Borderland: The Macau–Zhuhai Interface

This studio examined the issues raised by urban borderlands, specifically the Zhuhai-Macau Cross-border Industrial Zone, an interstitial area that simultaneously connects and separates the Zhuhai SEZ and the Macau SAR. Students created a masterplan for the entire area, and then implanted a hybrid architectural complex that incorporates a new border-crossing facility. The masterplan arose through a controlled series of multiple superimpositions to create a three-dimensional “urban interference pattern” that acted as the armature for future development.

The architecture of the border-crossing facility was developed using techniques of superimposition, parallax, and porosity in order to create a distinctive waterfront presence and hybrid architecture. Flow diagrams of people, vehicles, and merchandise were used in the generation of architectural form. The incorporation of radical ecological concepts that address air and water pollution were encouraged. Design techniques investigated included the manipulation of porosity at every scale (ground surface, water edge, territorial border, urban layout, architectural massing, building envelope), the use of circulation patterns to generate architectural form, and the superimposition of incongruous compositional systems to create visual ambiguity and complexity. Students were asked to critically address the contrasts of water and land, nature and artifice, continuity and individuation, difference and repetition, while meeting functional objectives in terms of access, programmatic relationships, and respond to wider climatic and contextual influences. The resulting designs are hybrid structures that straddle the scales and ambitions of architecture and urbanism.

Metabolism Revived

Thematically, this studio examined the legacy of Metabolism, the 1960s Japanese architectural avant-garde. Programmatically, the task was to make design proposals for a postgraduate educational institution. Students were asked to examine and reassess the latent potentials of the original Metabolist proposals, particularly with regard to present-day economic, environmental, and cultural pressures. This knowledge was then applied to a site in the Ilha Verda region of the Macau peninsula, where a new university campus is currently under construction.

Following a collective study of the site and its neighborhood, each student developed a range of Neo-Metabolist design prototypes. Two themes were emphasized: the creation of flexible, volumetric planning systems that can be modified over time, and the implementation of new ground surfaces independent from the site. Students were provided with a map of the neighborhood and drawings of the actual campus design, to which they made critical counterproposals. Each project was conceived as an oasis that may accommodate future growth and change, thereby enabling interaction with, and enhancement of, its immediate neighborhood. The incorporation of greenery, water, and passive environmental systems at every scale of the project was emphasized. Of particular interest were the ways in which the sciences of biology and ecology have advanced since the 1960s, and may thereby provide new metaphors for architectural design, in terms of both diagrammatic spatial organization and tectonic material assemblage. Students were encouraged to make proposals with a level of visionary ambition similar to that of the original Metabolists.

The Possibility of an Island: Designing the New Macau Waterfront

This studio critically engaged the issues raised by tabula rasa urbanism and iconic architectural design. The site is one of the new land reclamations now under development in Macau, and the program comprises a schematic urban field focused on a casino-hotel form. Based on a critical analysis of the existing urban plans, students developed alternative proposals, addressing issues such as zoning, street layout, architectural massing, and engagement with the water. This became the basis for an architectural project on the waterfront, for which the students choose the precise location, scale, and programmatic composition. The design research themes were directed toward the manipulation of the ground platform and the perception of the main architectural volume. A secondary theme was the application of design methods taken from Metabolism, particularly the concepts of “artificial ground” (in which the existing land surface is treated as no more than one datum among many others) and “group form” (in which large-scale architectural form emerges from the bottom-up accumulation of modular elements rather than top-down sculptural gestures). The resulting designs address the contrasts of water and land, nature and artifice, continuity and individuation, difference and repetition. As a distinctive yet ambiguous presence on the evolving Macau skyline and waterfront, the architecture is regarded as an “unstable icon” that reflects the hybrid nature of Macau’s cultural history as well as a contemporary context in which artifice and pastiche have become authentic and essential.