Structural Space

Works from BAAS Year 3 Global Perspective: China and Asia (ARCH2060). Chinese architecture is prominent for its timber-framed building system: the structural skeleton is an organic whole that any subtle variation may result in a drastic change of entire architectural forms. Producing architectural form and style in pre-modern China and East Asia is not merely a matter of building technology but also variously related to concerns of functions, regional traditions, dynastic aesthetic ideas, and design motivations. In this exercise, students conduct close and meticulous examinations of historical monuments and represent their structural space in oblique projections.

Vertical Fabric: Density in Landscape

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Responding to the theme of freespace of 2018 Venice Biennale, the Exhibition Vertical Fabric: density in landscape, celebrates the unique urban conditions of Hong Kong by exploring the innovation of freespace within the controlled vertical towers. By inviting 100 architects from Hong Kong and worldwide to install 100 towers that march along the venue’s courtyard and exhibition rooms, the exhibition illustrates the compactness of Hong Kong’s urban form while exploring new tower prototypes for Hong Kong and the world. Walking in-between towers through this miniature city, visitors experience the city’s spaces of vertical intensity, discovering varieties of interpretation on freespace through individual proposition of tower designs by architects.

The exhibition offers an open platform to create dialogues and statements on vertical architecture and urbanism of Hong Kong’s slender towers, incubating visions for vertical freespace and speculating how they can distinct from other models of contemporary towers. The venue manifests how innovation overcomes constraints through generating extraordinary spaces from ordinary forms, providing architects an opportunity to shape discourses on tower typology that faces challenges of technology, community, and sustainability.

With rigorously designed exhibition logistics, 100 tower-model bases are prepared for exhibitors to redefine their choices of form, function, structure and infrastructure of towers. In order
to coordinate a consistent visual presentation with a collective exhibition form, 3 types of tower model-base are designed for exhibitors: Core, Frame, and Wall, suggesting the infrastructural support systems on structure, circulation and services for typical slender towers.

With continuing exhibitions and forums for outreach in Hong Kong
after Venice, the exhibitions attract over 100,000 visitors and hundreds of media reports in Venice and Hong Kong, making significant impacts among the community, professionals and academics of Hong Kong, China and the region. Vertical Fabric: density in landscape.

Looking down at Hong Kong’s Central from the Victoria Peak, one will be amazed at the wave of towers springing up from the sloping terrain down to the harbor front. The city’s vertical fabric spreads along the water edge as a belt of tightly woven texture. Its verticality is punctuated by the horizontality of elevated freeways slicing through, and momentarily agitated by multi-level junctions when different horizontal momentums—highways, subways, skywalks, urban escalators—intersect with the verticals, together form a complex totality in which one compensates for the other. Generated by floor efficiency and tightly-crafted building codes based on plot ratio control, the slender towers, framed by land economy through demands for density, establish the city’s dominating typology, not only governing our urban skyline but also shaping our daily urban and architectural experiences. On the other hand, with the planning of densely packed urban area, Hong Kong sustains the land-use for most of its territories as greenery to become landscapes of freespace. While maintaining mostly small land parcels, slender towers in Hong Kong also provide porosity of urban gaps in-between. Distinguished itself from other global cities, Hong Kong’s unique urban form celebrates an aesthetic of density and intensity, while comprising a gigantic rhetoric of speculation for both transaction and consumption.

Rebuilding Courtyard Houses and Public Spaces

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Villages in China are facing critical social-economic challenges along with urgent issues on physical environment including dilapidated building and the poor condition of community and public spaces. Wang Weijen Architecture has started the design explorations in Songyang since 2012 by restoring a Courtyard House in Pingtian, as well as the Village Hall in Jieshou. The two projects in two villages each slowly extended to their surroundings, rebuilding patios and plazas, houses and temples one after another, establishing a sequence of new architecture and communal spaces shared by villagers.

Through a series of projects unfolded in villages, the research gradually developed a clear position and methods of architectural practice in traditional villages under transformation, defining critical issues and strategies for architectural and urban design in the context of rural China. Highlighting knowledge developed from understanding village site, history, fabric and typology, the project addresses the dual-role of architect as a practitioner and researcher. Connecting points by points into lines and networks, the rural strategy of acupuncture by the architect brings architecture together with public spaces, integrating production and culture tourism with daily lives.

The rebuilding of the courtyard houses in Pingtian explores the system of structural spaces and the tectonic of rammed earth, timber and steel, demonstrating the design integration between modern architecture and traditional technology. The new village-hall in Jieshou opens up an urban cross-section connecting the historical temple to the waterfront, while the renovation of courtyard houses of Zhuo-Lu turns private courtyards into semi-public spaces, linking village architecture into fabric, extending to the surrounding nature.

Re-addressing issues of community engagements and construction innovations, the project demonstrates the significance of social and tectonic concerns over architecture. By promoting a gentle method of typological transformations, the project advocates an urban-rural strategy of acupuncture design, rebuilding narratives of public spaces for Chinese villages.

Village I: Pingtian

Hotel as fabric in the mountain village

Pingtian is a typical mountain village of Songyang with houses array along the contour facing the valley. Surrounded by layers of distant mountains and adjacent terraces of vegetable gardens and tea fields, fishponds and bamboo woods, the village houses and their temples form a self-sustained community of production and consumption integrated nature and ecology. Inspired by successful village B&B stories, Mr Jiang and his father started the family mountain inn by renovating their surrounding vacant houses rented from relatives, hoping that the new business can revitalize the economy of their village, introducing new production, employment opportunities and vitality to Pingtian.

Starting from the centre of courtyard house and its adjacent patios, Pingtian Cloud Village Hotel is composed of clusters of guestrooms, cafe, and workshops converted from original houses within the village fabric, shaping an unique spatial experience of accommodation in an authentic village setting. Walking up the steps through the village path, a sequence of patios and buildings designed by Wang Weijen Architecture along the main path forms the core experience of the Village Hotel: Courtyard House Restaurant and West-wing guestroom, Tea-Pavilion, Reception House with Agriculture Showroom and Guestrooms, leading to a Stage-Pavilion for the outdoor theatre plaza at the village top.

Exploring typological and spatial potentials

Based on the footprint of original house, the re-construction of the new Courtyard House Restaurant adopts and reuses the original rammed earth wall-enclosure, re-constructing the main structure with traditional timber frame and tiled roof. By opening up all partitions and lifting the privacy of rooms, the new courtyard house highlights the modular of Chinese timber-structural system through new experiences with open-flow of spaces. Walking in-between the continuous spaces defined by rhythms of post and beam, the changing angles of sunlight and temperature through the louver-panels framing the courtyard patio become the reference for time in spaces, amplifying and negotiating boundaries between architecture and landscape, extending our body into the piece of nature in the patio. By adding the stairway with corner rooms at the west-court, the design also creates a mini light-well garden and pond, incorporating additional rooms with traditional aesthetic sensitivity.

Tea-Pavilion and Patios

Public spaces for villagers and visitors

Adopting topography by extending the kitchen to the south and the service-wing to the east, the new courtyard house also provides podium-deck and patios for the community, thus becomes public spaces for the villagers. Anchoring at the southeast corner of the courtyard house between the podium and patio, the Tea-Pavilion rebuilt from a storage-shed strategically becomes the vista focus of village path. Looking down toward the valley-view beyond village houses, the open pavilion enjoys a mountain-view toward the front and also behind through an angled skylight from above. The installation of Tea-Pavilion as a spatial catalyst, successfully activates the upper plaza opposite of the Café, leading to the next reconstruction of the reception hall with showroom and guestrooms.   

Agriculture Showroom with Guestroom

Typological transformation through
public-private programs

Having a gable façade facing the upper patio of the central plaza, the reconstruction of the reception Hall and guestroom adopts the footprint of original farmhouse by reusing its rammed earth wall-enclosure. By turning its linear light-well along the retaining wall as the stairway atrium, the design organises a sequence of guestrooms along the thick earthen wall facing mountain views. With a variety of steel-framed deep windows and balcony projection arranged for different room functions, the solid façade with animated steel windows along the alleyway provides a new spirit to the traditional village fabric, while the other façade at the upper level parallel to the village path, expressing a form of contemporary translucency through the use of light-weighted timber louver with window glass panels. The reception hall and showroom for village agriculture products at the lower level with unique characters through the use of bamboo louver ceiling as well as wood and steel-plate shelf, not only become the centre focus of the village hotel, but also serve as a communal lounge of the village for various public events and workshops.

Tectonics with Narratives

Rammed-earth, masonry, timber and steel   

The rebuilding of the courtyard houses in Pingtian village explores the system of structural spaces and the tectonic of rammed earth, timber and steel, demonstrating the design integration between modern architecture and local technology with senses of tactile and body ergonomics. Through the opening of windows and framing of views toward vista, the façade design blends traditional style with modern rhetoric, moderating environmental and experiential performances of window panels between indoors and outdoors through the thickness of earth-wall: translucent and transparent, inward and outward, push and pull, angle and direction.

Adopting steel purlin-frame with timber rafters and tiles, the architecture of the Pingtian courtyard houses and pavilions explores the integration of modern aesthetics with traditional techniques through the incorporation of contemporary building materials. By using steel and glass panels for corner opening in traditional construction of rammed earth wall, the design combines vernacular syntax with modern function and sensitivity in the regional context.

Village as Hotel

Rebuilding community

The remaking of village houses in Pingtian not only brings together the tectonic of rammed earth and timber with steels and glasses, but also the Rebuilding up of a platform through consensus for designing and building process among villagers and owners, modern architects with traditional carpenters and masons. The construction not only becomes traces of engaging nature through building, but also regenerates a process of making village’s public spaces: the tradition of shaping shared narrative spaces by the community. The reconstruction explores architectural tectonics and typology as well as testing functional and site potentials: leisure and services, enclosure and open, stone and tile, soil and woods, contour and datum, mountains and water.

Most importantly, the Village as Hotel was not built based on one master plan blueprint, but step by step and one after another, by identifying catalysts and seeking opportunities to transform, evolve and transform. The shaping of village hotel is also a process of rebuilding the community with an understanding of its economy and ecology, through the conservation of its architectural and social fabric shared by entrepreneurs and the local government, architects and carpenters, as well as visitors and villagers.

Village II: Jieshou

Shaping village public spaces

Jieshou is a typical agriculture village that rests itself on the north side of Songyin Creek. Jieshou means “the first on the boundary”, for it was the first village that the ancient post road hit in Songyang area. Historically, due to its fertile soil, successful agricultural production and strategic geographical location, Jieshou has been an affluent village in the surroundings of Songyang Plain. With the development of trade activities, a prosperous commercial street has evolved along the Songyin Creek since Ming and Qing dynasties, with the memorial archways along the streets as well as the significant public buildings.

Starting from the reconstruction of Village-Hall as catalyst, the design kicks off a series of projects in restoring and reactivating public buildings and open spaces along the historical street in Jieshou, Songyang, including Plaza of Village-Hall, Relic-site of Water-God Temple, Village Family Shrine, and Village School. While the new Village-Hall opens up an urban cross-section connecting the historical temple to the waterfront, the renovation of signature Courtyard Houses including Zhuo-Lu, Juyi-Tang and Minggaoshao-Fu, also opens up private courtyards to public streets and patios, linking village spaces into fabric, extending them to the surrounding nature of mountains and fields. Connecting points by points into lines and networks, the rural strategy of acupuncture by Wang Weijen Architecture intends to bring architecture together with community and social spaces, integrating production and culture tourism with daily life in village.    


Rebuilding the Village Hall

Typological transformation of an urban-section

Through preserving and renovating the historic buildings built in the end of Cultural Revolution, this design project reconstructs the symbolic relationships among Water-God Temple, theatre stage, and Songyin Creek left from the past. Apart from restoring the original large span timber-truss village grand hall, the design also opens the architectural façades in the front and back of the grand hall. This project introduces transparent modern materials into an ancient village, connecting the traditional longitudinal settlements with the transverse mountain-view and the waterfront, transforming spaces at the grand hall into a new urban section. With the back façade of the village hall setting back for making the grand porch, the spatial experiences are turned around: a new corridor is formed in front of the back façade, representing the connections between plaza and the surrounding landscape. The design also gives prominence to the double-sidedness of the display windows by means of widening the bricks on the two sides of the wall, thus strengthening the architecture’s potentials of spatial narration. The new village hall, not only intends to become a public space for villagers’ daily activities and tourists’ cultural experiences, but also expecting to stitching architectures and collective memories from different historical periods.

Restoring the Courtyard Hotel

Preservation and innovation with

Juji-Hall, Minggaoshao-Fu, and Zhuo-Lu Mansion are all typical two-story two-jin courtyard house owned by Songyang gentry families, with grey tiles, white walls, exquisite pavilion with delicate wood carvings. Particularly in Juyi-Hall, it also exhibits paintings by an old gentleman named Liu Weichao, which narrate the history and cultural geography of Jieshou.

Zhuo-Lu, an early modern two-story courtyard house with its unique spatial forms, was identified as epitomizing a successful home stay hotel in driving cultural tourism in the village. Built by village gentry Liu Deyuan, the founder of Zhendong Women’s School, Zhao-Lu was depicted in great details in the remained anthology named Chixicuncao about the perceptions of environment and contemplation of construction techniques in the process of design decision made for building traditional literati houses.

Delivered in a clear architectural style, the use of space in  Zhuo-Lu demonstrates a linear typology of a two story courtyard house, resonating with corridors on which residents could enjoy surrounding mountain views. The renovated B&B hotel keeps a rectangular courtyard with its distinctive characters, and introduces a mirror-like water pond in the middle of the courtyard. Penetrating through each room from the front door to back windows, linking lights and shadows in the front water-yard to the artificial landscape garden in the backyard, that altogether creates a continuous spatial experience for a modern classical Chinese room. At the same time, the light-well of the foyer entrance, the reflection of lights through water in the courtyard, as well as trees and corridors outside the courtyard, transform Zhuo-Lu and its courtyards into a significant place as well as semi-public spaces in the village.

Rebuilding the Village Core

Reconnecting temple, plaza,
street and waterfront

Yuwang Water-God Temple faces the Songyin Creek in the south, forming the historical core of Jieshou village together with the theatre stage across the street.  Daily life activities, folklores and festival rituals of the villagers have shaped the collective memories of the village. In the process of reshaping public and communal spaces of Jieshou through history, the design team also investigates the ruins of Yuwang Temple dilapidated for years after the devastating fire in the 80’s. Through surveying and mapping the ruins of columns, plinth, platforms, and foundations, with collected folk paintings and oral histories, the architect reconstructed the form and spaces of the historical temple with drawings, hoping to signify the ruin space for provoking villagers’ and visitors’ imaginations about culture. Working with the local herb-medicine institute, the architect is also restoring the wing rooms of the temple into a mini-museum of Traditional Medicine, showcasing the production and culture of the new Jieshou village.

By gradually restoring nearby buildings including the historical Zhendong Village School, Juyi-Hall, and Liu Family Shrine, the design team renewed public facilities inside the settlement fabric, step by step, by transforming the introverted courtyard and dilapidated village halls into public spaces. While the new Village-Hall opens up an urban cross-section connecting the historical temple to the waterfront, the renovation of signature Courtyard Houses like Zhuo-Lu, also turns private courtyards into semi-public patios, linking village spaces into fabric, extending to the surrounding nature.

Participatory Strategies: The Reconstruction of Choi Yuen Village

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The design of Choi Yuen Village is a community re-habitation project in the New Territories of Hong Kong. Started with a protest against village re-location by the construction of High-Speed Rail Link, the movement marks a turning point in formulating alternative planning strategies for bottom-up development and grass-root participation, as well as green architecture and organic agriculture in rural Hong Kong. The project receives three regional and national design awards based on its social and community significance, including 2016 CAMA Award, which the jury is chaired by Pritzker Prize winner Wang Shu.

Facing challenges in planning and design methodologies for effective community participations, the project developed rigorous methods of “Prototypes + Variations”, moderating the dilemma between Modern Design vs. Vernacular Process, as well as Collective Form vs. Individual Needs. By formulating a typological based design mechanism, with a series of participatory strategies including Design Clinic and Recycling Pavilion, the project adopts measures for establishing green architecture and public spaces, opening up new opportunities for community design against the mainstream mode of housing development in Hong Kong.

The project completed a set of designs for 50 low-cost eco-village houses with public facilities and communal spaces, demonstrating sustainable design concepts including conservation of fishponds and orchards, allocation of 1/3 land for commune farming, establishing vehicular-free pedestrian system, natural ventilation and lighting with green roof for houses, as well as developing public infrastructures with rainwater collection and wastewater recycling systems. After a six-year-long process of negotiation, planning and design as well as temporary sheltering, the construction was finally completed in 2016.

With the support of HKU Knowledge Exchange Funding, the team is able to continue the design with villagers on improving various communal facilities, including the irrigation system for vegetable farming and planting trees for public patios. Through ten years of extensive media reports and engagements from different social groups, the project makes significant impacts to the community and professionals, demonstrating an innovative and alternative model for designing communal architecture in Hong Kong and worldwide.

Protecting Homeland
A grass-root Civic Movement

On Christmas Eve 2009, over thousands of farmers from rural Hong Kong, as well as social activists and supporters gathered at the government’s headquarters in Central, demanding their rights to stay in the land where they had settled for over 50 years, protesting against the relocation order which shall take away their farmlands due to the construction of High-Speed Rail linking Hong Kong and Beijing. Coming from a small village near Yuen Kong in Hong Kong’s Northwest New Territories, five kilometers away from the border of China, these 200 villagers, for the first time since Hong Kong’s colonial and post-colonial era, rejected the government’s resettlement proposal for moving into high-rise public housing, insisting to continue farming and their long relationships with the land.

For Hong Kong, a city that economic growth and development had always been considered as higher priority under the efficient colonial administration, the protest of Choi Yuen Village not only draws public attention over the issue on, under what circumstances can development be justified to deprive the right of habitation, and it also opens up the public debate on how metropolitan Hong Kong can still maintain its sustainable agriculture for keeping a symbiotic relationship with its rural environment. With the increasing civic concerns over the community and heritage conservation after handover in 1997, Choi Yuen Villagers’ voice of “protecting homeland” gained support from the media and the general public, particularly progressive civic groups, academia and professionals.

Voices from Vegetable Garden:
Bottom-up Planning and Re-habitation Design 

“Choi Yuen” literally means Vegetable Garden, this rural village named Vegetable paradoxically becomes the symbol of tying a grass-root based civic movement from rural vegetable farm to the green movement of urban middle class. Led by social activist YC Chan, Dick Chu and other volunteers, Choi Yuen Village Concern Group, a loosely formed grass-root organization, started to work with the villagers to prepare for the long battle. The battlefield also quickly moved from metropolitan Central back to the village  site in the New Territories. A workshop pavilion was set up in the village as the community center, while the original vegetable loading station was converted into an outdoor assemblage hall for villagers’ meeting.

Making a long term plan for village relocation was a hard decision after realizing the continuous protest and confrontation at the frontline is not getting anywhere. Centered around a dozen core members from the village, this multi-disciplinary team including academia and social workers, architects and planners, engineers and surveyors, lawyers and advocators in organic farming, helps on advising various works – from purchasing land to acquiring permit to the planning and design of village houses and finally leading to the building of a new village at the site nearby.

Two types of works were identified for dealing with intermediate and long term issues. The former was mostly related to social political issues ranging from negotiation with the Transportation Department and KCRC on concerns such as the extension of demolition date to buy time for better preparation, the condition on the provision of temporary shelters and infrastructures before a new village can be settled. The intermediate measures also include confrontational ones like organizing community petrol team during the period of protest, preventing ambush bulldozing demolition from police and the railway contractor.

For the long term planning of village, even the land negotiation for a new village site was not an easy task mainly because local politicians and developers are concerned that these Choi Yuen village farmer’s moving in may change the ecology of regional politics. After some struggles, a long trip of land sitting along the foothill of Dai Lan Mountain was finally secured, with a small creek with clear water coming down from the hill, passing through woods with orchard trees, running into a fishpond at the village front. Judging from many standards, this irregular and narrow piece of land was by no means a perfect site for new village layout, but in the eye of villagers and their supporters, this is a utopia site of idealism: a new paradigm for Hong Kong exploring self-organized planning and architectural design with strong social and environmental position.

Planning Ecological Village:
A Participatory Process

Invited by the Choi Yuen Village Concern Group, Wang Weijen Architecture was asked to take up the physical layout of the village planning and the architectural design of 50 village houses. Many were convinced by the visionary ideas and green commitment, while some others were under peer pressure or felt indebted to their progressive supporters, all villagers agreed to build their new village in an ecological sustainable manner. Through advocating campaigns and multiple debates, with many negotiations and workshops supporting various sustainable ways of planning and building their villages, few consensuses were reached among villagers and the following principles were set as guidelines for laying out the plan.

1. Commune Farm Land :

With much less area of land allocated for typical vehicular access, it is agreed that 35% of the land should be designated for public use, including a large piece of commune land for agriculture. It will be, symbolically and functionally, the collective organic farm for the Vegetable Garden Village.

2. Car free Village :

It is agreed that unlike typical suburban housing with car park and vehicular access road dominating the development, their village will only have car park spaces arranged in the village front.  A pedestrian access road of one-and-a-half meter in width leading to each dwelling unit is agreed to be sufficient for daily use, like what their original old village had.

3. Fishpond and Orchard :

Keeping the original (agri)culture landscape and existing land feature was put up for debate and it finally reached an agreement. Not only at the ideological level, it was also meant to be politically correct for respecting the history of land, and environmentally the best choice since the orchard at the village center and the fishpond at the lowest part of the village site become an ideal site for collecting filtered grey water before recycling.

4. Village Road :

The three-hundred-meter-long village road connecting village from the North Entrance to the South End is the infrastructure spine of the village,  allowing the main sewage, power and cable line to be put under. A half-meter-wide rain water ditch is arranged in parallel to the one-and-half-meter-wide pedestrian road, filled with pebbles and water plants for filtering the grey water.

5. Water Recycling :

Along this three-hundred-meter-long roadside ditch, rainwater and grey water are gathered and gradually filtered by pebbles and plants into clean water while traveling down to the fishpond for collecting and irrigation recycling. Black water is also collected separately at a large sewage tank specially treated by an organic filtering mechanism using oyster shell.

6. Infrastructural Public Spaces:

The village is organized into the north, central and south sections, each with their own commons. In addition to arrange light posts and planting trees at the road junctions and patios for moderating the village sense of scale while creating public spaces. Through transforming small neighboring infrastructure nodes into public spaces, water meter boxes are designed to build on community benches to enhance the sense of community.

The layout of village master plan was developed in parallel to the establishment of the above principles. There are 50 family units, each with 1600 square foot of plot area to be allocated along the north-south main access road. With slightly different land prices set based on the location adjacency of each lot to the village entrance. Through open discussions and small group negotiations, three groups of communities were formed each taking the north, central and south sections.

Houses at the north section will either face the large commune farmland or adjacent to a linear greenery stretching toward a patio park near the secondary village entrance, connecting to a short cut foot trail leading to the bus stop. Houses at the central section will be sharing an orchard of Longyan tree. They will also have a large old Banyan tree sit along the middle of their part of the main road. Houses at the south section will be  adjacent to the foothill of mountain with woods and also the creek taking natural water down to the village.

The three-hundred-meter-long main pedestrian road is carefully animated from the village entrance to the back mountain. Starting from the entrance mailbox patio and the village grocery shop nearby the parking lot, the road leads to the commune farmland with a village pavilion in its center. Passing the orchard junction, with an array of public nodes of big trees, benches and patios arranged alongside the pedestrian road, leading us to the South Woods and foothill of the mountain. With the southwest prevailing summer breeze sliding down from the mountain taking the fresh moisture along, the village is considered to be of good Fengshui standard: embracing the comfort of wind and water.

Designing a Design Process: Prototypes + Variations

When architects started the design work of the village houses, in addition to overcome the low budget and tight schedule, the major challenge that lay ahead was: How can we develop a design process that will lead to build up village consensus and neighborhood collation rather than divisively amplifying the differences? How can this process sustain the original vernacular quality of Choi Yuen Village and yet can be designed by architects and be built by contractors under the contemporary mechanism of building practice? Three types of dialectic relationships were identified, each with their potential dilemmas to be resolved in an integrated way during the design process.

1. Modern Design and Vernacular Process:

Under the mode of modern architecture practice, how can an architect design fifty village houses within three months of time that are still able to maintain the organic quality of vernacular houses normally developed through a long period of time ? How can we transform the model of “Prototype + Modification” in the theory of vernacular architecture into a design model that is applicable in the mode of modern housing design?

2. Collective Form and Individual Space Needs:

Under the mode of contemporary construction process, how can an architect meet the different needs of each individual household while still able to develop a set of manageable working drawings that facilitates a manageable tendering process? Instead of ending up with making 50 different units of single family house design, how can we develop a design system that allows flexibility yet still be considered by contractor as a housing project for managing the cost of construction?

3. Interactive Bottom-up and Effective Top-down:

Working with the model of contemporary decision-making process in design, how can we moderate a participatory process that accommodates a variety of inputs from different houses, and still be able to maintain professional knowledge be effectively coordinate the design into a holistic entity? Rather than adopting convenient participatory design tactics like user-design workshop for making doll house-like models, or standard procedure of group discussion with roundtable conclusions, what are the other innovative ways that we can develop in an interactive design process to accommodate sufficient feedback in a manageable manner?

After mapping out different patterns of existing village houses, and survey functional expectations of each household, two key measures were formulated for designing the design process: Prototype + Variation and the arrangement of Design Clinic. These two measures were critical to address the dilemma of collective vs. individual, as well as top-down vs. bottom-up. The final house designs not only ensure most houses face the prevailing summer wind and all rooms have windows on both sides for cross-ventilation, but also encourage most of them to be able to equip with rainwater collection pond and green-roof facilities.     

1. Prototype + Variation

The fist key measure is the establishment of three basic house prototypes, each was tailor-made for different site dimensions, orientations and layout expectations: A), the symmetrical three modular-bay horizontal block developed from the basic unit of Chinese traditional dwelling, with public hall in the central bay and kitchen on the side bay; B), the rectangular atrium block developed from the prototype of Chinese traditional shop-houses with public hall on the front and kitchen/dinning space at the back; and C), the square shape block popular among villages houses developed in Hong Kong’s New Territories after the 1970s.

After a fixed structure dimension was set for exterior form, stairway and service location, each prototype can be mirrored in plan for producing another twin type, and each type can also be further developed into more sub-types due to partition variations made for different user’s expectation on bedroom numbers or living room modules. After selecting their preferred prototypes from the three basic A, B and C types, workshops were arranged with each household to refine their partition preferences which will lead to the final adjustments on their doors, window patterns, color and material options. At the end, with the model of “Prototype + Adjustments”, the A, B and C prototypes were eventually developed into nearly 50 different variations but yet similar to three houses forms.

Different tactics were launched to facilitate the identification of villagers’ preferred types and to follow up the design process. Three types of color pamphlets were delicately printed out like developer’s sale booklet to make villagers felt like they were making their choices with great respect. Each type of pamphlet was also laid out with plans of axiomatic renderings, model images as well as tick boxes for villagers to choose from. Although the design decision was finally made in the workshop session, the pamphlets and images prepared them for the design decision-making and opened up their imaginations about spaces.

2. Design Clinic: the method of participation

Before the final production of tendering drawings, three major two-day weekend workshops were arranged for design consultation. Normally, four neighboring households were invited together at one time to take part in a one-and-a-half-hour-long workshop session. Sitting around a large table with the large-scale site model of the village and everyone’s houses placed in front of them, architects demonstrated possible building layouts within each house lot, while their future neighbors were all sitting around, giving friendly suggestions as well as making subtle negotiations on matters regarding potential blocking of views or winds. Conflicting issues were usually resolved and public interest was well-protected in this open mode of consultation.

Villagers will usually arrive early or stay behind to sit in other session’s discussions for trying to know more about the nationhood. With the six-session per day arrangement, 24 household design consultations can be completed within a day. The architect and villagers were almost behaved like making medical doctor’s clinic consultation and attending appointments. With intensive, productive and interactive workshops which last for 3 to 4 weekends, although the architects were completely exhausted, the design decision for 50 village houses were eventually confirmed for moving forward to the final drafting.

Based on the agreed layout plans and the selected house types for each house, one set of working drawing which accommodates design of 50 units’ variations was developed for the tendering process. Parallel to the architectural design, with the help from expert team members, Choiyuan Village Concern Group and villagers held meetings nearly every once a week to resolve issues concerning site formation, drainage and infrastructures including water and power supplies, waste, sewage and water recycling systems. Up to that point, even though it was challenging with various difficulties in front of us, it was an optimistic and rewarding process for the team –  considering that we were about to build the first bottom-up ecological village in Hong Kong. The real challenge for the villagers to overcome in the next two years, was the village relocation and the frustration of long-awaited construction in the temporary shelters.

Shelter Communal Space for Public Forums:
Village Process I

After nearly one year of struggles in demonstrations and protests, with support from press reportings and television documentations, the government finally decided to take action to remove the village by the end of 2010, before the new village site is ready to be moved in. Not only the architectural design had to consider the location and layout for temporary shelters in the new village site before the construction can start, including the logistics of material moving for the house construction as well as the moving out of shelters after the completion of new village, the layout plan also strategically allows the reuse of infrastructures for temporary shelters provided by the government plan, to become the permanent ones for the new village.

In January 2011, all villagers finally moved into the temporary shelter in their new site, for the first time, spending their Chinese New Year away from the old home where they grew up in. In order not to affect the future house construction, the shelters were sub-divided into north and south sections, each occupying the future open spaces in planning. Common spaces were also arranged for the temporary shelter with the first courtyard used for vegetable garden and the other courtyard used for public gathering, meeting, commune lunch and village banquet party.

In the coming two years during the village construction, this open courtyard patio became the site not only used for village public activities, but also as a classroom for facilitating Hong Kong’s community movements: weekend guided tours for rural engagement, workshops for organic farming, experience-sharing sessions for sustainable planning strategy. Through the internet website, the temporary shelter of Vegetable Garden Village not only hosted visitors coming from different districts in Hong Kong, but also attracted scholars and progressive community groups from Taiwan, China, and other cities in Asia, building a platform in sharing experiences for alternative living.

Pavilion Recycling from Architecture Biennale:
Village Process II

The village construction did not really get to start until April 2013, due to the unsettling negotiation on village access road, sewage disposal, and the construction cost and terms with contractors. To boost up the village spirit during the slow awaiting process, with the help of villagers, the architects designed a pavilion in Kowloon Park for the 2012 Hong Kong Biennale. In order to promote the idea of sustainability, the pavilion will be recycled back to the village after the exhibition. Most of the pavilion components come from recycling wastes or renewable materials: plastic bottle and recycled cement wall, recycled wood panel and steel construction, shading-fabric used for rural agriculture. It also demonstrates experiments on solar panel, rainwater-collection for fishpond and irrigation uses. Through the public event of installation, it is hoped that this ecological pavilion will become the first construction project of public spaces for the village re-habitation.

The pavilion building also intends to become a public platform for the villagers, supporting groups and all citizens, in sharing ideas of organic farming, through a self-organized bottom-up approach, and sustainable design/construction process for rural Hong Kong. Through the action of dismantling, relocating and assembling, it also aims to consolidate differences and build up consensus for everyone over the idea of sustaining the green environment and protecting the homeland.

Construction and Post-construction

The village construction finally started one year after the pavilion exhibition of Architecture biennale. After six-year-long negotiations, planning and designing, temporary sheltering and construction, the building of village houses was finally completed before the Chinese New Year of 2016. Through media reports and participations of social groups over nearly ten years, the project had made significant impacts to the potential community designs in the region.

After two years of building completion, with the support of Knowledge Exchange Funding from HKU, the architects now continue their involvements with the villagers on shaping the communities’ spaces, including the infrastructural planning of vegetable farming, water irrigation systems and tree plantations.  The making of new Choi Yuen Village is not only a struggle for the grass-root in protecting and building their new home, but also a collective opposition against the typical procedure-rationale in decision making for Hong Kong’s urban-rural environments. It introduces an alternative design-planning for a more democratic and bottom-up process in shaping our city.

Courtyard as Agent

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Courtyard as Agent

The new campus architecture for the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in Shenzhen connects the architectural typology of courtyard with landscape terrain and mountain form. By adopting typological methods in using courtyard as agent for design at both planning and architectural levels, the project investigates how courtyard, as a traditional type with cultural significance, can be reinvented as three-dimensional spatial forms for multi-leveled buildings, addressing critical challenges of contemporary architecture over scale, landscape, community and sustainability. The project also demonstrates the continuing effort by Wang Weijen Architecture of Urban Courtyardism in exploring transformations of courtyard typology in high-density urban-rural contexts.

Landscape Courtyard

By allowing nature to flow into the green mall of the campus, the planning arranged a series of pavilion-like buildings along the foothill across the central green: library, student center, administrative offices, and dormitories. Inspired by Jefferson’s campus prototype, the project transforms the diagram into a new planning form of central green with ecological significance, moderating two asymmetrical and paralleled architectures along two sides of the green mall. A linear mega-form of teaching blocks with sequence of zigzagged courtyards is placed in alignment with campus edge away from the hill, allowing pavilion-buildings on the opposite side of campus green array along the landscape. The arrangement also provides visual and ecological porosity in-between architectures for enabling the campus green to re-connect with the nature of hill and water. The notion of courtyard is adopted not only as an architectural type, but also is developed as an agent for connecting courtyards into a larger planning system for accommodating landscape and nature.

Courtyard Architecture

The Square Courtyard Quadrant with sunken plaza at the center of campus green connects the two paralleled architecture sequences: the library and the student center to the linear academic block, moderating the campus contour by coordinating with different datum levels. By integrating materials of grey brick, timber louver and metal panel, the library and the student center connected by the Square Courtyard Quadrant stands out as the focus building of the new campus.

The Student center as a three-dimensional courtyard architecture is developed into a series of intersected atrium spaces along a sequence of ascending patio, bringing students from campus mall at the lower level to the semi-open courtyards facing the landscape of the hill. The library articulates a six-story volume into two C-shaped interlocking overlapped massing, rotating the angular curving form lifted from the ground, so that the massing below is open to the campus green. A light-well courtyard situated above gently brings in natural light to the multi-leveled atrium that is surrounded by walls of bookshelf.

With rigor and originality, the project is making significant impact to the design communities by receiving increasing publicity and design awards. This recently completed project demonstrates methods of typological design through courtyard as both type and agent, developing innovative models for campus architecture in shaping a sustainable environment integrates nature and landscape with architecture.

The Library: Double framed overlapping courtyards

As the key anchor among pavilion buildings arrayed along the foothill, the library maintains a visual corridor that connects the campus to the hill, providing porosity for nature to penetrate. The design articulates a six-story volume into two C-shaped massing, rotating the zigzagged form lifted from the ground facing the landscape, unfolding the massing below to the campus green. With the double zigzag-curved form lifted from the ground assimilating the phoenix image of Chinese roof, the library experiences of interior and exterior, books and nature are  interweaved, crossing over and integrated.

With moderated skylight coming from above, a cathedral-like multi-leveled atrium flanked by tall walls of bookshelves, becomes the spatial core of the library. Different library wings are extended from within the central atrium, orchestrating functional spaces for each space. The design arranges multi-leveled reading rooms with window views of exterior green at the end of each linear form, thus bringing lifestyle and nature in harmony. The architecture frames the views by following traces of landforms and efficiently arranges modules of bookshelves and reading rooms while facilitating interactions between inside and outside spaces, generating dialogues between paralleled spaces leading to double-framed mountain views.

The library also demonstrates sustainability strategies by launching a series of passive energy saving measures and smart site plannings. Not only does it provide sufficient natural lighting for the entire space in the library, the architecture also carefully curates sunlight with shading devices to reduce summer heat gain – such as integrating natural lighting through north-facing viewing windows and skylights, screening direct sunlight through perforated metal panel and façade-shading louvers.

Student Center: Vertical sequence of stepped courtyards

The student center of CUHK at Shenzhen Campus transforms the integrated vertical light-well and horizontal hallway of vernacular architecture for South China into a contemporary typology. A series of intersected atrium spaces are adopted for shaping a set of ascending patios, bringing students from campus mall at the lower level to the semi-open courtyards facing the landscape of the hill at higher levels. Besides, a sequence of guided stairs and semi-open or covered podiums are built, so that users are able to enjoy layers of views through the building while walking up the stairs, which eventually leads them toward the patios at the top level with abundant natural greens.

The building faces the central plaza and integrates with the natural line of the hill slope, connecting the library at the north and the teaching blocks at the east. Students can enter the building from platforms and sky bridges at different levels, which lead to canteens, multi-function rooms or student clubs for daily activities. The semi-open courtyards, hallways and patios situated at different levels not only provide communal spaces with mountain views, but also become interconnected spaces that moderate micro-climate of cross ventilation and natural lighting for the building.

Student Dormitory: Sky-patio courtyards

By arranging patios and courtyards at various strategic levels, the dormitory for undergraduate student at CUHK Shenzhen Campus explores new typologies by dividing slab-based lift-lobby corridor into a multi-storey dormitory and provides communal facilities to integrate indoor and outdoor daily activities at different levels.

Layouts of unit-modular alongside the corridor are offset at every other floor to create sky patios of two-story in height and link to their lounges. Seated on the slope, the elevated canteen podium provides covered open spaces on the ground and gardens on the rooftop. The three tower slabs form L-shape courtyards that either face the campus green or look back at the natural hill. As an overview of the building, including its lobbies, canteen, reading rooms, lounges and laundry – they are all well-connected to a variety of outdoor spaces: courtyards, patios, sky bridges, platforms, and roof gardens, blending nature harmoniously with architecture and the communal life.


Design team: Olivier Ottevaere (project leader), Weijen Wang, Chad McKee, Yvonne Meng (project manager)
Department of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong,
Students Team: He Yizhen, Ji Xiang, Liu Kaixuan, Sun Kexuan, Song Huiqing, Romeo Chang, Kevin Lai, Chan Shuman
Contractor: Anji ZhuJing bamboo technology co. LTD.
Client: Lingfeng management committee of Anji county, Zhejiang province.
Construction cost:  70, 000 RMB

‘Crest’ is a rest area and restaurant situated on a gentle slope along a river bank. It is accessed from the main road and served by a pedestrian path descending along the 40-meter length of the project. ‘Crest’ is made of three distinct parts; a retaining wall and concrete foundation receiving a bamboo structure which in turns supports a pleated roof, covering a shaded area of around 150 sqm.

A double retaining wall houses the main facilities and services such as toilets and kitchen from which a series of concrete slabs cascades towards the river bank to partly function as seating. The bamboo structure is organized in three rows of columns secured along the slabs’ edges. 31 different size columns, made of bundles of bamboo poles, are each flaring upwards, splitting and bending in 4 different directions to delineate the specific roof profiles.

A succession of V-shaped channels aligned longitudinally with the retaining wall articulate the roof-scape, gradually changing from peaks to valleys. At one end of the wall, the roof crest peaks over 6 meters, echoing the mountainous silhouette in the background. Towards the other end, the roof channels downwards to eventually merge and disappear with the landscape.

The main social space below the roof is qualitatively demarked by the articulation of its ceiling plane. In areas identified with more solar exposure, bamboo poles are placed closer together to provide greater shading, whereas in zones with less direct sun exposure, the clearance between poles is increased. Consequently, this not only offers a unique and differentiated material expression but also a confortable space for leisure, responsive to its environment.

Green Building Design for Taiwan Businessmen‘s Dongguan School Stadium

Principal Investigator: Weijen WANG


The stadium and complex building breaks the absolute boundary between interior and exterior space in teaching buildings. It extends the perception of body to the external landscape, and brings outdoor activities indoors. The design uses two large halls with different openings to bring in natural light and cross ventilation, and is integrated with human scale and principles of construction on green building ecology. The function of space is divided into the two-storey gymnasium room at the bottom, and the specialized classrooms with a two-storey hall in the center on upper floor. The two large space are connected to the exterior in different ways- the gymnasium has colonnade and a series of French windows to blur the boundary, and the artificial landscape on the stairs also creates more interaction with the nature; while on the upper floor, we arranged solid and void to ensure cross ventilation in the central hall, and the skylights bring in natural light from the north and lead hot air out of the building. The two spaces each has their own way of adjusting the micro-climate of natural light and ventilation, so that they become communal spaces which are mixture of indoor and outdoor spaces. This project wins a three star green building award of Guangdong Province. It has plants on the roof as thermal insulation, north-facing skylights and south-facing solar panels, rain water collection and irrigation system; On the external wall, the system of red brick, perforated metal plate, and vertical and horizontal sun shield provides light control and fascinating visual effect of shadow and view.

Summer workshop 6

Building Community Projects in Hong Kong: Summer Workshop for Rural Village

Date/ Time: 13 September 2015, 4:30pm
Venue: Au Law Organic Farm, Tai Kong Po Village, Kam Tin
Supervisors: Wang Weijen, Christian J. Lange
Tutor: Rosalia Leung
Students: Hilary Chan, Charity Cheung, Dicky Chu, Simon Lai, Debby Lam
Volunteers: Adam, Ah Wing, Alfred, Ankie, Anna Mak, Bonnie, Connie, Ellery, Elsa, Faem, Gilbert, Harrison, Henry, Howard, Jamie, Julian, Leo, Shelly, Wing, YK
黃生, 張生, 阿滿, 林志豪, 阿單, 短俊, 呀六, 呀袁, 威哥, 柴狼, 偉仔


After almost two months of engagement from our students, we are happy to announce that the construction of the eco-toilet has been a success. An opening celebration was organized on 13 September 2015 to celebrate with the villagers, numerous volunteers and various donors. This memorable moment has marked an important leap in the communal and rural architectural development in Hong Kong.

Exhibition Pavilion for Tsun Yip Street Playground, Kwun Tong, Kowloon

Principal Investigator: Weijen WANG


Exhibition Pavilions of Tsun Yip Street Park is an important urban node for public spaces illustrating industrial history of East Kowloon, bring together the urban activities of local residents and working communities with the cultural heritage of city. Being the first project launched under a series of urban catalysts proposed by the Urban Design Study of East Kowloon Industrial Heritage, the project re-use four industrial containers converting them into a sequence of urban pavilions for exhibiting industrial culture of the district. Working with existing urban fabrics and landscapes, the project not only link four pavilions with the pedestrian flow of the park, it also intends to kick-off the shaping of new types of small scaled urban spaces for the regeneration of East Kowloon Industrial District.

By converting four industrial containers into exhibition pavilions, the project demonstrates the design of adaptive reuse for public spaces in Hong Kong. Responding to the sequence of four exhibition programs: introduction/retrospective/ envisioning/prospective, four spatial experiences of passing through/meandering around/looking up/gazing into are introduced to illustrate the spirit of creation in Kowloon East Industrial Heritage. Through four different modes of opening up the container’s enclosure: pushing/sliding/rotating/lifting up, the design looks into different methods of operating display panels for enhancing the interaction between exhibition and audience, as well as exploring different types of transitional spaces between indoor and outdoor environments. The pavilion is designed for accommodating exhibition and leisure, community and culture, as well as public art and urban daily-life.

Through re-using old containers as well as re-designing an existing urban park, the project intends to develop strategies on sustainability for public spaces and public architecture of Hong Kong. By converting four abandoned containers into exhibition spaces, it demonstrates the material sustainability of design; by arranging exhibition spaces into semi-outdoors facilitating natural lighting and ventilation without using air-conditioning system, it demonstrate the ecological sustainability for public buildings; by the participation of locals and visitors integrating community identity with the urban culture , it demonstrate social sustainability for the design of our urban spaces.

(in)Visible City: Remebering and Forgetting Macau

The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lighting rods, the pole of the flags, very segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.

Remote from the city, Taipa and Coloane were two “other” fishing villages sitting in the islands to the south of Macau Peninsula. As with the city of Macau, Portuguese had brought into the village European urban spaces of church, largo and public buildings, overlapped the traditional village of Chinese houses and temple, gardens and steps, patio and alleyways, creating places of rich cultural and spatial layering. After recent drastic change resulting from Cotai reclamation and subsequent developments of its casino industry, the places had soon turned itself into almost unrecognizable, or the remaining “other” of Cotai and Macau.

Urban Artifacts

Through the design and study of urban spaces and built forms, the studio looks into issues of architecture and cities in the context of colonial and postcolonial, modern and postmodern, global and local, casino capital and grass-root. The studio begins by searching and classifying urban artifacts: buildings and elements, engineering and landscape, their original value and remaining functions. We contemplate the value that remain, and try to ascertain their connections with the building’s materiality and our most memory of it as a product of the collective, which leads us to seek ways of transformation and changes.

Fog Enter the Basilica

…. I saw the fog enter the basilica, as I often love to watch it penetrate the Galleria in Milan: it is the unforeseen elements that modify and alters, like light and shadow, like stones worn smooth by the feet and hands of generations of men.