process between material experimentations and constructive drawings leading to a comprehensive understanding of testing, fabricating, and detailing. Project 3, ‘Materializing Landscape,’ then introduced key concepts of material research and working with manual fabrication, and enhanced the organizational aspects of the design process.

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.

Landscape Media 2

The course explores the core practices of landscape representation, from analysis to fabrication, focusing on the understanding of representation and production. Shifting from site observation in an urban context to detail representation and digital and manual fabrication, the course covers a variety of scales and modes. Over the course of two succeeding projects, students transformed products of a site observation into design methodologies while creating an understanding of abstraction, rigor, transformation, and experimentation. In Project 1, ‘Measuring terrain’, students focused on representing a given site and interpreting its conditions and constraints. Site analysis and site representation were pursued through two-dimensional digital and manual output looking at registered reinforced slopes in Hong Kong. To enhance workflows of in-situ measures and digital representation, students worked with a combination of analog and digital media tools. In Project 2, ‘Fabricating landscape’, students focused on fabrication, representing a specific moment of Hong Kong’s topography explored in Project 1. Transforming the analyzed site from a geotechnical structure into a constructed object, students were working on two dimensional drawings, three dimensional models, and a 1:1 object.

Post-human ecologies: Analysing and interpreting effects of man made landscape

The heatwave in summer 2018 unveiled a large amount of buried man-made structures such as roman settlements, ancient water systems, grave yards, and military structures all across Europe. The drought – a disaster for agriculture – is a blessing for aerial photo archeologists: the traces and crop marks shown in their images are caused by discontinuities in the (ground)water systems and disclose ancient structures with unprecedented clarity. The results of this summer’s discoveries will take years to be assessed and interpreted by archeologists; meanwhile, what is the role of landscape architects in this scenario? How do extreme temperature changes affect the way we look at landscape and how can those ‘images from above’ of only a temporally visible phenomenon inspire to rethink organisational, ecological and social interconnections of approaching landscape design? In the past century, documentation through surveys, photography, and maps has been as evident as never before. Yet, we are far away from fully grasping the impact of interventions produced by humanity. The proposed concept of the anthropocene gives only an abstract idea on how human presence will affect environment, nature and geology. However, current environmental issues – for example dramatic changes in microclimate or poor adaptation of planting species – caused by ongoing shifts of land use may give us a glimpse on future scenarios. This thesis stream will investigate the change in surface condition, ecology and ‘geological top layers’ through man made structures and climate change. It will raise the challenge for landscape architects on how to deal with this sometimes unknown, invisible or only temporally visible heritage and how to respond to the challenges of enabling functioning ecological systems within this context. Potential topics can refer to: Ecological restoration strategies on former (ore)mines (in West Germany); Agriculture on roman settlements: land-use adaptations in history and future; and Learning from ancient qanat systems: future irrigation for desert cities.

Interstitial Hong Kong

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 such as resting areas 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, ‘(Inter)positioning’, students explored the nature of spatial interventions in Hong Kong’s physical structure with a focused study of Sitting-out Areas and Rest Gardens. Using methods of collage, deformation, and morphological transformation, students developed a critique about the parameters and principles of the existing typology. In Project 2, ‘A Cemetery Park In-between’, students focused on the ‘in-between’ fields of culturally, topographically, and ecologically distinct development areas at Happy Valley Cemetery. Taking on notions of expanded roles for infrastructure, students were challenged to consider strategies that construct habitable ground for both people and ecology. Through multiple exercises, the students explored design methodologies including typological analysis, abstraction, projection and iteration. Students refined their capabilities in presenting landscape designs in both measured conventional formats, and in inventive, process-driven techniques.

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.