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Urban Pulse[s] - Causeway Bay

Part 2 Project 1998
University of Hong Kong, China
The urban environment of Hong Kong is resulted from the sudden expansion of the economical and financial power within the international market. Architecture, or to be more general, buildings are all answering the corresponding demands in terms of construction speed, cost and the functional effectiveness, which are the major market forces. Podium building with pencil towers emerge and have conquered the realm of the urban district so much that they become the representation of the urban environment of hyper-density.

The built and the unbuilt have created a dramatic contrast. Within the built, especially the commodified podium spaces, social spaces are resulted from people's activities and movement. This reflects the emergence of our culture of consumption and the identity of social spaces. However, the realm of vehicular traffic beyond the building envelopes confines them. It takes over the pedestrian right and creates problematic boundaries along various edges.

This Thesis sets to redefine the local urban identity in terms of urban design and architecture, with the persistence of not influencing the economy. Physical problems have not been omitted but have rather become one of the major factors for the initial setting up of the urban model.

Podiums are fragmented and the ground is inflated to accommodate a preset pedestrian system with implementation of 24-hr programmes. Pulses are initiated and attractors created by electronic information are introduced for reducing the fourth dimension within the three-dimensional spaces. A dynamic equilibrium is established and the complexity of the physical setting increases. Flux and flow is capable to fold and unfold for an enriched new urban.

A city is not a creation;

A city emerges out of certain favourable physical factors and human interactions;

A city, being continuously improving itself to attain stability, as always not a stage of dynamic equilibrium;

A city, according to the different degree of various impacts, both external and internal, always reacts with its self-generating system;

A city, besides expending in a 4-dimensional space and time, grows beyond into the forth dimension of time only in order to increase its internal complexity as a prediction of the future demand;

A city, avoiding the existence of the monopolitan spaces, deconstructs the grade to induce the edge of urban chaos for the emergence of its own identity…

Hong Kong's urban environment is devoid of the acknowledge spatial and culture conditions that mark the great Metropolises of the West. This is largely due to a governing structure that historically favors economic growth over the promotion of the pride of place or cultural development. This is compounded by an encouraged blurring of identity and a self inflicted dis-concern, despite ample opportunities and a healthy economy to achieve one. The planning of Hong Kong follows a traffic and infrastructure led blueprint, coupled with strict adherence to building codes and a lack of vision for civic and urban issues.

Unintended and unpredicted though is the emergence of a dynamic city of hyper-density and complex urban forms, made up of random pencil towers, serendipitous signage, spontaneous three dimensional mixture of program, functions and events implemented by illegal structures and littering of wild greenery. These are construed at will in unpredictable locations based solely on use, basic needs and the desire to overcome adverse living conditions. A perfect concoction of vitality and chaos, a phenomena of strange and enigmatic beauty.

Against this backdrop of complexity, The Thesis set out as its primary goal the improvement of life through the reconfiguration of a specific high-density urban condition. Taking into consideration the theory that chaos is the basic condition of the city and that it is impossible to create a city through a unified system. The Thesis questions the traditional conception of a "beautiful city" and a "comfortable city" and distinguishes them from "the new pleasure of a city". That is "the pleasure of non-memory" a cultural condition unique to most post-colonial cities in the Asia Pacific region, especially Hong Kong.

The uniqueness of The Thesis lies in the development of a new paradigm based not on futuristic compositions, or the idea of a modern order, that is the belief of an individual architect reshaping the city through the power of form. The design strategy adopted can be characterized as an multi-disciplinary search for the new, while grounded on the resolution of economic and pragmatic issues, (e.g. traffic, zoning and density redistribution) in a cultural and environmental condition that has little or no known precedents. Tactically the design tries to create an urban identity through the blurring of architectural typologies and sign/symbols by hyper density, unified by an emphasis on the fluidity of movement in time, based on the student's concept of 'Urban Pulse'. The basis of this conceptual reading is very much in line with the theory of emergence in complexity theory, in this case, the promotion of urban vitality as triggered by the process of 'sensitivity to initial conditions' (i.e. the structure of the urban plan) reacting to unpredictable needs with embedded designs of events/space/objects which function as bundles of 'strange attractors', forming a complex whole.

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