On January 20th, 2019, Hong Kong inaugurated the Central-Wan Chai Bypass, one of a number of large-scale infrastructure projects that transformed the territory. The bypass promised to cut travel times between the eastern and western half of Hong Kong Island and also to liberate heavily trafficked arteries and roads, opening the possibility of rethinking districts. These possibilities continue to make their way through various stages of negotiation, design and implementation reflecting the government’s priorities for civic life, the environment and mobility.
One of the complex knots of infrastructure that was loosened by the Central-Wan Chai Bypass is found east of Shun Tak Centre. This confluence of roads, overpasses and elevated walk-ways was slated to be rethought when one of its major branches – the Rumsey Street Flyover – was scheduled demolished. Although the flyover represents no more than 100 metres of elevated autoroute, the consequences of its demolition could be exponentially significant — activating the street, rethinking transportation networks, linking to the water or new programs for the site — could all be envisioned through a careful analysis of the issues and concentric areas of impact implicated by the flyover’s demolition.
In the first semester (The Street as Negotiated Infrastructure), students developed a methodology for studying the street as an object of investigation, using photographic documentation, plan drawing and model to identify modes of intervention and initial design ideas. One of the underlying questions guiding the studio, was whether architecture could find a specific agency or method of work for the street, considering that nearly every discipline within the built environment (from landscape to urban planning to real estate) claims some authority (design or otherwise). Very often the street in Hong Kong is understood as a techno-bureaucratic infrastructure where human occupation is a veneer of design; the appropriation of streets and their civic role, while manifest through determined acts of domestic resistance, are relegated to the literal left-over spaces of the urban environment.
In the second semester, students used the expertise they developed to look at the demolition of the Rumsey Street Flyover as a catalyst for rethinking the street and surrounding neighborhood. The site of study offered each student or group of students the opportunity to develop their own position towards the future of Hong Kong and the possibilities opened up by the Central Wan Chai bypass.
Key questions: What role is there for architecture within the complex, negotiated decisions (political, economic, planning, etc.) that determine the street as an element of urban experience? How does the street work as a technical, structural, environmental and social infrastructure for the functioning of the city? What do we mean by street in the context of Hong Kong, where limits between publicly accessible and privately delimited spaces are ambiguous and where programmatic distinctions (between, for example, plaza, sidewalk, park, etc.) also call into question the nature and extent of the street? How do we consider the scalar and spatial diversity of streets in Hong Kong; is a street distinct from a highway, a footpath or an elevated walkway? How do vertical surfaces that delimit the space of the street act to qualify it? What are the limits of drawing and model to describe the street?
Cheung Hoi Ching Minia and Choi Chung Hei Vincent looked at the historical infill development of the neighbourhood and proposed a pedestrian highway and a negative port to reclaim the harbor.
Chun Bing Tsun Lester and So Cheuk Lam Jonathan discovered an abandon rail station under the site through research on buried infrastructural networks. The station and platform becomes part of a loop of civic infrastructure that gives ties together car-oriented elements that could soon become obsolete.
Shivangi Das and Park Ji Eun studied the ground under the overpass, cataloguing the columns that held up the highway. They redesigning the passage between city and harbor by transforming the existing streets into a shared realm for people and cars.
Fong Lixin Leon and Lai Hiu Lam Natalie began by looking at the underside of ceiling and underpasses that are often unremarked elements of the urban realm. Leon developed a green ceiling for the underpass and Natalie carved into the ground to create a connection to the harbor.
Szeto Wai Ching Regina and Soo Kwan Yau April studied the small scale elements around the flyover and imagined its demolition and reconstruction into a new ground that connected existing pedestrian networks while offering a place to stay and gather.
Sun Yue Rong Rayna and Wang Xiangning reimagined an existing refuse center to create a space to rest and stay.
University of Hong Kong // Department of Architecture // BAAS4_Spring 2019