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HK/SZ Border Spa - A machinery building in the LMC landscape for the post-petroleum age

Part 2 Project 2009
Chun Wai Law
Chinese University of Hong Kong, China
490,900 people cross the Hong Kong (HK) and Shenzhen (SZ) border everyday.
More than 45% of HK people visiting SZ because of SPA.
The Frontier Control Area is going to be opened in 2010.
These give opportunity to reactivate the site by vibrant people movement and attractive program. Moreover the site is very different from the congested urban context on the opposite side of River; the site is preserved for a long time. Its natural recourses are valuable to immigrant birds and the ecology. Therefore, a balance between social demand and sustainability concern is needed.
A research on the blooming spa culture and industry in Shenzhen is also studied. The design is intended to convert the concept of pure monetary exchange activity in spa industry into a nature experience model. By using the existing water, land and birds as the medium, a mutualism relationship is formed between ecology, spaholics and spa operators. On one hand the wetland place gain awareness from the public; on the other hand, income earned from spa service can be used to sustain the environment.
The design is mainly divided into three parts: Water Plant, Spa & Baths, and Tower. The Water Plant is used to convert the salt water from the SZ River into potable water that supplied to the whole building. The Tower is a scaffold structure, which is located between two elevated railway tracks, and this shapes the building as engineer-type architecture. Thus the Tower is used as bird roosting perch, hence the photovoltaic panels on the south side for water heating and electricity generation for the whole building. The heated up water is then delivered to different spas and baths on the roof surface.
Each separate part of the building contributes in different ways; but collectively operate as a complete machine in a self-sufficient and sustainable ways on the landscape. The building form is shaped by sunlight, water movement and so on; it is like a plant growing from the ground. This is the new architectural prototype in the post-petroleum age.

Chun Wai Law

The objective of the studio was to create innovative architectural catalysts for the contentious border-zone between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. This area known as the Frontier Closed Area was established by the British in 1951 as a no-man’s land that acted as a buffer between Mainland China and Hong Kong. Since the reform era of Deng Xiao Peng and China’s opening up policy, the once quiet fishing village of Shenzhen has exploded into a super-dense city with over 10 million people. The Frontier Closed Area and the site of the project, adjacent to the border control crossing of Lok Ma Chau, however remains as it was in 1951: a frozen landscape of fish farms, wetlands and grasslands. In 2010 the majority of this Frontier zone will be released for development and be opened up to the public with the aim of the studio to initiate ideas for projects that could mediate between the two cities; politically, socially and economically.

The studio work was initiated through re-interpreting some of Cedric Price’s seminal projects, extracting their key ideas and projecting these concepts onto the new context of the border site. This re-contextualisation provided a stimulus for setting up new program ideas that were then expanded through further research into the specificities of the site. Justin’s response of a Spa building researched the emerging spa culture and industry in Shenzhen and the new building typologies and tourism that this has stimulated. Rather than follow this model of highly internalised and energy consuming mall structures Justin’s proposal provided an alternative that engaged with the water landscape of the wetlands creating an architecture that is part-machine, part-terrain, part- hamam. The building starts as a simple water intake at the river’s edge before thickening and extending to form spa zones for bathing, massage and treatments simultaneously snaking back on itself to create outdoor, courtyard pool areas and finally rising to a scaffold tower that is both a solar water heater, hotel and bird roosting perch. As well as formally creative and programmatically innovative the project exhibits spatial sensitivity towards light and materiality, a social concern for the working masseuse and is a convincing strategic intervention that mediates between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.


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