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The Schizophrenic City

Part 2 Project 2009
Wai Chong Stella Ho
University of Hong Kong | China
Growing numbers of mainland tourists are defining new markets in the tourism industry, challenging the traditional infrastructures developed to serve western interests. Hong Kong, a city poised between global and local identities, sells multiple and at times conflicting identities simultaneously to these two groups, creating a schizophrenic character for city. Under capitalist approach to tourism development, tourist enclaves, theme parks, and constructed realities reduce the city to a landscape of imagery consumed by visitors; spectacles and symbols compress time, space and culture. Grafting history and space, the tourism industry alters the authenticity of the city.

This thesis takes a dialectic approach to urban identity and the tourism industry by inscribing a hyperreal tourist itinerary within a heterotopic tower sited atop a non-place: the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry terminal. The tower is a deviation to the daily routine of taking the ferry: enterable only by ferry. Architecture takes the role of question and reflection at the same time, constantly in debate. To minimize the creation of fabricated tourist sites, all the touristic experience of Hong Kong are condensed to occupy the smallest possible piece of land. The cropping and montaging of the city is pushed to an extreme with a highrise typology – a borrowed typical building type from the skyline of the city.The vertical tourist experience montages, cuts, pastes and condenses different parts of the city cinematically. By sculpting the journey according to the government itinerary, the authoritative journey controlled touristic experience of the city -- an absolute sterilized environment within the tower as an opposite to the actual messy and jumbled world. Replicating essence of several places from the society in juxtaposition, the tower questions their authenticity. The internal provocative juxtaposition of programs questions the existing problematic techniques used by the tourism industry that blur the line between reality and artifice. The more artificial the tower, the more real the rest of the city can be. The Externality of the building distorts the city image by the building façade while simultaneously; these faceted bits reform and join together -- as a new icon of Hong Kong celebrating the city’s unique schizophrenic character.

Wai Chong Stella Ho

The design thesis at the University of Hong Kong is a year-long study that includes research and design into contemporary architecture and urbanism. Intended as the capstone of five years of design education, it is an opportunity fro students to both demonstrate their familiarity and facility with the issues that will face them as professionals, but to comment on them critically and develop a position towards their own practice as architects. For this reason, students are encouraged to apply architectural design to the social, economic, and ecological challenges of the future.

Ho Wai Chong’s “Schizophrenic City” fundamentally questions the urban order of Hong Kong and the forces that establish and maintain it a decade after the handover. By focusing on the tourism industry—really collusion between local business, global luxury and hospitality chains, and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region—Ho examines the question of identity from a direction that has been left out of recent debates over the city’s language, politics, and history. Proposing to package dual and contradictory Hong Kong experiences in a massive tower atop Tsim Sha Tsui’s Star Ferry Terminal, Ho’s project forces us to confront the problem of authenticity in consumer culture, the role of iconography in the city, and the relevance of history. By deliberately deploying mechanisms of the unreal, she offers the rest of Hong Kong the chance to be true.


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