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Rejuvenating the Collective Tenement

Part 1 Project 2012
Curtin University Perth Australia
[The author of this entry has chosen to remain anonymous]

Tenement house is a rapidly disappearing typology that represents Hong Kong's lifestyle and culture. The Kowloon Walled City, the worldwide acknowledged tenement buildings, although demolished, the vitality of the tenement buildings, as well as the culture and collective memory attached were architecturally valued.

The tenement houses are always being tagged with the label of poverty as the most units within are cheap and outmoded, although they are welcomed by working class. The label catalyses the urge for demolishment and reformulation of the tenement houses to podium and tower for the bourgeoisies which reinforces the power of mammonism and allotment of space turning the urban development into a sick phenomenon. Thus, the conflict between economic growth, cultural preservation and accommodation of various classes in the urban development shall be well negotiated for social harmony.

The project proposes several treatments to this urban sickness: firstly, it is to inject the religious activities into the buildings to diffuse the class tension within the community; secondly, a surgical modification can be adopted to evolve unique elements such as corridor, staircase, lightwell, balcony and rooftop to a better environmental condition while preserving the embodied culture; thirdly, the insertion of new structural framing can magnify the possibility of tenement houses to grow in line with the city's developmental needs. These treatments demonstrate how a 'classless' community can be established within tenement community - a relative healthy equilibriant sphere.

The test site consists of two tenement houses built in the 50's, both situated at To Kwan Wan waterfront, an old urban district near former Kai Tak Airport, witnessing Hong Kong culture similar with that of Kowloon Walled City. Even though they are rare tenement houses with luxurious sea view, they are still facing potential demolition. As these tenement buildings are of a sizable layout and good structural condition, they are an ideal site to test out the treatments and envisage how monopoly can be broken.


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