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 sites throughout the city. The semester was divided into two discrete projects, each taking on sites of edge, gap, and border. 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, those unique and ubiquitous expressions of maximizing utility in all of the city’s in-between or left-over spaces. In Project 2, A Cemetery Park In-Between, students focused on the ‘in-between’ fields between culturally, topographically, and ecologically distinct development areas in the Happy Valley Cemetery. Taking on notions of expanded roles for infrastructure, students were challenged to consider interventionist strategies that construct habitable ground for both people and ecology. Through multiple exercises, the students explored design methodologies including typological analysis, abstraction, analysis, projection and iteration. Students refined their capabilities in presenting landscape designs in both measured conventional formats, and in inventive, process-driven techniques.

The “Derelict” and the “Abandoned”

The notion of “derelict” and “abandoned” is often perceived as related to obsolete facilities in the cities and landscapes. It often relates to a by-gone social /economical / political expectation of space, that the contemporary culture no longer desires such design and planning of land as resource. The physical presence of these “derelict” and “abandoned” facilities reminds us of how we used to live, yet it contrasts to the adjacent new development to reflect on our city’s evolution. This is perhaps why the discussion of re-using “abandoned” sites is no longer simply remove everything and start from scratch, but even the “derelict” elements have the value to remind us on our legacy. For example, the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord was an obsolete industrial site, it could have been “abandoned” if it was not turned into a public park. Similar “brownfields” can also be found in other cities. While these sites are contaminated through their earlier functions, they are often being fenced-off and “abandoned” until the remediation strategy is sorted out. Other “derelict” landscapes may include obsolete military facilities, village schools, and etc. Yet, from another perspective, the notion of “derelict” and “abandoned” is not simply just about the past, it is also about the present and future of our cities. With the rapid urban development in many cities, large-scale infrastructures and facilities are required to accommodate the urban needs. Train depots, highway interchanges, waste landfills, etc., are essential components of a city, but because of their vastness and unique spatial requirements, they also alienate themselves from the surrounding landscapes. Although not truly “derelict”, they are perceived as the “no-go-zone” by the nearby communities. Or, in cities where “land” is extremely scarce, some of these supposedly “derelict/abandoned” spaces are in fact occupied informally by groups that are in need of space, perhaps outside of the official operation hours and/or regardless of the contamination conditions of these sites. In China, there are also developments that turn into “ghost cities” and “ghost malls”. What went wrong in our current land planning and/or city development policy that we are creating “derelict” and “abandoned” places for the future? In short, this thesis stream explores how these “holes” in cities offer the potentials to stitch the urban fabric in an innovative way.

Student theses this year included:
“Evoking Collective Memory: Conservation and revitalization of Hong Kong military relics” by CHEUNG Mei Yan Toby;
“Reviving the working waterfront as a landscape frontier: Re-imagining Cheung Sha Wan’s Wholesale Market’s working waterfront” by CHEUNG Yan Wa Sarah;
“Revitalizing Chinese Resource-based Cities in Landscape Planning Vision” by QIU Yingyu; and
“Digital Tree Modelling for Accurate Vegetation Impact Assessment and Valuation” by WONG Yee Fung Yves.

Studio Yangon 2017: Dala, Landscape Strategies in a Tropical Urban Environment

ARCH7132 STUDIO YANGON 2017: DALA This course introduces students to the fundamental practices of landscape planning and site design in a dynamic urban context. Studio Yangon 2017 was the fourth iteration of the Landscape Division’s multi-year design and research undertaking focusing on Yangon, the commercial capital and largest city in Myanmar (Burma). This year, the studio looked outside the urban core to Dala Township located across Yangon River. Through a series of design and research exercises, the studio aimed to identify and enhance the potential for landscape systems to play an active role in the strategic development of this area and of the city as a whole. In this course, the second of three studios within the MLA design curriculum, students continued to develop an iterative working process that responds to feedback and criticism. Students expanded their capacity to work simultaneously in a range of scales and to consider landscape beyond form, as processes and performance. Through discussions and precedent analysis, the studio engages in a critical dialogue with contemporary practices of landscape architecture and planning, examining their claims through the lens of a unique urban situation. Ultimately, students were challenged to develop an appreciation for the complex economic, ecological, and social factors that underlie urban environments, and to translate ideas into space, organization, and strategy.

Process and Compositions

This “Introduction to landscape studio” focuses on grasping the fundamental design skills. The philosophy of the content and the flow of this course is based on the premise that all design disciplines require an understanding of the body, movement, site, to generate a design concept and eventually develop it into a detailed space based on those understandings. Therefore, this is a course that students learn about the universal design approaches. The components of landscape will be discussed and incorporated throughout the exercises, but once students acquire the fundamental design skills in this course, they will be further manifested and elaborated in the rest of the five studio courses ahead in the program. The focus on this studio will be based on process and compositions.

The “Derelict” and the “Abandoned”

With the rapid urban development in many cities, large-scale infrastructures and facilities are required to accommodate the urban needs. Train depots, highway interchanges, waste landfills, etc., are essential components of a city, but because of their vastness and unique spatial requirements, they also alienate themselves from the surrounding landscapes. Although not truly “derelict”, they are perceived as the “no-go-zone” by the nearby communities. In cities, “brownfields” can also be found. While these sites got contaminated through their earlier functions, they are often fenced-off and “abandoned” until the remediation strategy is sorted out. Or, in cities where “land” is extremely scarce, some of these supposedly “derelict/abandoned” spaces are in fact occupied informally by groups that are in need of space, perhaps outside of the official operation hours and/or regardless of the contamination conditions of these sites. In short, this thesis stream explores how these “holes” in cities offer the potentials to stitch the urban fabric in an innovative way.

Student theses this year included:
“Neo-Hydrological Sandscape: Reclamation of Desert Oasis with Qanat as Framework” by CHEN Jielin Janine;
“Nan Sha River Restoration” by JIA Jia; and
“Reciprocal Dredging Waterfront: Beneficial use of dredged material in Nansha District, Guangzhou” by LIU Qi Smith.

Landscape Community Studio: Urban Transects, Shanghai Street

The contemporary morphology of urban Hong Kong is the result of rapid population growth, land scarcity, diverse cultural identities and social, political and economic determinism. Its unique and ever-evolving urban forms are imprinted with the history of more than 150 years of piecemeal aggregation through reclamation, development, and renewal. Over time, each of these expansions adapts itself to the urban fabric, producing specific spatial conditions that shape the lives of its inhabitants. The studio focuses on Shanghai Street, one of the longest streets in Kowloon. Traversing 2.3 kilometers through four distinct neighborhoods, the street embodies a rich history whose character is reflected in its built forms, landscape and inhabitants. Originally a shallow bay, the area was reclaimed in the late 1800s. From the very beginning, Shanghai Street became economically vibrant due to its proximity to Ya Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter and the ferry piers. As the area continued to expand through reclamation, development and urban renewal, many of the original uses and inhabitants relocated to other areas of the city. Today we can still see remnants of traditional elements layered with new ones in many spaces that find contemporary uses by new occupants, such as artists, ethnic minorities, activists, prostitutes and venders. The studio examines the relationships between people and the built environment. Through a series of exercises, students shall learn to identify and analyze key aspects (physical, ecological, economic and social) that shape an urban context; to build a vocabulary that communicates urban forms and the environment, and to propose appropriate interventions to the context.

Landscape Planning Studio: Open Air Museum

In this first design studio, students based their initial work on their understanding of landscape representation and abstraction previously acquired through first year courses. The design exercise begins with the study of an art piece, as well as the particular philosophy and approach adopted by its artist. Student’s own interpretation of the art piece was illustrated through an abstract painting which in turn set the conceptual framework for the project – an “Open-Air Museum”. In this “Open-Air Museum”, each student was assigned a fixed volume of space, in which to form and construct the topography and space, in order to host the art piece given in the first exercise. The conceptualized forms and shapes of space derived from the ideas of the art piece, or the philosophy of the artist. In this conceptual stage, students generated multiple iterations of concept models, in order to brainstorm a wide range of possibilities and ways of approach design. For each of these iterations, 5 study models were presented at a time, so that feedback and critique helped develop and refine the design. Once the concept is refined, student moved to the spatial design stage, in which they explored various landscape operations to define compositions, datum, proportions, and hierarchies, appropriate for human use and scale. Designs were further articulated through the exploration of landscape qualities. Aspects of how planting and materials will enhance the experience of the space were explored. The understanding of these aspects are then represented in different rendering media such as collage and sketches, so as to prepare students to present their work at final review. The four projects in this studio are sequential, inter-related, and accumulative. They should be conducted with expectation to carry over the knowledge acquired from one project to another.

 

Introduction to Landscape Design Studio

This introduction to landscape studio focused on exposing students to fundamental design skills. The underlying philosophy of the content and flow of this course was based on the premise that all design disciplines require an understanding of the body, movement, and site, from which a design concept can be generated and eventually developed into a detailed spatial design based on those understandings. In this course, students learnt an approach to design and were encouraged to develop a design sensibility extending beyond just landscape architecture, while at the same time allowing for discussion and incorporation of specifically landscape elements into their ultimate design proposals.

LAND VISIONS: In Search of Land Art in Hong Kong

Principal Investigator: Vincci MAK
Funding body: Hong Kong Arts Development Council, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Division of Landscape Architecture

Abstract

Land Art first started in the United States and Europe in 1960-80s, during a period when the Western world began to question environmental issues. In Asia, we saw the emergence of Land Art starting from 1990s, perhaps also as a reaction to the environmental degradation following the Western society’s footsteps.
From projects such as the Spiral Jetty (1970) by Robert Smithson, Wheatfield – a Confrontation (1982) by Agnes Denes, to the initiative of the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale (since 1996) in Japan, Land Art projects intend to provoke a new way of understanding our landscape, and generate insights of how we can better conserve our environment in the future.

Being an international city in Asia, Hong Kong has her unique approach in channelling environmental questions through creative work. Many local artists have taken environmental settings in Hong Kong to become their “studios” in creating artworks that integrate with the native landscape, while addressing local environmental issues.
This exhibition aims to look at land-related art projects generated in Hong Kong in the past 10 years, to examine how local environmental issues are discussed through the artists represented here. The lineage of how these local art projects relate to the fundamental qualities and essences of early Land Art will also be explored, both through art forms and artistic approaches that artists from these two generations applied.

The vision of early Land Art is to use site-specific approaches to reflect on land issues and generate ideas. Do we take such physical interaction with the land to define what Land Art is? Do Hong Kong contemporary art projects dealing with land issues share the same vision? Do they reveal the essence of the land, through site-specific approach and physical interaction with the environment ? Are they considered Land Art? And to push the investigation further, do we have Land Art in Hong Kong?
Reviewing the course of Land Art development – from pure artistic explorations to play with natural materials in the landscape when the genre of Land Art emerged in the 60s, to how the Japanese took it as a way to embrace the rural community and to revitalise village living since the late-90s – it s definitely a question worth projecting, to explore how the genre of Land Art has developed in the past decade in Hong Kong, as a way to express our voice to our changing environment, and to respond to our unique rural-urban development context of 21st Century Hong Kong.

Objectives

The goal of this curation is not only to showcase some of the local works of Land Art, but also to link our local endeavours to the global platform and discourse of Land Art.

Results

“LAND VISIONS: In Search of Land Art in Hong Kong” Exhibition, 16 April – 2 May, 2016, 10am-8pm Daily, at Hong Kong Arts Centre Comix Home Base 3-4/F.

Outputs

Vincci Mak. (2016) “LAND VISIONS: In Search of Land Art in Hong Kong” Exhibition Booklet.

Anticipated Impact

It is hoped that this exhibition can bring awareness of Land Art in Hong Kong. A potential symposium on contemporary Land Art development may be collaborated between HKU Division of Landscape Architecture and UCL Slade School of Fine Art in Spring 2017, to continue such research effort.