Terrained Open Space

This project took Sheung Wan as a study ground in order to explore its formal and informal open spaces. Sheung Wan is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Hong Kong. The area south of Queen’s Road Central is terrain, and early developments were characterized by terraces and staircases to accommodate the topographic differences in the neighborhood. This is rather unique, and the challenge in this studio project is to find ways to create open space in this terrained neighbourhood. This studio started with an initial exercise to study open spaces in Sheung Wan in order for students to learn about their history, user patterns, modes of development/ operation, and space networks. This exercise also aimed to give students some contextual understanding of Sheung Wan and prepare them for their upcoming assignments. After a precedent study that looked at how other landscape projects design open space on topographic sites, the second exercise of the studio introduced the design task and its site. At this stage, students learnt how to do site analysis, and how findings in the analysis can inform design directions. Students developed a conceptual site plan in the third exercise, demonstrating their understanding of the site’s context, topographic challenges, and access connection network. They incorporated open space programs reflecting the neighborhood’s social dynamics. Toward the end of the project, students were guided to focus on key areas to further their design.

Tree Museum

The studio had two main goals: to consolidate the basic design vocabulary (elements and principles of design) explored in Design Studio 1A; and to anchor the planting knowledge obtained in ARCH 2105 Plants and Design 1. Students started the studio selecting a tree species to study and analyse. In addition to their recently acquired botanical knowledge, they developed a broader understanding of the tree informed by the artistic, social and cultural aspects that define it. Students also looked into the physical features of the tree. They produced abstract drawings and models, gradually distilling into a spatial concept some of the characteristics that make the observed trees more distinctive. After these considerations and formal explorations, students went on to develop the concept for a specific site in Hong Kong: Red Brick Hill. The brief asked them to imagine an open-air museum dedicated to showcase an indefinite number of specimens of their choice. Concepts combining previous formal abstractions and socio-cultural association were confronted with the temporal and spatial changing needs that resulted in ephemeral studies and growing scenarios. The open-air museums seen here provide a valuable catalogue, not only of trees, but of landscape designers’ dilemmas and the attitudes and tools at play to solve them.

Future of the Countryside

In September 2014, Rem Koolhaas published an article in the “Icon” Magazine, titled “Koolhaas in the country”. He writes: “The countryside is now the frontline of transformation. A world formerly dictated by the seasons and the organisation of agriculture is now a toxic mix of genetic experiment, science, industrial nostalgia, seasonal immigration, territorial buying sprees, massive subsidies, incidental inhabitation, tax incentives, investment, political turmoil, in other words more volatile than the most accelerated city.” The countryside is an amalgamation of tendencies that are outside our overview and outside our awareness. Our current obsession with only the city is highly irresponsible because you cannot understand the city without understanding the countryside. To the renowned Dutch architect, his interest in ruralism did not subside. In March 2018, Koolhaas was interviewed by the Financial Times, and he expressed again “[h]is new thing is ‘the rural’ – a radical reassessment of the relationship between the city and the countryside […]”. When looking at our own country, China always has a strong connection to the countryside. Historically as an agrarian country, managing the rural population well is always in the mind of the leaders and central government. Recent decades rural policies include the “building a new socialist countryside” movement initiated in 2006 and the currently implemented “Beautiful Village Policy”. In Hong Kong, incidents such as the relocation of Choi Yuen Village due to the just opened high speed rail alignment, and our government’s new town proposals in the countryside, spark revived interests in Hong Kong’s rural areas and their connections to the city, and an alternative lifestyle other than an urban one. It should not be ignored that there are also criticisms about how city-oriented mentalities are imposing values from the urban trajectory and romanticizing lifestyles in the countryside. How is the rural landscape being perceived by villagers and city-dwellers, and from who’s perspectives should rural development be driven, are part of the questions to explore in this thesis track. For example, the numerous Art Festivals curated in Japan’s rural villages in recent decade, aim to invite artists to live, work, and create, in the countryside. Such extended rural experience is to transform the often city-mindset to a perspective that speaks from the countryside. Of course, these art festivals also generate seasonal tourism to the villages, which also can be a debatable issue for discussion. While this thesis track is broadly exploring contemporary ruralism, it welcomes both written and design theses. Your study site can be selected from either the areas mentioned above, or anywhere in the World. Just like Koolhaas, his observation and interest to the rural started from a Swiss village. For your information, Koolhaas will be curating an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 2019, titled “Countryside: Future of the World”. It is possibly the right timing to explore the countryside now.

Landscape Systems

This course introduced landscape as a dynamic assemblage of geological, hydrological, pedagogical, and biological systems in continuous interaction with natural factors (climate, ecology) and human factors (society, economy, urbanization). It introduced the science, as well as the related conceptual frameworks, that underpin the creation and management of landscapes. The course also explored the specific relationships between people and their natural environment within the case-study landscapes of Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta. It provided a foundation for ‘reading’ landscapes and ultimately for assessing their specific qualities and functions, as well as providing more general critical reflection on oft-used terms in practice today such as sustainability, performance, productivity, and resilience. Classes were often held on site to gain practical and experiential knowledge in the field.

Terrained Open Space

This project took Sheung Wan as a study ground in order to explore its formal and informal open spaces. Sheung Wan is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Hong Kong. The terrain of the area south of Queen’s Road West reflects early developments that were characterized by terraces and staircases to accommodate the topographic differences in the neighborhood. This is a rather unique setting in Hong Kong, and the challenge in this studio project was to find ways to create open space in this terraced neighborhood. This studio started with an initial exercise to study open spaces in Sheung Wan in order for students to learn about their history, user patterns, modes of development/ operation, and space networks. This exercise also aimed to give students some contextual understanding of Sheung Wan and prepare them for their upcoming assignments. After a precedent study that looked at how other landscape projects design open space on topographic sites, the second exercise of the studio introduced the design task and its site. At this stage, students learnt how to do site analysis, and how findings in the analysis can inform design directions. Students developed a conceptual site plan in the third exercise, demonstrating their understanding of the site’s context, topographic challenges, and access connection network. They incorporated open space programs reflecting the neighborhood’s social dynamics. Toward the end of the project, students were guided to focus on key areas to further their design.

Landscape Design Studio 1

This course intends to familiarise students with the vocabulary and tools that form the basis of design. The course was structured around three consecutive exercises of increasing complexity that had in common formal investigations around three dimensional objects. Firstly, students started applying some of the techniques learnt in Landscape Representation to analyze a given sculpture. The focus was placed on qualities such as form, scale, proportion, and composition, and how these can be applied in conveying a concept. Secondly, students were asked to imagine a three dimensional object with no function pre-determined to occupy the voids left by the once ubiquitous telephone cabins. The exercise confronted them with the dire reality of construction as the proposed designs had to be built in 1:1 scale. Thirdly, students were asked to imagine a landscape intervention on a real site: a garden for an artist in residence. In this case, the focus shifted from an object’s qualities to qualified space. Starting from the analysis of the artwork conducted in the first exercise, and from their small research about the artist’s formal (or informal) preoccupations, students had to think of space as reflecting on the character of a specific user and of the possible ways in which this space might be experienced.

Stop and see. Then walk.

The content and the flow of the course emphasized the understanding of body and object and the relations that can be found between them. Four main projects and a preliminary exercise were proposed. Pre-positions was a preliminary exercise where students had to explore their own physical presence in relation to a number of mundane objects that define our everyday streetscape. Relationships between body and object were documented through the use of digital photography. In origami, a set of rules were provided for students to deliver a three dimensional object. Physical operations such as cutting, slotting, and folding were performed on a sheet of paper and later modeled and re-drawn digitally. In sitting object students had to scale up their origami exercises, turning them into objects that allow users to rest. In Site, students were introduced to an imaginary site that contains elements such as trees, hedges, water, boulders, and walls with A/C units. Students were asked to apply further modifications to their objects in order for them to become site specific and respond to their environs. Finally, in Site Walk, students had to imagine (and negotiate) a walking path from their assigned position on site to another position of one of their classmates. The focus this time was on experience and the changing landscape qualities, while making use of representation techniques such as collages, plans, and experiential sections.

Landscape Systems

This course introduces landscape as a dynamic assemblage of geological, hydrological, pedagogical, and biological systems in continuous interaction with natural (climate, ecology) and human factors (society, economy, urbanization). It introduces the science, as well as the related conceptual frameworks, that underpin the creation and management of landscapes. The course also explores the specific relationships between humans and their natural environment within the case-study landscapes of Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta. The course provides a foundation for ‘reading’ landscapes and ultimately for assessing their specific qualities and functions, as well as providing more general critical reflection on oft-used terms in practice today such as sustainability, performance, productivity, and resilience. Classes are often held on site to gain practical and experiential knowledge in the field.

“Keep Wanchai …”

This project took Wanchai public space as a study ground, to explore the roles and designs of urban landscapes in Hong Kong. Wanchai is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Hong Kong. Its developments and transformations through the years provoke new challenges to what it means by public space in Wanchai, and who it is meant for. This studio started with an exercise to study public spaces in Wanchai, to learn about their history, users’ patterns, modes of development/operation, and space networks. The exercise also aimed to give students some contextual understanding of Wanchai. Secondly, we introduced the design task and its site. At this stage, students were asked to learn about the stakeholders at the site and their interests to the space there. Students observed and analyzed stakeholders’ ways of using the space, and to develop a “design toolkit” for future use. Then, in the third exercise, students came up with a concept site plan, referencing the “design toolkit” they generated in the second exercise, to represent one stakeholder’s interest and expectation at site. In the fourth exercise, students first fine-tuned their concept site plan by incorporating another stakeholder’s expectations to the concept site plan, then developed a site design for the project. To connect back to the initial exploration of Wanchai’s public space, the final exercise required students to tie their project site back to the Wanchai public space network, and to project/derive/speculate a future Wanchai public space masterplan with considerations of development and redevelopment that may happen to the neighborhood in the near future. In conclusion, this studio hoped to introduce site design, masterplanning, programming, and community engagement to students.

Open-Air Museum

This “Introduction to landscape studio” focuses on grasping the fundamental design skills. The topic of the design project is “Open-Air Museum”, in which you are to design a landscape space to host an art piece. Students began the design exercise by (P1) studying and learning about the art piece assigned, as well as the philosophy and approach this particular artist adopts(ed). Topography is an important element to a landscape project. In the second phase (P2), students were asked to conceptualize their understanding of the terrain, using languages and operations in the design profession. Continuing with the study of terrain, students then eased into learning how spatial concepts can be applied to a landscape as design interventions. Students used simple landscape operation techniques to engage in (P3) conceptual interventions on/in/with a landscape that will eventually derive compositions, datum, proportions, and hierarchies of spaces. In the precedent studies exercise (P4), students learned from a set list of landscape projects to see how landscape architects develop their work with the theme of art and/or with a terrain. In the next phase, students brought back conceptual understandings of the art piece learned from P1, and used their intervention technique learned from P3, to engage it to the site. Students also embraced their terrain understanding from P2, their references gained from precedents studies in P4, and the design of space for this “Open-Air Museum”(P5) . The spatial design of the “Open-Air Museum” not only should relate to the art piece it is hosting, it should also consider how visitors interact with the space with appropriate scale understandings. Human scales and articulations in dimensions are to be explored.