The Function of Fiction in making Architecture
A re-invented reality for Tai Ping Shan
Thesis by Jasmine Chan Supervisor: Patrick Hwang
The Function of Fiction in Making Architecture Thesis on fiction and literature as an alternate methodology in architectural research & design by Jasmine, Chan Lok Yiu (1155083992, MArch II) firstname.lastname@example.org Supervised by Patrick Hwang A thesis submitted to the School of Architecture, CUHK in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Architecture School of Architecture The Chinese University of Hong Kong Thesis Book May 2019 Edition
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Abstract Acknowledgement Prologue Terminology A Query on Literary Architecture The Analogy of Literary Architecture Methodology
Chapter I - READING ARCHITECTURE Context: Tai Ping Shan and Ladder Street Creative Writings
Chapter II - TELLING ARCHITECTURE of Cleansing: Pound Lane Public Latrine & Kwong Fook I Tsz a “Fictional” Community: Circular Pathway the Garden at Still: Blake Garden
Chapter III - WRITING ARCHITECTURE New Realities The House of Lost Objects
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Literacy in Architecture Architecture in Literature Interview// Dung Kai Cheung Epilogue
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Drawing and Model Index Research and relevant materials for Tai Ping Shan Quote & Image Source Bibliography
Abstract The thesis explores the productive capacities of fiction and literary techniques in architectural research, analysis, synthesis and design. This mainly belongs to the field of discourse of Literary Architecture which is a study of the analogy between literature and architecture. Of the many literary approaches that could be applied to architecture, this thesis reflects on its potential in linking the urban past, present and future, as a response to the rich layers of memories, morphology and culture of the long developed urban environment. The historical but almost forgotten Tai Ping Shan (today’s Sheung Wan of Hong Kong) is the selected site of imagination and operation. The thesis is phased as a trilogy: “Reading”, “Telling” and “Writing Architecture” (a categorization inspired by Klaske Havik). “Reading” and “Telling Architecture” is carried out through intensive creative writing, drawing and model-making for selected places around Tai Ping Shan (namely Pound Lane Public Latrine & Kwong Fook I Tsz, Blake Garden and Circular Pathway); while the last is carried on to “Writing Architecture” and developed into the design of <The House of Lost Objects> - a new type of pawnshop as a new reality that resonate with the past and present communities. #LiteraryArchitecture #Fiction #TaiPingShan #Methodology #UrbanMemories
“Art, be it painting, literature or architecture, is the remaining shell of thought. Actual thought is of no substance. We cannot actually see thought, we can only see its remains. Thought manifest itself by its shucking or shedding of itself; it is beyond its confinement.” -John Hejduk, Evening in Llano
Acknowledgement This thesis is the loveliest project I have ever worked on and has trully been an exciting journey. It condenses all education and inspiration I have had before and is a good compilation of my personal search for the thing in Architecture that moves me most. Therefore, thanks that cannot be expressed in words must be made to all who have guided, inspired and even confused me, as well as those who have supported and helped. I would like to thank Mr. Patrick Hwang, for being more than a thesis supervisor. His advices and guidance are critical and inspiring, while his firm belief in each studentâ€™s passion and potential has helped me in securing faith in this thesis. From embarkment to sailing in numerous possibilities, I am grateful to have received the encouragement needed to experiment and push beyond the limits of my works. I see the two years of MArch as a continuous exploration in Architecture, in which the two projects in M1 paved way to this thesis. As such, I would like to thank my previous advisors, Thomas Chung and Francesco Rossini; and teachers who have provided assistance in reviews, including but not limited to Peter Ferretto, Clover Lee, Adam Fingrut and Simon Hsu. While I have to also thank teachers in HKU who have actually inspired me during my architectural education. The thesis is initially inspired by works of Literature, and it is my greatest pleasure to receive the support and beautiful inspirations from the innovative novelist Mr. Dung Kai Cheung. His creations and personal interactions during our conversations have certainly inserted ideas and aura to the thesis, which could not be achieved otherwise. One advise I received from a professor was â€œYou have to be the Dung Kai Cheung in this thesis.â€? I must also thank my studio colleagues for the joy and encouragement; Harriet Kan, Carol Ning, Cookie Lo, Dennis Chau and all who have offered help, no matter big or small, in the making of the works. Their help is precious and without whom will not make this thesis possible. Lastly, I must express my warmest thanks to my family who have supported and cared. Only with their help can these two years of study be possible, and not to mention the little Heihei who has been sweet and understanding as always.
0. Prologue “...the paradox of fiction: Because it has no previous referent, it may refer in a productive way to reality, and even increase reality.“ -Paul Ricoeur, The Function of Fiction in Shaping Reality
We thought what we perceive and learn from the real world are facts. However, the reality is truly a cosmos of facts and fictions. Past, present and future all absorbed. While literature is capable of revealing, transcribing and marrying the factual and fictional, visible and invisible of reality...Could its analogy with architecture suggest an alternate methodology that explores the productive capacities in architectural research and design? The cross-disciplinary discourse of Architecture and Literature has long been cultivated by philosophers, writers and architects. On the one hand, the nature of fiction is argued and utilised to seek answers to urban, social and spatial questions. On the other hand, fictions are more commonly created to simply describe, record and read the city. Is Fiction functional or ornamental? Does it contribute to the construction of our physical city? No matter what the intention of a creation is, the creative process points to a kind of reality that is constructed through Time. What is Past and which are the real? How can the city be perceived through the Past and be resonated from the Present? Today, our city of Hong Kong swims in a sea of overwhelming images, from the past, present and future. While great reliance of architectural practice is on the visible, tangible, rational; the power of emotions, memories and fictions is often overlooked, borrowing Benjamin’s and Koolhaas’ words, it leads to the gradual lost of the city’s authenticity and “successful identities1”. One question is: when there “risks failing to address the richness and complexity of human experience of space”, could literary approach be a mean of resistance? Could it distil meaningful data, evoke apperceptions and inspire creations amidst the visible and invisible of the city? Could it shed light on an alternative critical urbanism? Taking Ladder Street and its neighbourhood as testing grounds, the thesis experiments the interplay between fictions and reality in speculating future programs and architecture in a trilogy: “Reading”, “Telling” and “Writing Architecture”. It integrates the imaginary, poetic and factual in a form of “research through design” by intensive interpretation, creative writing, drawings and model-making. In the thesis, hypothesis lead to experiments, experiments lead to discoveries, discoveries lead to more experiments, experiments lead to beauty. While reflections and arguments are formed along the way.
1 A famous description of Hong Kong by Australian journalist Richard Hughes in the 1970s.
[Oxford Dictionary] (n.) Literature in the form of prose, especially novels, that describes imaginary events and people. [Paul Ricoeur, 1979] (n.) “It is the new combination which has no reference in a previous original to which the image would be the copy…the paradox of fiction: Because it has no previous referent, it may refer in a productive way to reality, and even increase reality.” [root] (Latin) Fig-, to mold, fashion, make a likeness of, pretend to be + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action --> (Latin) Fictiōn-, Fictiō, action of shaping or molding, pretense --> (Middle French) Fiction --> (Middle English) Ficcioun , invention of the mind
[Oxford Dictionary] (n.) A story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. [root] (Greek) Agora, assembly --> Allos, other + -ēgorein, to speak publicly --> Allēgorein, to speak figuratively --> (Latin) Allegoria, figurative or veiled language --> (Middle English) Allegorie
[Mikhail Bakthin] (n.) (literary theory & philosophy) a unit of analysis for studying language according to the ratio and characteristics of the temporal and spatial categories represented in that language; spatiotemporal framework and particular worldviews or ideologies in a novel
[Oxford Dictionary] (n.) The state of being aware of and responsive to one’s surroundings; A person’s awareness or perception of something.
[Ancient Greek] ἐποχή (n.) (philosophy) suspension of judgement, withholding of assent
[Michel Foucault, 1967] (n.) (philosophy) “…real places— places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society— which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted…Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality.” 10
TERMINOLOGY Imagination /
[Oxford Dictionary] (n.) The faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses. [Paul Ricoeur, 1979] (n.) “Imagination is the apperception, the sudden insight, of a new predicative pertinence, specifically a pertinence within impertinence…Imagination - in its semantic sense - is nothing but this “competence” which consists of producing the genre through the difference, again not beyond the difference, as in the concept, but in spite of the difference.”
[Oxford Dictionary] (n.) A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. [root] (Greek) Meta- + pherein, to bear --> Metapherein, to transfer --> (Latin) Metaphora, carrying over --> (old French) Metaphore
[Oxford Dictionary] (n.) The method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way; (n.) semantic system, in contrast with perception
[Oxford Dictionary] (adj.) Concerning the writing, study, or content of literature, especially of the kind valued for quality of form; (of language) having a marked style intended to create a particular emotional effect.
[Oxford Dictionary] (n.) The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
Place & Lived Space /
[Christian Norberg-Schulz, 1983] (n.) (philosophy)“is a space where human life takes place. It is therefore not a mathematical, isomorphic space, but a “lived space” between earth and sky…A location or ‘lived space’ is generally called a place, and architecture may be defined as the making of places.”
[Oxford Dictionary] (n.) The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. (n.) A moment or definite portion of time allotted, used, or suitable for a purpose. 11
I. A query on Literary Architecture “…More than a century later, scholars researching the history of Tai Ping Shan suddenly hit upon the bright idea that generations of Blake Garden parrots might have passed down authentic vocalizations from the past. They went to Blake Garden with audio equipment to interview the birds’ descendants, as if recording oral history. It seems that they could just discern monotonously repeated shrieks in the parrots’ clamor but were unable to tell whether they were curses or blessings: ‘Tai Ping! Tai Ping!’”
-excerpts from “The Curse of Tai Ping Shan”, Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City by Dung Kai-cheung
There is a kind of fascination in urban literatures such as The Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino and the V-City series by Hong Kong writer Dung Kai-cheung. In their novels, cities become stories, and the literary marriage between the real (the physical city) and unreal (the fictions) creates a new “reality” that offers new experience of the city. They reveal something intriguing and mesmerizing about the city that appears to be originally there, but seems almost unnoticeable in the physical world. One comment on this phenomenon is that “The poet’s imagination surely makes the fashionable architectural images of today’s clinical aestheticization appear empty, autistic and devoid of any true sense of life2.” What is the “true sense of life” and what could the poet’s imagination do about it? I speculate that part of it points to the sense of a “lived experience”, of the past, today and tomorrow. In Hong Kong, the authority’s design and planning participate in certain extent of “intended forgetfulness”, therefore often failed to link the present with the past3 genuinely. This interested me and gave birth to this thesis as I questioned the capacity of current ways of understanding and shaping the city, especially in areas so complex and rich in meanings. Fiction transcribes: Could we not signify or reproduce past images as they were, but allow the past, or even the absence of the past, be transcribed into a new reality? Fiction reveals: How does it unveil the invisible, distill meanings and express findings that imaginatively integrate facts and fictions which in fact all belong to the urban reality we live in? The fictional world of Calvino and Dung is highly fluid and has revealed how the city could be shaped by narrations. Their works release the imaginations of a city into an
ocean of symbols where the city’s identities could be retrieved4. The same happens in the physical world, where we thought what could be perceived are objective and factual, but in fact the city we know is very much shaped by the way we talk and think about it, as well as how we physically modify it. As Roland Barthes expressed in Semiology and the Urban: “The city is a discourse and this discourse is truly a language: the city speaks to its inhabitants, we speak our city, the city where we are, simply by living in it, by wandering through it, by looking at it.” With this understanding, and under the lens of literary architecture, the city is no longer static in meaning. The boundary between real and unreal are no longer clear, and the city becomes available for re-interpretation. Even the absence and never-existed could spring into life.
2 Juhani Pallasmaa in the foreword to Klaske Havik, Urban Literacy: Reading and Writing Architecture (Rotterdam : NAi Publishers, 2014), p.10 3 Since conservation movements on the Star Ferry Pier and Queen’s Pier in 2007, most of HK’s conservation projects have always been regarded as failure in adaptive re-use. Relatively successful ones regarded by the public are Cattle Depot Artist Village, PMQ and Mei Ho House. However, this thesis suggests that there could be more creative ways than simply retaining the heritage’s old images, and the attitude of conservation should not be limited to built structures but also the absence. 4 Many themes in HK literature since 1984 are on the confusion and search of HK’s identity. In 1984, the “Joint Declaration” between UK and China was signed, declaring the handover in 1997.
II. The analogy of Literary Architecture The analogy between architecture and literature has long been cultivated by philosophers, writers and architects such as Vitruvius, Alberti, Jacque Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gaston Bachelard, Georges Perec, Marcel Proust, John Hejduk and many more, while the purposes and arguments of this cross-disciplinary discourse has evolved and adapted to ideologies of different times. In classical times, theorists utilised this analogous techniques in addressing classical orders and constructing hierarchy in architecture5. Later in the 19th Century, this analogy was mostly studied by novelists in their practice of literature6, who took architecture (especially Gothic) as their inspirations and palette to illustrate spatial qualities and related themes in literature. Towards the 20th century, theorists and novelists started to conduct parallel study of architecture and literature around concepts such as space and time, memories and consciousness7. Experimental writings like Georges Perecâ€™s also appeared as new interpretations of words and space. While in architectural practice, there were architects who used literary techniques as part of their creative process8. While in the East-Asia context, architecture has always provided the backdrop and inspirations for poems and novels. Today, the analogy between the two arts takes on a new role, especially in architectural practice and education. It serves as a response to various urban topics: the loss of authenticity and identities, the complexity of city lives, urban histories and memories, urban indeterminacy and experimentations. The main paradigm of study is shifting from a theoretical or personal one to more social and collective. It also takes on a position aiming more to guide creative process and further studies in question of the present and future instead of staying in the realm of romanticism or nostalgia. Examples of these studies could be seen in collaborative and archive platforms such as the Laboratory of Literary Architecture and WritingPlace, and various European architectural schools have included literary architecture in their curriculums9. In the study led by Klaske Havik10, she compiled essays and wrote about the application of â€œliteracyâ€? in architectural practice categorized in different ways, and offered analogous methodologies that bridge architecture and literature. This thesis has adopted some of the categorizations discussed in the next section.
The history and roles of the analogy may depend on the situation of the time, but the forms of analogy could be highly creative and personal, which depends on the materials the programs and site could offer, and the architectsâ€™ methods of poetic expression. For instance, an architecture can borrow structures or essence of different literary genres, or the writer-reader relationship could be explored in its creative process, or it could make use of syntax or linguistics in its operation, or generally adopting a literary technique as the driving concept. One thing to note is that since the use of analogy greatly depends on the interpretation of the makers, literary architecture does not only result in purely intuitive designs, but could also be rational and highly structured depending on the creative minds.
5 Such as Vitruvius and Leone Battista Alberti, refer to Ellen Eve Frank, Ch.V, Literary Architecture: Essays Towards a Tradition (place of publication not identified: University of California Press, 1983). 6 Such as Walter Horatio Pater, Marcel Proust and Henry James, ibid. 7 Such as the works of Gaston Bachelard, Georges Perec and Ellen Eve Frank. 8 Personal literary approach that activated architectural imagination in their works is seen in writings of many architects of the modern age such as John Ruskin, Frank Lloyd Write, Adolf Loos, Le Corbusier, John Hejduk, Daniel Libeskind and Peter Zumthor. 9 Refer to Klaske Havik, David Perottoni et el., WritingPlace Journal Issue #1: Literary Methods in Architectural Education (Rotterdam: Nai Publishers, 2018). 10 Klaske Havik is associate professor of Architecture, Methods & Analysis at Delft University of Technology. Her research interest is in the experience, use and imagination of places (Biography excerpt from TUDelft website).
III. Methodology The aim of this thesis is to experiment with literary techniques as alternative methodology in the course of architectural research and design in order to explore and reflect on the invisible yet vigorous relationship between facts and fiction. On the relationship between facts and fiction, philosopher Paul Ricoeur noted the paradox in his essay The Function of Fiction in Shaping Reality: “...the paradox of fiction: Because it has no previous referent, it may refer in a productive way to reality, and even increase reality, as we will say later. However, this ‘productive’ reference of fiction requires several important changes in the framework within which the problem is construed in order to arrive at a solution to the problem.“ Hence, by integrating factual and fictional research and imaginations, the thesis speculates and produces a version of reality. This integration turns out agreeing with the two “important changes in the framework” stressed in the essay: 1. The shift from perception to language; 2. Link fiction tightly to work. Since architecture is fundamentally of making, the second criteria may be naturally performed, but it is the strong anchorage that “link fiction tightly” that the thesis has to achieve. While the first criteria require new ways of working besides conventional architectural methods. The trilogy of the thesis, “Reading”, “Telling” and “Writing Architecture” are borrowed from the analogous concepts raised by Havik. Though the three concepts point to “different theoretical discourses and examples of architectural and literary practices”, it is their structural relationship and productive capacity that is of interest in this thesis, as each contributes in different stages, thus adopted as working categories. Havik has pointed out the analogous relationship in the “writing” and “designing” the urban: “If, metaphorical speaking, urban literacy is indeed a kind of language, it offers ways to read, write and speak. Then, reading, telling and writing can be seen as three successive research activities, concerning the experiential, social and imaginative qualities of architecture: starting from the fundamental aspect of lived experience, via the complex field of social spatial practices, to the critical and imaginative.”11 The thesis adopts the following operations in “Reading”, “Telling” and “Writing Architecture”, and their respective unique productive qualities.
Reading Architecture -Reads the city by perception, thoughts (rational) and heart (emotional) -Records lived experience of individuals around the site, individuals accumulates into the collective -Links images and meanings from the past and present -Is more subjective as the site is read through the authorâ€™s eyes -Results in a vast collection of lived experience where some stands out or are shared by more people -By creative writing, map making, photography and videos -Could be compared with urban mapping and site analysis
Telling Architecture -Present research and findings of particular places after literary interpretation -Filter informations and capture essences -Embrace both factual and fictional materials found -Vigorously express selected essences with intensity and creativity -Is both subjective and objective as the research is based on materials created by other authors -Results in new and condensed images of selected places instead of reproducing existed images of the place -By creative writing, drawing and model making -Could be compared with site analysis and representation
Writing Architecture -Speculates allegorical programs and scenarios as new realities -Interprete and explore the program as a creation on its own instead of through literal translation or symbollic represention of past contents -Structured as a combination of autonomous scenarios, each with its corresponding characters, emotions, functional and spatial needs, as if building up the chronotope for a novel -Integrate the site as essential element to narrate the proposed scenarios -Allow different scenarios to interact, merge or repell -Focus on the interaction of the users with spatial orientation, perception and light -By creative writing, massing and spatial studies, drawing and model making -Could be compared with program research and architectural design
11 Klaske Havik (2014), p.27-29 and p.225-228
Table 1 Possible chronotope and working approach of precedents (by author)
Chronotopes [Mikhail Bakthin] (n.) (literary theory & philosophy) a unit of analysis for studying language according to the ratio and characteristics of the temporal and spatial categories represented in that language; spatiotemporal framework and particular worldviews or ideologies in a novel
Chronotope is a concept suggested by Russian philosopher and literary theorist Mikhail Bakthin. Studying world-views and space-time of precedent projects helps undertand the role of fictions in those works, and each authorâ€™s creative approach.
Chapter I READING ARCHITECTURE
Tai Ping Shan in 1859
IV. Tai Ping Shan and Ladder Street 太平山 (literally means “Peace Hill”) Tai Ping Shan was the 4th district of the City of Victoria (early colonial Hong Kong). Together with Sheung Wan, it was the Chinese neighbourhood, while the European lived in Central and Middle Hill. The name is little used today and is usually associated with the Peak. In the colonial times, ladder streets made from granite mined from local quarry sites were built to conquer the slopes and extend habitation hill ward. This gave Hong Kong Island its unique fabric of over thousands of ladder streets and gave birth to a living culture inseparable from the stairs13. The 350m long Ladder Street is a stair of 316 steps. It runs from Queen’s Road East to Caine Road, and crosses important historical sites such as the Man Mo Temple, YMCA building, and the Lower Lascar Row (Mo Lo Street). It was a major route of the neighbourhood for many decades, as hawkers lined their stalls on both sides and people’s daily lives centred around it. It was chosen to begin the literary investigation as the Street has inspired numerous films and literature , proving its rich capacity for literary experimentation14.
13 The stair culture of HK Island is extensively studied by Melissa Cate Christ, refer to Hong Kong Stair Archive, https://stairculture.com/archive/ 14 Refer to Volume III
V. Reading Architecture “Lived experience” is the emphasis in “Reading Architecture”. 4 visits to Ladder Street were conducted in the first 3 weeks, each time accessing from a different route and stayed for different periods of time. As site research was conducted in parallel, my knowledge of the Street and its neighbourhood grew between successive visits, that allowed me to read the site into different depths each time. Walking up and down, and sometimes diverged to adjoining paths and re-entered from a different point, I paid attention to different aspects, including people, buildings, nature, sound/conversations, smell, word signs and objects. The observations made during the visits were documented with various literary techniques as experiments, such as poems, concrete poems, short proses and dialogues, among which the approach of proses and dialogues were explored more. Each prose writing was a narration of a scenario, depicting spatial experience, meanings, signs, thoughts, ambience and stories. This process served as an exploration of the visible and invisible, and in fact performed a shift from perception to language. In theoretical sense, images formed by words are different from that by diagrams and drawings, as the images are formed from things said instead of seen, which required imagination, a kind of “productive apperception”15. In the sense of personal experience, putting images and perceptions to words require a shift of thinking process. The expression follows my mind as a productive process instead of a reproductive process of the actual scene. It is seeing with the eyes of the mind, and the images from present can lead to other places and meanings and things. It enters the unconscious of the city, where threads between places could be found. Dialogue is a different thing, as it moves from individual to small groups. Short conversations were conducted with tourists, old locals and new locals, and their use of words to express feeling, emotions and descriptions were documented as oral histories. From this approach, I discovered what elements in the city really affect people’s perception, as well as what contributed to their emotions and impressions of the neighbourhood. For example, most of the tourists noticed how nature grow in different ways, including those on the fence and how they obscured their view of the Ladder. All of the interviewees were also aware of materials, as they named wood, bricks and stones. Perspectives of foreigners and locals differed a lot, as foreigners or new-residents adored the tranquility of the Street, the old locals talked about the chaos and Chinese culture lost amidst development. Something to note was the common tone of determination in the ways old locals spoke. The old man no longer strong enough to walk the stairs is determined to stay in the district, the two remaining hawkers in the Circular
Pathway decide to continue their services for people who came looking for it, while the old lady relocated to Chai Wan decades ago worships at the Man Mo Temple every day. The “reading” investigations could be understood as a particular form of fieldwork or topoanalysis which performed similar aims of architectural mapping, just that it has put on a literary angle and was carried out with poetic sensation. Among all discoveries, 3 public places in the larger context are selected for further explorations: Circular Pathway (still mythical to me at that time); Pound Lane Public Latrine & Bathhouse and Kwong Fook I Tsz (discovered by associating with the public latrine at Ladder Street,); and Blake Garden (associated with the three diverging paths near the top of Ladder Street).
15 Paul Ricoeur, “The Function of Fiction in Shaping Reality” in Man and World (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1979), p.129-131. Here he also refers to the idea of “reverberation” or “poetic image” by Gaston Bachelard.
N8 N9 N4
note #1/ Time gives city its abundant layers, while I can only look at the its images in present forms. Putting images into words is seeing with the eyes of the mind and of the heart; it is when the image leads you to other places and meanings and things. It brings you to the unconscious of the city, like travelling through Bergsonâ€™s memory cone. Where threads between places could be found.
Time/ 11:20 Location/ At the traffic light on Queen’s Road -Rolling Steps-
The red sign is on, so it halts and forces you a good glance at Ladder Street before your approach. The stairs are welcoming, broad and flat, but it doesn’t tell where it leads to. A young tree perfectly obscures the view of it. A bike stands on the first landing, weird as that’s not where a bike naturally would go. Sometime earlier, a man must have lifted it under his arms and climbed a few steps, in order to nicely place it against the wall. A view that you almost cannot see any landings but just the front elevations of the steps. People descends behind the small tree’s crown. Where their foot land is unclear, as each step falls onto another. It is a stair of nowhere to stop, nowhere to keep the soles on. The street looks more like rolling waves than concrete staircases. The business man from Spain is anticipating his visit. He is curious about this infamous Ladder but obviously he cannot see a ladder and does not know what makes it so special. This kind of thing is everywhere in Spain, come on! (I also wonder what he sees behind his reflective sunglasses.) ___________________________ #threshold / edge #ladder and perspectives
Time/ 11:35 Location/ Intersection. Ladder Street, Upper Lascar Row, Circular Pathway -Intersection-
One of the two spots where ladders intersect with the Ladder. It adds to the complexity of the topography, confusing your understanding of the slopes’ directions. Unlike the way a clear road would signify, more steps means more unknowns to be explored. Would you encounter “mo lo” at the “Mo Lo Street” (direct translation from Lascar Row’s Cantonese name, “mo lo” referring to the Indians in Colonial Hong Kong)? Does the Circular Pathway lead to anywhere or is it a labyrinth one can never get out of? At one threshold, hawkers boldly reject any talking, they claim they have no knowledge of their past, but forget to finish by saying this intended forgetfulness is for money’s sake. “If you’re not buying then get out of the way” is a familiar Cantonese saying. At the opposite threshold mysterious leaves entwine onto wire fence. A hand written sign reads “Make a wish!”, and then dried leaves so fragile turn into wish-locks so secure. While down there in Circular Pathway, seems to be a world on its own. With some tin sheds, two old men and flocks of pigeons. Thresholds come with different characters, rejecting or inviting. Street names tell you something about the place, but their physical reference might have reduced to those few literal symbols. ___________________________ #intersection #threshold / edge #street names and symbols
Time/ 11:46 Location/ Outside Man Mo Temple, Square Street -Connected Destinies-
Once in a while, encounters happen in series of coincidences. A wink of curiosity brings you to her, this event brings you to him, then he brings you to the entrance of the faded world you’ve been looking for. A lady carries on her thin shoulder a bamboo stick on which traditional HK style bags are hung on both ends. A very old fashion way of carrying goods. Quicken the steps just to take a better shot but she turns and decides to ask her way. -Where is the ‘Junior Trade Association School’? -Not that I know…do you mean the YWCA up there? -I don’t know…it’s my first time here.. (searching with my phone for the ‘School’ while we walk along Square street) -I think you should try the YWCA…just walk up the steps and the entrance’s there. -Are you sure? I don’t want to walk more steps… (old man comes up from Tank Lane, using an umbrella as the walking stick) -Do you know where the ‘Junior Trade Associaton School’ is? -There’s nothing nearby that sound like that except the YWCA! Up there! Just go up the steps, go! (lady takes a breath and leaves for the stairs, leaving old man and me on the street) -Have you been living here for a very long time? -…Yea kind of. An old spirit. Talks about hawkers on Possession Street, Blake Garden’s tragedy, the poor and suffering Chinese of this neighbourhood, the ‘dark and gloomy’ atmosphere. - Time changes, everything changes. People changes, thinking and emotions, everything changes. Am I right? ___________________________ #place of attachment #disappearing spirit and neighbourhood 30
Time/ 12:00 Location/ Man Mo Temple, Hollywood Road -Safeguard-
The worship halls of the Man Mo Temple do not stand right next to the street, but slightly recessed behind the thin courtyard by around 4 meters. The temple is not that kind of grand architecture, halls are not connected. They are deep worship spaces placed side by side, with individual doors leading to the courtyard. The corner of the courtyard was where the “little girl” used to play skipping. Narrated from a now 82 year old lady, she repeats this quite a few times, as if it was the only game she could play. “Whenever there’s typhoon, we would come down here to take shelter, because our house was just made of wood, very dangerous!” Also recalling the “pathetic”(this is how she calls it) life of living behind YWCA, she remembers cooking at the back of the house, where she also showered with no privacy. The little girl lives in Chai Wan now, but still comes to burn incenses to the gods. Of all hardship this ladder has witnessed, there is still always a sacred place where memories of refuge and fun linger. Inside the courtyard, it is easier to see from the inside than from the outside. Another sign of refuge, and a place that do justice to people. ___________________________ #place of attachment #hall of justice
Time/ 14:07 Location/ Top of Ladder Street, Caine Road -At the back of a Machine-
The enormous tree on the left presses the ladder hard against the building on the right. Its gesture almost squeezes the air out of this in-between space. You put your gaze on the weathered concrete wall. Pipes of different sizes run across tidily, inserting their ends on here and there of the wall. Electric cables hang loosely, air-conditioning machines whirl. Through the windows you see fluorescent light flickering, fans turning. The stairs stand like a tip-toeing peeper, checking out on how this machine for living works. What’s exactly in the pipes and cables he cannot tell, but for sure it’s pumping magic into the spaces for them to be lit, cooled, burned. Dwellers in their own cells are unaware of other activities behind their walls, but the peeper sees it all. The cook with the cigarette, the dancer with her feathery fan. They all do not make much sound, as the machinery wall exerts its prominence by giving out its recurring low hum. The Londoner just arrived 3 months ago, she finds these “junky buildings” with “shaky corners” quite interesting. Uneven and old, fixed all these years like patchwork. ___________________________ #threshold / edge #place of living – day & night
Time/ 14:33 Location/ Circular Pathway -Forgotten World-
Descending down the steps to the Circular Pathway brings you into a forgotten world. Or is it a world trapped in the circular pathway, a Labyrinth of time? As if having its upper part cut away, only the sub-terrain structures remains. Somehow forbidden to surface from the level of the ladders. Constantly decaying, in the remaining stone wall, in tin shells whose deceased owners left behind, in the fence behind which we can still see the steps that might once belong to the interior of a house. Constantly constructing, not to the vain hope of resisting, but merely to survive their last breath of air. Cheung the wire-crafter and Tim the optometrist (most probably the only last person doing hand-made glasses) / calligraphist are the only duo operating the place. Their tiny tin stations opens and closes, burning incense on the fence sends daily prayer to the Man Mo god. The old hustle and bustle of the Ladder Street still flashes in their eyes, while their shivering hands are the only living things that keep the mechanic of this world running. Dozens of pigeons call this place home too, for they are almost the duoâ€™s only visitors. Sparks spill as the sanding machine whirls, while pigeons quickly perform their hide above the wall, then in a few seconds come back down to their familiar space. ___________________________ #disappearing spirit and neighbourhood #operable infrastructure-machines
Time/ 15:30 Location/ 3 Paths next to Ladder Street -3 Paths-
3 paths before your eyes, one bents to the left, one leads down some steps, one twists to the right. I shall tell you where they lead to. The stairs lead to the back of the Blake Garden, a decent park and playground where the dark histories of the big plague is earthed. No one knows where the infected houses have gone, nor if the plague is still spreading. But from my guess, the most effective way would be lift them up, turn upside down, conceal back into the ground. But hang on! Didn’t they know if they just take a second to try the path on the left, they will find the cure in a decent red house called the Pathological Institute? If you ask me about the tiled path on the right, it’s an elevated connecter to the modern residence. Functioning like a watching tower, people there perform their duty looking around the site, to make sure everything is in order, clean and happy. They say, “The Blake Garden is decent, the Museum of Medical Science elegant. Everything is in their place, everything is forgotten well.” Three paths lead to their own place, but somewhere underneath, they are still tied up by the same rock, from where the murmur of the ghost of plague endures. ___________________________ #intersection #disease and cure #paths #disappearing spirit and neighbourhood
Time/ 15:34 Location/ Next to YWCA, Bridges Street -Children-
Boys and girls swarm from the school gates, bringing with them loud chitchats and shouts of good-bye. Accompanied by mums, maids or not, they head for different directions, with eyes sparkling with curiosity that most probably wasn’t there when inside the classrooms. Some conversations on the steps: “Hey don’t poke me! I’ll fall down the stairs!” “I didn’t do that, it was him!” (laughters from the boys) // “You don’t even know what 9 times 9 is??? A grade-6 student doesn’t even know what 9 times 9 is?? This is not possible! (sarcastic and seem to be very happy about that as the boy jumps on the steps)” “…Why would I know…! (from far behind)” // “Look at that, isn’t it funny?” (pointing at a tiny zebra prints near the corner stone of YWCA) (no response from maid, “Just keep walking.” she probably thinks.) // “あの。。。(Japanese that I don’t understand)” -girl “(Japanese that I don’t understand)” -mom ___________________________ #place of living – day #institutions
Time/ 16:13 Location/ In the trench, behind a seating, on a landing, next to YWCA -Leftover-
. 23 half-used cigarettes . an empty Winston box . a bottle of cheap J.P Chenet Carbenet Syrah, emptied . tissue paper from Mannings . plastic sushi takeaway tray A cheap Japanese-French fusion dinner/mid-night treat, followed by long hours of smoking. Was it a he or a she? Alone or accompanied? Was it a celebrative or melancholy occasion? The warmth on the marble seating has long gone, but the remains of the night is still there. A place of solitude, simple pleasure for a moment of life. ___________________________ #place of living â€“ night #place of solitude
Time/ 16:52 Location/ Ladder Street public toilet, near Queen’s Road East -Cleansing Machine-
Simple geometries, clear lines, tidy façade are the facial expressions of the tiny orange box on one side of the ladder. Like a humble servant that silently performs her role, the orange box takes care of the passers-by’s cleaning needs. Just as the care-taker of anything unclean, she might also be the safeguard looking out for undesirables in this city, otherwise why painted herself bright as well as so brightly lit through her windows’ eyes? From her appearance and style, she must be a rather old soul, has she been silenced from any past in her years of service that’s actually too dirty to tell? People steps in, people steps out, never bother to give such place a look. But this is a machine, or rather a place for the ritual, of cleansing. Water runs through it, and through all its other identical, do they not seem to bear some kind of mass mission? Designed, structured, networked, managed, maintained, but how conflicting it is! So highly but barely attended to, disgusting but sacred as it clears the dirt away. ___________________________ #place of cleansing #machine and ritual
急速的步伐 來到太古廣場的巴士站 15:49 抓緊時間吧 小巴比巴士快
Rapid footsteps arrive at the station outside Pacific Place. 15:49 Snatch your time and hop onto the mini bus now.
金鐘道 紅棉道 總督府 堅道 窗外映像都來不及記下
Queensway Cotton Tree Drive Government House Caine Road, Images of the street flashes by.
「你係咪樓梯街呀！」 「哦係呀係呀！」 三秒的摺門間 搖下我在路旁 15:55 即是六分鐘 2.2公里的路 樓梯頂 “Glorious Fast Food”建築工人 無聲看過 多少人 汗流滿面的上來 吸一口氣就下去？ 馬路忘我地川流 樓梯 緩慢流動 下午太陽不曬 坡上的樹卻不介意 再添上涼意 調教好頻率 鳥鳴取代了車聲 在頭上
- YOU TO THE LADDER STREET?! - yes yes 3 seconds between the folding door shakes me off the whirling machine. 15:55 That is 6 minutes for a distance of 2.2 km. How many people sweating from the climb or preparing their breath for the descend at the peak of the ladder? The road flows like river, while the ladder drifts along gently, nonchalantly. The afternoon sun isn’t harsh, but trees on the slope do not mind still to send you some shades. Have your ears tuned right, chirping birds replace roaming cars somewhere above.
看不見鳥 葉在搖動 以近乎不能察覺的動作
I cannot see the birds, but up there leaves are moving in an almost unnoticeable manner.
藍藍綠綠 是綠葉在天空間蔓延？ 還是綠葉間長出了天空？
Patches of blue and green. Is the green spreading out in the blue? Or is the blue growing out of the green?
Have I arrived at the tip of a tree? Or is it the root of a tale?
艸 艸 艸 艸 艸 艸 艸 木
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艸 木 艸 艸 艸 艸 艸 艸 艸 木 艸 艸
CH 93 磊 茻 磊 艸 磊 AT TE 94 磊 艸 磊 磊 R H UG 101 95 磊 磊 磊 LA teens SHOUT! School bell rings dr 102 ain 96 磊 磊 a ge 97 磊 ＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿ 艸 艸 艸 103 drain drain drain 艸 艸 艸 艸 104 犬 的尾巴 120 木 艸 105 121 木 106 122 木 107 108 艸 109 艸 艸 110 茻 茻 茻 111 123 艸 茻 茻 112 艸 124 艸 木 茻 113 艸 艸 艸 艸 125 木 114 艸 艸 艸 126 木 115 艸 艸 木 127 木 116 艸 木 艸 艸 117 木 118 木 128 茻 119 木 129 艸 艸 艸 130 艸 艸 茻 131 艸 茻 艸 艸 132 茻 木 茻 133 木 134 木 艸 bu 138 135 木r n 139 136 木 ing 140 137 141 YWC A 142 磚磚磚 143 磚磚磚 144 磚磚磚磚磚 147 145 磚磚磚磚磚 148 146 ＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿磚磚磚磚磚 149 150 151 152 153 160 154 161 155 162 156 163 157 164 158 165 159 166 170 167 171 168 172 169 173 174 175 176 183 177 184 178 185 179 186 180 187 181 188 182
bu rn ing
incens sss u rn ing
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189 190 191 192 193 194 195 199 196 200 197 201 198 202 203 艸 204 violin♫♬ 茻 艸 艸 205 艸 茻 茻 210 206 艸 茻 木 茻 211 207 木 212 208 木 213 209 木 214 215 216 221 217 222 218 223 219 224 220 225 226 艸 艸 227 艸 艸 232 228 艸 木 艸 艸 茻 233 229 木木 艸 bu 茻 234 木 b u 230 r r nin 茻 茻 235 nin 231 木 g g bu 茻 茻 茻 艸 236 rn 茻 茻 艸 木 茻 237 磊 磊 磊 木 木 艸 238 242 磊 磊 本 本 磊 239 瓦瓦瓦瓦 243 磊 磊 本 磊 磊 240 瓦瓦瓦瓦 瓦瓦瓦瓦 244 磊 本 本 本 磊 241 ＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿ 245 磊 磊 本 本 磊 246 磊 磊 本 磊 247 磊 磊 磊 248 磊 磊 253 249 磊 254 250 255 251 256 252 257 艸 258 艸 259 艸 艸 艸 265 260 艸 木 艸 266 261 木 267 262 木 貝 貝 貝 貝 268 263 木 龟 龟 龟 龟 貝 269 264 ＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿ 木 ＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿ 270 271 276 272 277 273 278 274 279 275 280 281 282 287 283 288 284 289 285 290 286 291 艸 292 艸 艸 艸 293 艸 艸 艸 艸 298 294 艸 木 艸 299 295 木 300 296 木 301 297 ＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿ 木 ＿＿＿＿ 302 303 304 209 305 310 306 311 307 312 308 313 314 315 316 321 317 322 318 323 319 324 320 325 326 ＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿＿ PILING
茻 艸 茻 茻 茻 茻 茻 艸 艸 艸 艸 艸 艸 艸 艸 木 艸 榕 茻 艸 艸 木 茻 木 木 木 木 木 木 木 木 木 11 木 木 12 木 13 14
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Dialogue [Oral Record] British Tourists (1 female, 1 male) / We came here to see the Man Mo Temple. / We expect the Temple to be bigger, and perhaps more “round”, surrounded, garden or something…But it was beautiful, very historic, very simple inside, with statues, I think it’s lovely to see how many people here. So it’s beautiful. / ...he likes engineering, but I pick upon little things here on the fence, “make a wish”. Because we do this back home, but we would not use leaves, it’s interesting to find out how people do it in other countries. And I’ve liked looking at the neon signs across the streets. / I’m very impressed with the infrastructure. / The height and the way they must function in terms of drainage and structural things. It must be challenging for the foundation to do those blocks on hillside. Spanish Tourist (1 male) / It’s like legoland, you know? When you start to build things with little. And the structure, composition, you know? Long middle small, the composition. The colour is also nice, it’s like pink green yellow grey, so I like it. But I mean, not just that I like, I don’t really like to live in one of it because it’s very small, but the composition I like. / When you are going up, you can feel it. I was just going up, and then it’s…wow! And the feeling is better because you are going up.
New Resident from London (1 female) / I think also when you walking up here the graffiti on the wall is quite interesting. And I kind of like this kind of place where it’s a bit shaky about the corner. When it’s lunchtime you would see all those workers, packed here. And the junky buildings, I like the balustrades, I like that most of it is uneven and old, it’s almost like a patchwork. Can you see all those concrete and all those things that’s been fixed all over the years? I kind of like that. It’s kind of urban.
Australian Tourists (1 female, 1 male) / We are interested in the history, and the old town. So we have a map, and we are following the “time traveler”, which is the older paths. / Ah I’d like to see the fabrics behind the buildings, the doors the ironwork. The bamboo, the tools for scaffolding. / And just keep an eye out for the building methods. What materials, what style… / Ironwork, concrete... / Brick, whatever there is with the old buildings. / Old stonework. / What I look for is a little bit different from Ian. I’d like to see where the “older” is with the “newer”. So the contrast between whether it’s the colour, whether it’s the material, or the size, just how they mix together. Also where there’s green, where there’s a park, are there trees, all we got in the concrete jungle. / It’s interesting, the perspective. It’s harder to get up than down, but it just adds to the characters. / That trees actually obscure a lot the view, so maybe the tree is not appropriate for this specific view. / But the green it also softens, it softens how hard or harsh did it look without something more natural. / I photograph people. I’m interested in seeing what the people are doing. Probably Ian would photograph the fire hydrant or the material. But as I said before, the contrast. I actually photographed the funeral parlor on the corner there, because it seems to just be there when there are antique shops in the street. Many things that looks different, my photographs also remind me of where I’ve been, which way we come about.
Old Resident (1 female, 82) / I lived there on the 3rd floor, behind YWCA. It was demolished, so we had to move to Chai Wan. / I’m 82 years old. I was here even when the Japanese occupy HK. There was the Wa Kiu Press, here it was the Central Theatre, Police Quarter. I used to jump the rope here outside the Temple. Whenever there’s typhoon, we would come down here to take shelter, because our house was just made of wood, very dangerous. / ...back then there was Wellington College (now Tung Wah Residence), Fa Bou Street etc. So people who went to school would walk up and down. The YWCA has a long history. Our kitchen is on its back. 5 rooms, 4 beds and a cockloft, the condition was so bad. When taking a bath we all saw each other, so pathetic!
Old Resident (1 male) / It’s all stairs, and I am old. I have been here for a pretty long time. / There was not much to do, just up and down. In the past there were many people. A lot of Indians, but now? The name of the street is nothing but a name, now there are all Westerners, so many cafes and restaurants. Back then there was none, this district has changed! In the past it was mainly Chinese and Indians, selling antiques and all kinds of stuff. / Many decades ago there were a lot of hawkers on both sides on Possession Street. But now there is no more. In the past it was all 2-3 storeys building on Hollywood Road, not these high-rises. And there was the Central Theatre. Around Welcome [now Fusion] down there. / This district had a lot of movie theatres, and just residential buildings all around. When it was all Chinese living here, it was similar to Sham Shui Po, for poor people and workers. Those places, the Blake Garden, all occupied by poor people. And upper on the hill, where there were many medicine students and their buildings, there were not much people. The atmosphere was dark and gloomy. In Square street there wouldn’t be these taxis and cars like it is now. / Well, as the saying, “Time changes, everything changes.” People changes, thinking and emotions, everything changes... Am I not right? 42
Hawkers in Circular Pathway (2 male) (Mr So, Wire welder & crafter) / The hawkers on Ladder street have all moved here [Circular Pathway]. Look at these photos, there were so many hawkers on Ladder Street, just a little bit down there, next to Queen’s Road East. I have been working here for decades, look at this old photo, this was our shop! My granddad started this welding shop, we are artist! We do crafts!
(Mr Cheung, Calligraphist & Optometrist) / I can write any kinds of calligraphy, people come to find me to write them some words of good wishes. You see there is Man Mo Temple, and here a big tree, it’s a place of good fortune, we are at the mouth of the dragon (龍口) you know? so the wishes will really come true. That’s why people come for my calligraphy. I’m the oldest here, 93 years old! / Yes, my shop was on Ladder Street near Hollywood Road. I started it myself in 1962. I used to live on Queen’s Road West but I opened my shop here. Chinese used to live here. Central is Central, Sai Wan is Sai Wan, we have our neighborhood here. / ...Now I have to light the incense. (Mr Cheung lighted an incense and put it on the self-made altar on the fence) Of course I will do it, look at these cans on the fences, all for putting my incenses. I do this when I start and end my work, it will bless me peace after sending to Man Mo Temple up there. It also shows my determination. / Let me open my shop to show you my stuff here. These are the news report of me when I was in my 60s. These are my writing…”天賜良 緣皆好合” “龍飛鳳舞” “老少平安”. / It’s just me and So left in Circular Pathway, only our stores still running here. Other hawkers have passed away, they left these tin stores and their sons just use them for storage.
“The city is not exposed as a unity but as a wide range of emotions, memories, secrets, histories and connections, that can be found in the reality around us. A gigantic exploded view where the ‘parts’ are taken out of the ‘whole’. It is the Venice we experience...we walk through, a place where we love, a city that we dream. When we look under the surface we see the imaginary Venice, the invisible Venice, the poetic Venice.” -Jan van Ballegooijen, Storytelling Surfaces
Chapter II TELLING ARCHITECTURE
VI. Telling Architecture The social dimension is the emphasis in the Telling phase. To tell, there is the author who 1.explore the story (research), 2.present the story (representation), and the readers who 3.interpret the story (view). Therefore, it is a research approach that requires a shift from individual perception to the collective, and the stories should reveal the social dimension in both space and time. Illustrating the “telling” concept, Havik writes that “A transcriptive mode of architectural and urban research thus involves telling as a way to include users’ perspectives and investigate the role of activities and events in the way a site is socially embedded in a city”16. The 3 places selected from Reading phase were researched and retold combining facts and fictions. Findings of each place were represented in a collection of diagrams, time line, images, documents, writing, drawing and models, within which literary imaginations participate in the creative process, that formed a new way of analysing the places. It is a form of “research through design”: The literary techniques adopted since Reading phase “allow conducting site analysis from a very specific viewpoint, informed by a (fictional) hypothesis or metaphor…are subject to selective filtering, generating themes and metaphors for the construction of larger stories”17. These larger stories were the fictional and spatial speculations that started to surface near the end of the this phase, especially when spatial models are constructed and a way of viewing is developed.
16 Klaske Havik (2014), p.227 17 Ibid.
Drawing collage, Ink on paper, Chinese ink on Xuan paper, 250mm x 594mm
Model Cardboard, mirrors, steel beads, burnt soil, lighting 350mm x 160mm x 350mm
<of Cleansing> Two buildings of different architectural styles, functions, ideas. To the East is the modern and scientific; to the West is the old and superstitious. Do they not in fact bare the same root? Do they not stand for the same purpose? Is science superstition? What do they heal, the disease or the mind? Pound Lane Public Latrine and Bathhouse is the first public bathhouse in Hong Kong, built under hygienic concern shortly after the Tai Ping Shan plague in 1894. Kwong Fook I Tsz is a temple built in the Qing dynasty, it became shelter for the sick and the dying. Free Chinese medicine consultation was valid in the same place. For a period it was closed due to extreme poor hygiene as dead bodies accumulated in the temple.
(Previous page) Drawing, Permanent ink and Chinese Ink on fabric paper, 1100mm x 900mm Model Plywood, acrylic, cotton strings, cardboar, 315mm x 150mm x 250mm
<A Fictional Community> It was a place of crimes and slums. Fire, robbery, gambling and murder. It was a community enchanted with vibrant spirit. â€œOne of the most interesting of these streets, and one which demonstrated the inexhaustible capacity of the city to create business community cells...â€? Factories for paper boxes, goldsmiths and other business are the forces within. It grew and was held up within itself, houses within houses, bridges over verandahs. Circular Pathway was a legendary community vanished in the 1960s and 70s under the Urban Renewal Pilot Scheme.
(Previous page) Painting, Chinese colour on paper, 801mm x 443mm Model Cardboard, metal wire, dead nature, light 500mm x 350mm x 190mm
(The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello, 1432) 68
<A Garden at Still> It was the densest living area in Tai Ping Shan. Poor hygiene due to lack of latrine facilities (which is equipped in houses of the Europeans in Central and mid-level) led to the most severe plague in 1894. The area was demolished for total sanitization which made space for the Garden. There had always been opinions on prohibiting Chinese from entering public gardens. Nearby Po Yan Street was originally nicknamed “Cemetary street” for it was where the Chinese buried the dead. A collapse of the no. 8 police station retaining wall in 1925 destroyed 7 houses and killed dozens. Blake Garden is the first public park for Chinese constructed in around 1905. “Natura morta”, “still life” in Italian, reveals the strange liveliness of the objects portrayed. Should we see it as alive? Or see it as stone dead?
note #2/ Different literary techniques and ways of telling are used in the three cases, experimenting with metaphors, allegories, fiction-writing and poetic imaginations. The simultaneous creations of literary imaginations, drawing and models allow the growth of ideas in different dimensions. Like an authorâ€™s experience in fiction-writing, the works come to their own lives as the fiction gradually take their form with time. With distinct characters, they become autonomous ideas and forces that are an essential spirit of the stories they originated from, at the same time opened a story, time and space of their own. One work also affects the other, as I move between the creations. The works require readers to look and interpret in their own ways, so it leads to the way literary creations could be viewed. Unlike conventional architectural drawings and models, these works leave rooms for uncertainties and multiple interpretation, as they are neither plans, sections or models of actual buildings. Ways of looking at the works are developed and filmed as trials, to further express the authorâ€™s points of departure or subsequent discoveries. This is another quality of literary creations. The process exemplifies the productive potential of fictions, and the interchangeability of ways of representations of the same idea. The creations in the Telling phase encapsulate the essences of an era, cross-referenceable between the 3 places. The purpose of exploring 3 cases are to experiment with different literary approaches on several related research topics. As a whole, they form a matrix and fragments of the one story of Tai Ping Shan, reflecting inequality under Colonialism, history of social reform, typological evolution, public infrastructure development, public lives and urban morphology.
Chapter III WRITING ARCHITECTURE
â€œThe marvelous begins to be unmistakably marvelous when it arises from an unexpected alteration of reality (the miracle), from a priviledged revelation of reality, an unaccustomed insight that is singularly favored by the unexpected richness of reality or an amplification of the scale and categories of reality perceived with particular intensity by virtue of an exaltation of the spirit that leads it to a kind of extreme state.â€? -Alejo Carpentier, On the Marvelous Real in America
VII. New Realities The Writing part testifies the imaginative powers in constructing new reality as spatial designs. Speculative programs are proposed for the three sites that are fragments of the larger story of Tai Ping Shan. Together they exist in and form a time-space (chronotope) embedded with the ideas of certain paradox and characters. The following are the programs proposed for the three place of experimentation at the end of semester one, while Circular Pathway is carried onto the design of <The House of Lost Objects> in semester two.
The House of Lost Objects This is the story of a place that has never existed, not yet existed or may never exist. They named it the “House of Lost Objects”, and called themselves the Keepers. It started when the father told his boys about Circular Pathway: “The Circular Pathway did not appear on the maps of Hong Kong until 1859, set back from the main arteries of the City of Victoria. It adjoined the hustling Ladder Street and was opposite to Mo Lo Street. When you are in it you could not see its end, as the street bends on like a bow. There was an inexhaustible spirit of family factories. Box makers paved the street with paper; goldsmiths turned stones into silver and gold; steam from Chinese medicine held up balconies and roofs and flyovers.”
Now, the boys have travelled back to Hong Kong in search of a business opportunity. And they decided to see if there’s any remains of this legendary community. They found an almost-deserted section of the Pathway, but when they talked to neighbouring shop owners, unfortunately they couldn’t care less about the past but the money they had to make, and claimed that they know nothing about these vacant spaces, nor did the Pathway ever existed. In hope of encountering the Circular Pathway’s past, they eventually started a pawning business1 at the old site of Circular Pathway, while Mo Lo Street, or Lascar Row, would be the convenient second-hand market for overdue objects. As their architecture grew with their pawn business, it now houses 5 categories of spaces: Spaces of Reminiscence; Spaces of Lost; Spaces of Reunion; Spaces for the Alchemists; Spaces for the Keepers.
1 Coincidently, the nature of a pawnshop is shared by the old fate of Circular Pathway. Pawning is the potential giving up of possessions in exchange with quick cash, just like how in the old days, Circular Pathway was wilfully given up by the citizens to the government under the Urban Renewal Pilot Scheme for cash compensation. At that time, the founding Keepers’ father left with his parents their home and goldsmith business at No.19 with $9540 from the Authority.
Absence and Remembrance
[REMINISCENCE] 1 2 3 4 5
Entrance Absence Remembrance Archive Crack
from the Space of Fall to the Garden of Union
[LOST] 6 7 8 9 10
Last Thought Negotiation Release Witness Fall
Garden of Union
[REUNION] 11 12 13 14 15
Garden of Union Transition Back Garden Gallery Encounter
[ALCHEMISTS] a b c d e f
Workshops Prima Materia Athanor Monitoring Room Alchemistsâ€™ Terrace Storage
Space of Negotiation
[KEEPERS] g h i j k l m
Lobby Common Room Pawnbroker Seal Office Document Archive Keepersâ€™ Terrace
Each element is designed and studied as discrete conditions for specific scenario to unfold, truthful to their programmatic and spatial needs, with form, light and atmosphere explored with in focus. But together they function as an expanded process of pawning and communal life. At the moment they are put together and into the site, each moves and adjustments are acts to resonate the context and with each other. One complexity of the architecture lies in the navigating possibilities provided by the non-linear circulation. Pawning may be a linear process, but multiple opportunities are offered for a change in the mind, and for other public to visit the place. You may just come and go, or you may vary your tempo for a different experience. Another complexity would be the meeting of different forms and spaces. Other than responding to the contextual environment, spaces are positioned to give unique views into one another. While some are more enclosed, openings are provided where visual interaction is desirable.
Spatial Studies 1:100 Cardboard
Bringing spaces together Early Sketches
A â€œmapâ€? for major spaces Composite Wormseye Axonometric
Reminiscence She descends the old granite steps from Ladder Street and finds herself under a big curved roof, on the right stands the historical retaining wall, on the left a steel frame structure runs down Circular Pathway. She has entered the major spaces of Reminiscence: Absence and Remembrance. On the other side of the frame is a vacant area, where the buildings No.17-22 Circular Pathway once stood. Despite that the buildings are absent from sight, several steps and foundations of the buildings remain. The stairs in the frame bring her up to two platforms, from where she could look back to the Pathway or look out onto the other side of the frame. In fact, if she looks back towards the entrance steps, she would be sharing the same view with the kids who spent their lazy afternoons on the balconies in the old times. On the other side of the frame, she is confronted by a 27m tall glazed wall that extends for a distance, where pawned objects, masked due to privacy, are archived and displayed. Strictly speaking, the objects are still owned, and contain the present memories of their owners. But note how they are masked, so they could too resemble any of her possessions. Maybe this reminds her of her motherâ€™s vase, that the chair she used to daydream on. The space of Absence is roofless, so oneâ€™s gaze could be dazed by the midday sun, or disturbed by drizzles or shower. She tries to reach out for the Archive wall, as the protruding platform suggests her to, but eventually the tip of the platform is so narrow that stops her from moving closer. The objects all seem so close but never reachable.
The vacant site, the glazed Archive, the reflective wall, and part of the Space of Lost hangs in between Composite drawing: Chinese ink on Xuan paper, digital prints on cut out tracing paper
Lost The huge curved roof presses more against him as he walks down the Pathway, and he clutches his hand tighter around the object he has brought to pawn. Pawning was not a big deal to the peasants in the old days, most of the people treated the pawnshop like a seasonal storage, pawning quilts in summer and claiming them back in winter. However, there were also many who visited the pawnshop because they were left with no choice. Some pawned for a friend in need; some for a shot in career; some for a gambler-lover in debt; some for a mom in the verge of death. In anyways, he pawns because he wants to retain the chance of claiming it back, as a promise to himself that he has to make through the hardship. But at the same time, pawning also means risking the losing of objects if he failed to reclaim. It is a moment when the tie between the him and the thing is put in a game of fate. In the space of Last Thought, his heart sinks a bit as he steps down to the elevator. He is determined, so he decides to go up. The pawnbrokerâ€™s face is nowhere to be seen, because the counter is even higher than normal2. With his eyes fixed on his wedding ring, a motor lifts it to the Pawnbroker for examination. At this point, the wall furthest to him lights up. A screen displays close-up images of the examination in real time. It is the first time he sees the hands of a total stranger stroking his very ring, weighing it, feeling it. This is a virtual experience of the his own object. In this pawnshop, the sense of possession between the owner and his object is the most amplified, while the Keeper(here, the Pawnbroker) keeps distance. The dealâ€™s been made, but the object is handed back to him3, which he has to let go of it by himself in the room of Release. The two steps that rise to the release platform are tall, since this decision may be heavy and difficult.
2 In usual pawnshop practice in Hong Kong, the pawnbrokerâ€™s counter is raised 2m above the customer, for security reason and also for creating a sense of authority for better bargain. 3 In usual pawnshop practice in Hong Kong, the object is directly raised to the pawnbroker and transfered to the backhouse for packing.
He could have taken the lift back down, but instead he chooses the other exit. For 5 seconds he walks in a dim corridor and arrives at the corner of Witness where an opening looks out to the earlier glazed Archive from a very high perspective. “That is where my ring will be kept, becoming one of the many”, he thinks. The following space is a slight expansion of the journey to rejoin the public. In many real pawn stories that I know, not only the objects are lost, but the owners are going through heavy dilemma themselves. The space of Fall takes the form of a slanted cone, where a stair is hung from the arched roof. The intervals between the arches and the width of the room increase to form an illusion that the destination is further than it actually is. There’s an exaggerated sense of rhythm, fragility and fall, provided by the arches and very thin columns, the great slope underneath, and the landings that are slightly tilted forward. The cone is twisted and tilted so that he is not so visible from the public, in replace of the “screen of shame”(遮醜板) at traditional pawnshop. Taking refuge of the wall, cash in his pockets, he finally joins the crowd down there.
Reunion The space of Fall joins the Garden of Union, so the two is designed to work together. Facing the Garden of Union across Hollywood Road is the historical Man Mo Temple (文武廟). It was the only place where the Colonial government allowed Chinese to settle conflicts and civic issues with traditional methods. Today, it is still a popular place of worship, and is significant for all times. The Garden of Union celebrates the Man Mo Temple, the “tree wall” (huge tree on historical stone wall) as well as the slope where old houses once sat on. It has transformed from a fenced off slope and small playground to an open public space with dynamic topography and accesible from many directions. The space at the level of Hollywood Road invites the public to gather, and serves as a viewing deck to the covered space extended from the space of Fall. On the other hand, the lower level is half shaded by the extended roof. It could be a space for open theatre or any other activities. Ramps and stairs link all spaces together and provide a detour to contemplate the environment. There are two main spaces in the Spaces of Reunion. The Garden of Union mentioned above is more open and extroverted, while the Back Garden is more enclosed and introverted. The two are linked by a stairwell with skylight, and the later one inhabits the part of the Circular Pathway that was supposed to extend Eastward in the past. The Crack, which marks the pre-existing Pathway, stands at the end of the Pathway, where it is now the elevation of the Hollywood Terrace. Keeping the structural columns of the Hollywood Terrace, the walls are slightly modified to indicate the old street’s extension. Mirror surface could be applied to even create an illusion of the Pathway extending as before. This space provides a tranquil hideout that could house temporary markets or smaller activities. The staircase of Hillier Street that connects Queen’s Road Central and Circular Pathway is also activated because of the Back Garden. It is also a transitional space between the Archive for pawned objects (mentioned earlier, belong to the Spaces of Reminiscence) and the Gallery for transformed objects. The Archive and Gallery stand back to back in the centre of the site.
Keepers and Alchemists There are two more worlds in the House of Lost Objects: Spaces for the Keepers and Spaces for the Alchemists. The Keepers inhabit the Tower and manage the whole building. They are dedicated in this business of receiving, sealing, displaying, handling of objects, following what the three brothers started at the beginning. The device near the top of the Tower signals to the city the cycle of pawning - 4 lunar months per cycle. The community of the Alchemists takes the top part of the lower building, where they would receive more sunlight as they stay and work for long hours. It also appears to be low rise amidst the built urban fabric. Objects that are unclaimed and not sold to the second hand market are transferred to the Prima Materia storage for the Alchemistsâ€™ upcycle creation. Old objects takes on new lives, part of this goes into part of that, and are eventually displayed in the Gallery. At the Gallery, people encounter new objects, while past owners may find lost objects getting on new lives in new forms. Maybe what he brings home even contain a part of his old memories and he is not aware of it.
Facade and Ladder Street The only way to experience the facade of the House of Lost Object is a walk along Ladder Street. The view changes from looking from either far above or below, to approaching very near, to leaving it behind as you move on. The facade is made of wood elements supported on steel frame. From the top part to bottom, the wood pieces are positioned from 90 degrees to 50 degrees to the site boundary, creating a gradual change in porosity depending on the viewing angle. The rotating angles respond to historical elements around Tai Ping Shan, including the original coastline, YMCA building, Blake Garden and the old Pathological Institute. Walking from Queenâ€™s Road Central, she notices how the facade appears to be non-porous to porous from top to bottom. But walking near, the pattern inverts. In fact, light passes through the openings near the top, thus helps lighting up the Space of Reminiscence, while the non-porous facade near the bottom shields the Space from the huzzling Ladder Street. In fact, the folded gesture of the facade also seems to invite her to the other side of it. Without even noticing, she realises that she has crossed an invisible threshold under the hanging curtain. All at once, she is on the other side of it, looking into the world of the House.
Facade Details 1:20 / Facade Studies 1:150
Final Model 1:100 Basswood, plywood, foam
Study Model 1:150 Foam
Landscape Study 1:150
Spatial Study 1:150
VIII. Literacy in Architecture Literary Architecture is a field of discourse in the architectural discipline that reference and make use of the analogy with Literature. To extract literary tools for architect’s application, we could reference architects whose works contain high degree of literacy, literary approach in architectural institution, and reflections on literature written by architects or architectural theorists. Literary Architecture is at the same time a lens in analysing architecture, an aspect of architecture criticism, and working methodologies that involve literary understanding. The following is several precedent studies in the field of architecture to understand the “literacy” in the architects’ ideas, process and works. Other studies has been made in relevant writings, please see Bibliography in Volume I.
IX. Architecture in Literature The ability of fiction in producing reality is already noted in various philosopherâ€™s writing, especially by french philosopher Paul Ricoeur quoted in Volume I of the thesis book. To further study the analogy between Architecture and Literature, we must look from both directions. Studies in literature material has been carried out to discover how archtiecture is described, transformed and invented in literature. The creation of literature is highly personal and subject to the authorâ€™s emotions and thoughts, but it can evoke feelings and resonance in the readers because we all possess the ability of imagination. The thesis is highly inspired by works of local innovative novelist Dung Kai-Cheung, who has written the V-series and many more that is rich in contextual research and imaginations. An interview is carried out with Mr Dung, and subsequent dialogue event is held in the CUHK. His creations and thoughts has inspired the research and design of the thesis.
董啟章 Dung Kai-cheung
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
也斯 Leung Ping-kwan
梁秉鈞,《形象香港－－梁秉鈞詩選》(City at the end of time-- Poems by Leung Ping-kwan, edited by Esther M. K. Cheung) (2012) 鄭政恆, 《樓梯街》於《城市文藝》總第19期 (2007) 張錯, 《香港行旅四帖》於香港文學211期 (2002) 胡燕青, 《我們又落入薄色的街》(2002) 黃淑嫺, 《宋金倩在樓梯街》於《香港短篇小說選 1998-1999》 (2001) 梁秉鈞,《形象香港－－梁秉鈞詩選》(City at the end of time-- Poems by Leung Ping-kwan, edited by Esther M. K. Cheung) (2012) 魯迅,《無聲的中國》(1927) 小思,《彷彿依舊聽見那聲音》 (1987) 於《香港文學散步 》(2004) 呂永佳, 於《疊印--漫步香港文學地景 1》(2016)
Interview with Dung Kai-cheung Jasmine Chan (JC) Kai-cheung Dung (D)
22 November 2018
“HISTORY” JC: You have mentioned in other occasions how historical materials inspired your writings, how has your creations shaped your views towards this notion of History in return? Did the role of History change in your works? D: I studied Chinese and Western histories in high school, and the studying materials always made me think of stories. I understood histories as novels, so I would try to fill gaps or places that were unclear with my own imaginations. One way of achieving high marks in history subjects, I suspect, is to make fragmented materials seem logical and systematic. In fact, I made up a lot of things when I sat in history exams, as the revision materials I collected were still insufficient or not coherent enough. I would have to find ways to link the facts, to tell them in a more meaningful way. It might not be a good learning attitude, but I have always felt that histories are not to be “recited”, but to be “written”. [In examinations,] the facts cannot be wrong, but if you can write proper stories, you can achieve high marks. The notion of History was in a more narrow sense in my earlier oeuvres. Anyone could notice that I was writing about histories at that time. However, History takes on a broader sense to me now. Other than being the histories of a place or the collective, it can also be the journey of every single person. Even the stories of an individual or a few people can be regarded as Histories. That’s why some of my later works might seem not to be about histories, but in fact, I was still treating the novels from historical” perspectives. Some think that I was trying to overthrow the factuality of “histories” in <The Atlas>, but I don’t think it was that simple. “Histories”, or our memories, must be constructed upon some facts that have truly happened, but whether these “facts” could be verified are uncertain. If some historical events left us more physical evidences, then it would be more solid; but for those that have vanished completely, with no evidence nor witness, and our memories unclear, then they would become ambiguous and “flexible”. How can we tell the account of things unclear? Naturally some composing and even new inventions would appear. In fact History, no matter in its narrow or broad sense, would differ due to the limits of evidences left from facts that have happened, and also to the perspectives or stances from where the telling or remembering of a past event is conducted. For example, a memoir written by the same person when he was fifty and seventy would be very different but not entirely different. The difference lies at his perspectives at
The notion of History underwent some changes since <The Histories of the Adventures of Vivi and Vera>. It became more like personal histories. The degree of personal histories also depends on the age of the characters. A middle-aged person would have stronger sense of personal histories, such as a writer character named “Dictator” in <Histories of Time>, who talked about the histories of his personal career and of Hong Kong literatures. So there are more histories in his personal account. But for younger characters, such as the teenagers in <Age of Learning>, there were less historical elements as the characters were not at an age of revisiting their past.
INTERVIEW// DUNG KAI CHEUNG
different age. It is an interplay between the facts and the imagined.
CITY and CHARACTERS JC: The ways you create characters are interesting. In some cases, your character settings are very clear, like the “Dictator” or “Teenager” you just mentioned; but in <Visible Cities> there are numerous less defined characters whose names all start with the letter V. How did you treat the relationship between City and Characters? How would one aspect become the driving force of the other? D: One factor of character settings is the literary form. There are many characters in the <V-City series>, since the writing form is very short, and I call this approach “sketchbook novel”. In these very short novels, I don’t think there needs to be a recurring character, instead I illustrated just one particular aspect of a character each time. In long novels there could be many characters too, but there has to be distinctive leading and supporting roles, in which leading roles would be more comprehensive. This is a matter of form. Another reason for the series’ short forms is the protagonist being the City, that is, Hong Kong. It is a collective, and this collective is made up by many individuals. So I created many characters and each was illustrated in very short length. This is the relationship that build up the <V-City series>. JC: The <V-City Series> are not recent works. How do you feel towards this oeuvre now? D: I have always liked this series very much. What’s special about it is that it seems not to mean much if you only look at a few stories. <The Atlas> might be more obvious for readers to notice the existence of some special thoughts behind the stories, but it is more difficult if you only read parts of <The Catalog> and <Unnatural Recollection>. Therefore, this series must be read in its whole, in order to see the whole picture. The contents are very fragmented and the subjects written are very common, but in fact there was a creative concept behind. I think this way of writing may be less seen in Chinese Literature. Though many authors would write short pieces, few would structure four books of short pieces together. This structure is
quite unique, but I did not bear this idea at first. Instead, it was when I looked back and re-interpreted them that this idea gradually came. JC: What is the difference in linear and fragmented novels? D: I guess they are two forms of creative approach: one is a single comprehensive story, while fragmentation is another way of displaying the city. It is like a very huge painting with numerous tiny characters waiting for you to discover. I like this kind of painting, that you cannot see all of it at once, so you would explore bit by bit. “PAST” and “FACTS” JC: Many reviewers compared you with Italo Calvino and would analyse the idea of “time” in both of your works. Are your works influenced by him? On the idea of “time”, why would you choose to create a “future” archaeology? D: I was definitely influenced by Calvino, especially since I was reading his works during my early writing period. Under his influence, I think I am more willing to experiment with different writing styles. Also, Calvino’s novels are very “thoughtful”, but they won’t appear to be too abstract, instead are expressed with richer details. I think Calvino’s creations are not so much related with time but image. While the works of Borges and Proust contain a lot of concepts related to time. Maybe due to my interest in history, my works have some connection with time. Because history is itself about the “past”, but what is “past”? What exactly is the act of re-telling the “past”? These are the questions I think about. So when it comes to time, to me it is not some abstract philosophical questions, but the relationship between history, memories, experience, evidences and telling. I am more interested in how to “tell” the past, but not what the past itself is. JC: This reminds me of most people’s reaction towards creations about the “past”, both in architecture and in literature. That whenever “history”, or the “past” is raised, it is easily interpreted as nostalgic or backward-looking. D: Yes, many people has huge misunderstanding of history, as something past and old. But history is in fact the action of how present display the past. About “future archaeology”. Official archaeology is the recovery and verification of past materials, but I expanded this concept in a literary way, and connected archaeology with history in broad sense. <The Atlas> is the work closest to “archaeology”, as I referenced a lot with historical materials. I called it “future archaeology” because the book was assumed to be written in the future, when future people did archaeological analysis on their past. This allowed me to pull the time-space further from that time, and even assumed that the “present” had vanished.
<The Atlas> was written in around 1997, if I wrote about the “present” then, it would be the archaeology before 1997. In fact, there happened to be many archaeological discoveries at that time, like the excavation of some bronze ware from the Warring States period… Hong Kong’s histories was greatly pushed backward by those findings at that time, which implied that “the early history of Hong Kong could not be separated from that of China” and anchored Hong Kong more strongly with the Chinese race. The archaeological findings and discourse around 1997 were very political. Thus, I deliberately skipped that time-frame. I pushed the story to an imaginary future, when Hong Kong is no longer there because of unknown reasons. People at that time then tried to reconstruct Hong Kong from materials they discovered. JC: Can we say that, under such imaginary scenarios, the “Hong Kong” in the novel could break away from the social image around 1997? D: Yes, this could detach the city from the rather narrow political environment at that time. JC: Talking about this, Calvino’s <Cosmicomics> has an even un-namable time and space. D: Absolutely. Sometimes, the narration becomes freer when it arrives at undefined time-space, as it would not be limited by certain epoch. JC: There is a concept of “Epoché” in philosophy, which means “suspension of judgement” or breaking away from common reasons. Maybe some of Calvino’s or your works have come across similar conditions. D: I guess the purpose of literature itself is somehow to break away from conventions, but of course different writing styles would have different levels of breakthrough. Maybe realism writings would need to concern normal reasoning more, but I think great realism would deconstruct conventions at some point, just that its approach makes you think that it is very close to the reality, therefore close to conventional reasoning. I think the appearance and interactions between rational and irrational is the principle of many literature works, in order to see the same thing from different angles. This would result in some kind of contradiction or discrepancy from our normal understanding, then we could be detached from judgement we never doubted, to reperceive and rethink about them. JC: Facts and fictions are two elements that often appear in your works, how do you see the balance of these two elements? And what has their integration affected your works? D: I think “factual” is some kind of “common reasoning”, while “fictitious” is “be
yond reasoning” or some sort of “marvellous”, while all literature works have to react with these two aspects, depending on which side you fall more to. In my case, it might have changed in different periods. Some of my works may be more fictitious or imaginary, so it is easier to observe anything “unreasonable”. But I don’t want to write something that is too obviously made-up, so I still prefer making some scenarios appear more realistic, or to engage with readers more readily. Maybe there would be more everyday scenarios in my future long novels. I always write from the everyday in my recent works, but gradually there would appear some “cracks”, and then something abnormal would appear, or you would notice disconnected time-fragments. I am more inclined to this way of writing now, to infiltrate from a world that appears to be normal. It is like some fissures turning bigger and bigger, and at the end they shatter. What does the reality look like? The shattered images can no longer be put back together. URBAN LITERATURE JC: Now let’s look at Hong Kong’s urban literature. Ye si (Leung Ping-kwan), Xixi and you have all written significant urban literatures of Hong Kong. How do poets or authors perceive the city? How is it more special or not different from other people? How are they feeling, transforming or responding to our city? D: At certain level, our perspectives have no difference from everybody, we are all city-people anyways. My feeling towards city is rather contradicting. Sometimes, I feel tired of the urban, as I grew up from the city centre, Sham Shui Po and Mongkok, so the feeling is profound. But when I started to write, I realised that writers around me were also writing about the city. We are all writing about the city, so is urban literature a kind of limitation? Why is our perspectives so limited to ONE CITY? In fact, most people in the world has broader territorial perspectives, perhaps except places like Hong Kong and Singapore. Most people has the idea of “territories”, not in the sense of nations, but perhaps they grew up in one state, then studied in another, and worked in another. In this case, their territorial experiences are huge. Any countries would have these situations. In Hong Kong, we move around but it might just as well be from Mongkok to Fan Ling or into the new towns, which are not very far. Slowly, I started to think if there was a way to write beyond the narrowness of such territory or horizons. That’s why there was a period when I feel reluctant towards writing about the city. However, eventually I realized it was just natural, and I was a city person all along. What I just said is how writers are the same as everyone else, but when it comes to “writing” the city with literature, our perspectives definitely differ from the public. Apart from the contents, the difference might also lie in the new writing angles adopted by writers. For example, I call Xixi’s approach in <My City> “de-familiari-
zation”, while mine might be “fictitious history” or very short pieces on “objects”, which all re-painted some units on top of the conventional city image. It may be just the displacement of some parts, or a change in how to look at the city. They are like “windows”. Another example is when illustrating an object, some regard it as universal and common, such as the TV at my home. But it is also about my personal TV, and about the relationship between TVs and a generation of people. Every object possess its duality, especially commodities. From a critical angle, you might think of them as consumerism and monotonous, like buying a watch is easily connoted with obtaining a social status or impression; but I would deliberately create special, strange, and even abnormal relationship between the object and its owner. This is men’s unique experience with object, despite it being a universal commodity. I do it not very consciously, but it is like returning the initiative to feel about the objects to the owners themselves, but not the objects defining people. So when it comes to vast topic like the urban, we may ask how cities could be “personalized” through experience. Maybe the following is an alternative interpretation of Xixi’s <My City>. I have always felt that many people thought that <My City> is about the city of everyone. This is a very common interpretation, as it is always raised in the public. But I think that what Xixi was writing is not “our” city, but a personalized city. It is like me having “my” City and you having “your” City. Our “cities” can never be identical even if there are many overlapping aspects. Because they all belong to each of ourselves.
X. Epilogue One must confront the questions of history, memory and time when working with the highly developed urban, whether to embrace it or execute a tabula rasa is the decision-maker’s choice. History exists in the past, present and future, and this thesis allows me to experiment a cross-disciplinary approach in working with architecture and urban memories, as a reflection on working methods and of images perceivable at the present. It is a journey of questioning, uncertainties and discoveries, in which various discussion topics have been raised in academic reviews, other conversations and personal reflections: Fiction and Reality The thesis suggests that the architect should embrace all inspirations that may be useful for a creation, including facts and fictions and her own poetic imaginations, as they all possess the potential of creating and augmenting one another for a project that has not yet existed. At the beginning of the thesis, I have questioned how much of one’s personal interpretation or imagination should be adopted in a thesis which is supposed to be rationally structured and persuasive enough. However, as a hypothesis to be experimented on, the thesis decides to fully embrace all poetic interpretations, by the author or by other precedents, to begin by fueling the thesis with rich possibilities. Nostalgia & Memories Nostalgia is “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past” (n., Oxford Dictionary). The thesis deals with urban memories and the past, but it does not make it into “attempts to glorify the local past, nor exercises in futile nostalgia, but attempts to play out the confrontation between the new discontinuities of…urban culture and the fragile continuity of…traditional local culture…The fact that we are still, to a certain extent, able to identify with that history, to feel attached to the life it represents, and feel at home in its public sphere…in ever new narratives”19. Histories and memories are essential in the thinking of present and future20, and they construct the sense of identity for a society, for people to feel “at home”. The thesis suggests that memories of the land may take on a new life while bringing back the fullness of identities to the neighbourhood and its architecture. Individuality & Collectivity At certain point I think about architecture as collective or personal experience, whether we design from the Architect, for exclusive users or the public inclusively? This is what the writer says in the interview21, ”I have always felt that
many people thought that <My City> (<我城>, a famous novel by Xixi) is about Hong Kong as a collective subject… But I think that what Xixi was writing is not “our” city, but a personalized city. It is like me having “my” City and you having “your” City. Our “cities” can never be identical even if there are many overlapping aspects. Because they all belong to each of ourselves.” In the House of Lost Objects, some see it as many worlds put together, and I agree with that. It is because each character is living their own stories, some will meet and some will never encounter. So each of them are worth a world constructed for, but collectively, they too exist in one world that is called “the House of Lost Objects”. Creation I have realised as well as reviewers have noted that each piece of work created in this thesis happens to be a creation on its own, that each developed its unique narrative and poetic quality. Each creations grows out of the original idea, and takes on a character that is not a literal translation of past contents, but is transcribed and created as an autonomous piece. Some would concern the subjectivity of literary imaginations, but it is this shift from full representation of facts to the expression of imagination/fictional that give it an inclusive dimension, and amplify invisible qualities. The creation was created from lived-experience by the writer or the literary character, but when facts and fictional materials were collected from the public realm, and when the works are open for the readers’ interpretation, “such perceptions can take on universal value, as has been noted in the discussion on trans-subjectivity in poetry”22. Application of the Literary Approach The thesis suggests that literary approach could be applied to any programs and places to create “marvelous”23 architecture while fulfilling programmatic and practical needs. What is essential is the poetic and vigorous interpretation of the program requirement and the context themselves, to abstract and transform the idea into an inspiration that lead to poetic articulation. The city is a discourse and people reads architecture, therefore an architecture with literacy could always evoke feelings and imagination in its viewers.
19 René Boomkens, Een Drempelwereld, Moderne ervaring en stedelijke openbaarheid (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 1998), p.34, quoted in Klaske Havik (2014), p.41 20 Related discourse refer to Cecilia L. Chu, “Heritage and Emergent Activism in Postcolonial Macau and Hong Kong (2016)” in Tim Bunnell and Daniel P.S. Goh, Urban Asias: Essays on Futurity Past and Present (Berlin: Jovis Verlag, 2018), p.64-76 21 For full interview transcript with Mr. Dung Kai-Cheung, please refer to Volume III. 22 Klaske Havik (2014), p.226 23 refers to “Marvelous Real”.
Research and relevant materials for Tai Ping Shan
A Fictional Community - Circular Pathway The Circular Pathway (弓弦巷) is described as “one of the most interesting of these streets, and one which demonstrated the inexhaustible capacity of the city to create business community cells” , a vanished community next to Ladder Street. This street appeared in the map of 1859, from then on 43 addresses appeared and transformed and vanished in different periods . The community was within the area of slum clearance around 1964 and the Urban Renewal Pilot Scheme in 1960-70s, as a result 2-third of Circular Pathway has completely vanished, only the portion from Ladder Street to Hillier Street remains. Circular Pathway is a good case to exemplify the vibrant forces of a dense Chinese neighbourhood, as the research unfolds various aspects that shaped its physical building, public space and culture. First is the inhabitants and the street’s economy. There were 6 trades in the Circular Pathway in 1969 before it was demolished: paper box industries; jewelries & goldsmith; metal-work; printing; Chinese medicine preparation and wood-carving . These trades utilized the car-free street for storage and preparation of materials that gave the street its unique streetscape. Second is the rich architectural typologies. There was the 1st generation Tonglau made from brick and timber, with Western style brick arch on each window. In the early 1900s, the 2nd generation Tong-lau were built with concrete structures, brick walls and timber roof and floor. They were characterized by narrow balconies supported by iron railing and poles where domestic lives spilled to the exterior of the buildings. Address no.24-31 were reconfigured into post-war cluster type built in reinforced concrete that had stairs shared by more than one blocks. This cluster stood on a terrace supported by a retaining wall. The retaining wall thus formed an “edge” from where an extra typology, the wooden workshop-sheds, were built next to it. Informal and illegal infrastructures such as cock-loft and flyovers over alleys and stairs also existed. Third is the vibrant but chaotic lives in Circular Pathway. It appeared to be famous for numerous crimes, chaos and faulty infrastructures in press records, which gained its image as a slum community and was removed without resistance in the 1960s. The existing hawker stands today was a result of hawker clearance on Ladder Street in the 1990s, when hawkers moved into Circular Pathway and Lascar Row. Only Mr. Cheung the calligraphist and Mr. So the metal ware crafter were still in business. Since almost no traces of the community is left on site, the research relies on government documents, old maps, artist sketches, photographs, news clipping and existing narrations. It is difficult to tell if they are factual or fictions, but they are the only fragments that constitute the Circular Pathway seen from today.
Old photographs of Tai Ping Shan
Frank Leeming, Street Studies in Hong Kong: Localities in a Chinese city, (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1977), p.59 Old maps and plans for all addresses could be found from online (www.hkmaps.hk & www.hkmapservice.gov.hk) and the Government Records Services (GRS). Frank Leeming (1977), p.59
Morphology of Circular Pathway
“Fictional” records of Circular Pathway
Condition of Circular Pathway before demolition 144
A compensation of $9540 to the family in Circular Pathway no. 19 Ground Floor 145
of Cleansing - Pound Lane Public Latrine and Kwong Fook I Tsz Kwong Fook I Tsz (廣福義祠) is a 3-hall public ancestral hall built in 1851. It was built to house spirit tablets for deceased Chinese buried in nearby Po Yan Street (nicknamed Grave Street). The Hall became shelters for the homeless, poor and dying, and dead bodies accumulated inside the Hall. Though seen as the house of filth, free Chinese medical consultations was available in the front hall, making it also a house of healing. Its hygiene condition helped the spread of the famous bubonic plague in 1894, after which it was rebuilt and still in use, where the third hall still houses mountains of spirit tablets for unclaimed bodies in the past. Next to it is the Pound Lane Public Latrine (磅巷公廁和浴室), the first public bathhouse in Hong Kong built in 1904. In earlier times, proper domestic toilet and drainage was not available in the Chinese community, so human excretion was cleared manually or simply left untreated on streets. In the report written by Edwin Chadwick in 1882 , the social reformer reported the living conditions in Tai Ping Shan and proposed improvement to the vernacular drainage in household and public area, but such was not implemented until the outbreak of the plague. The Colonial government carried out building and health ordinance reform after the disaster, which included building public bathhouse and latrines to solve sanitary problems. Architecturally, the two infrastructures share similar height and footprint but are in totally different styles. The temple is a traditional Chinese monumental building built on a stone terrace and the building form follows a central axis. Nowadays, the temple also houses other gods and is a site for traditional festive celebrations. On contrary, the latrine is a modernist infrastructure. It is simplistic in style and the entrances are located on Pound Lane. The lower two floors are toilets and shower areas while the top floor is a staff quarter. Symbolically, the bathhouse is a machine, rational and a product of modern science; while the temple is old, of superstition and worship. However, the two bare the same purpose of cleansing and are both related to racial inequality and the plague in the past.
Original architectural drawings of Pound Lane Bath House 146
A Garden at Still - Blake Garden It was the densest living area in Tai Ping Shan. Density in this area led to the most serious infection during the plague. It was said that there was great resistance in the Chinese community against the government’s ways of disinfection, that they decided to hide sick family members and dispose dead bodies at night. There was also a myth saying that the infected being sent to the medical ship “Hygeia” would be delivered to Europe for medical experiment. There had been 2442 deaths within 2 months from the outbreak, most were from the Tai Ping Shan area, while it was reported that around one-third of the whole population of HK has left to escape the plague. A strong urge from the European community asked the government to “purifying the whole of the foul purlieus of Tai-ping-shan with fire…is poisonous and fetid rubbish”. Eventually, the whole neighbourhood was expropriated and demolished for total sanitization. Most were rebuilt except the space which became today’s Blake Garden, the first public garden for the Chinese. To prevent the spread of epidemic to European communities, an ordinance in 1904 prohibited Chinese inhabitation above 788 ft. sea level (Caine Road). Until today, the area is still strongly associated with death and the struggle of the Chinese community, mainly due to the big plague, and also the European’s rejection of Chinese in public gardens. Under the tranquil greeneries and chirping birds of the garden, an unpleasant past was earthed and left to decay.
Blake Garden in 1953
Blake Garden in 1993
Re-interpretation of Pawning
Traditional Pawning Business in Hong Kong
Assessment & Pawning
押 大 祥 天
(If not claimed by owner within loan period)
(Claimed with interest)
“On” 12 months
“Aat” 8/6/4 months
Pawning period: Loan Interest:
“Dong” 18 months 3.5% of loan
“Din” 16 months
New Interpretation of the Pawning Business On the transmutation and relationship between MAN, OBJECT and MEMORY.
(If not claimed by owner within loan period)
(Claimed with interest)
Assessment & Pawning
WRITINGS Site narrations (short proses) Site narrations (poems) Dialogue Poems for Bathhouse & Kwong Fook I Tsz DRAWINGS Drawing for Bathhouse & Kwong Fook I Tsz Drawing for Circular Pathway Drawing for Blake Garden Timeline and axonometric for Bathhouse & Kwong Fook I Tsz Morphology and research for Circular Pathway Timeline and axonometric for Blake Garden MODELS Site Map Context Model Model for Bathhouse & Kwong Fook I Tsz Model for Circular Pathway Model for Blake Garden
p.32-41 p.42-43 p.44-47 p.58-59
p.53 p.62-63 p.70-71
DRAWING AND MODEL INDEX
<Reading Architecture> / <Telling Architecture>
p.91 p.94 p.100-101
p.31 p.51 p.55-57 p.65-67 p.73-75
<Writing Architecture> DRAWINGS Sketches for speculated programs p.82 Axonometric p.21 Diagrams p.58 Elevation p.44 Facade Details p.46 Key Plans p.26-27 Sectional Perspective p.31 Section p.23-25, 34 Scenarios p.10-14 Sketches p.18-19
MODELS Facade Studies 1:150 Final Model 1:100 Spatial Studies 1:100 Spatial Studies 1:150
// Cardboard // Wood, foam // Cardboard // Foam
p.47 p.28, 32, 36, 38, 40, 42-43, 48-53 p.16-17 p.55-57 153
IMAGES p.22 p.68 p.78 p.79 p.141, 144-145 p.143 p.146,150
John Hejduk, “Evening in Llano” in AA.VV. Education of an architect: The Irwin S. Chanin School of architecture of the Cooper (1988) Paul Ricoeur, “The Function of Fiction in Shaping Reality” in Man and World (1979) Dung Kai Cheung, “Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City” (2012) Jan van Balegooijen, ‘Storytelling Surfaces’ in Klaske Havik, Jan van Ballegooijen et al. (eds.), Beyond the Surface. Architectural Reflections of Body and Mind (2009) Alejo Carpentier, “On the Marvelous Real in America” (1975)
QUOTE AND IMAGE SOURCE
QUOTES p.5 p.9, 16 p.12 p.44 p.75
http://www.hkmaps.hk Wikipedia Frank Leeming, Street Studies in Hong Kong: Localities in a Chinese city Kong Kai-ming, Landmarks of Hong Kong: further artistic impression Government Records Services (GRS) Kong Kai-ming, “Landmarks of Hong Kong: further artistic impression” Multimedia Information System, HK Public Libraries Allan Cash Picture Library, www.alamy.com Purchase from Architectural Services Department (ArchSD)
Images not specified above are by the author.
1. 2. 3.
4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22.
Gaston Bachelard, “The Poetics of Space”, translated by Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969) Roland Barthes, “Semiology and the Urban” (1967) Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” in Illuminations, edited by Hannah Arendt, translated by Harry Zohn, from the 1935 essay (New York: Schocken Books, 1969) Thomas A. Markus and Deborah Cameron, “The words between the Spaces: Building and Language” (London;New York: Routledge, 2002) Michel de Certeau, “The Practice of Everyday Life”, translated by Steven F. Rendall (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1984) Edwin Chadwick, “Mr. Chadwick’s Report on the Sanitation Condition of Hong Kong” (1882) Cheng Po-hung, “A Century of Hong Kong Island Roads and Streets”, translated by Paul Levine and Judy Chang (Hong Kong: Joint Pub. H.K. Co., 2001) Peter Eisenman, “Written into the void: Selected writings 1990-2004” (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007) Michel Foucault, “Of other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias” in Architecture / Mouvement/ Continuité translated by Jay Miskowiec, from the 1967 essay (Paris: 1984) Ellen Eve Frank, “Literary Architecture: Essays Towards a Tradition” (place of publication not identified: University of California Press, 1983) Klaske Havik, “Urban Literacy: Reading and Writing Architecture” (Rotterdam : NAi Publishers, 2014) Klaske Havik, Jorge Mejia Hernández et el. , “Writingplace: investigations in architecture and literature” (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2016) Klaske Havik, David Perottoni et el., “WritingPlace Journal Issue #1: Literary Methods in Architectural Education” (Rotterdam: Nai Publishers, 2018) John Hejduk, “Mask of Medusa: works, 1947-1983”, edited by Kim Shkapich (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1985) John Hejduk, “Architectures in Love: sketchbook notes”, edited by Kim Shkapich (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1995) Kong Kai-ming, “Landmarks of Hong Kong: further artistic impression” (Hong Kong : 香港浸會大學持續進修學院, 1991) Frank Leeming, “Street Studies in Hong Kong: Localities in a Chinese city” (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1977) Daniel Libeskind, “Daniel Libeskind: the space for encounter” (New York: Universe, 2000) Georges Perec, “Species of Space and other pieces”, edited and translated by John Sturrock (London;New York: Penguin Books, 1997) E.G. Pryor, ”The Great Plague of Hong Kong” in Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (Hong Kong: 1975) Paul Ricoeur, “The Function of Fiction in Shaping Reality” in Man and World (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1979) Xixi, “Marvels of a Floating City”, Edited by Eva Hung (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1999)
24. 25. 26. 27.
陳孟君, 「地圖、神話與(偽)考古人類學:論董啟章小說想像城市歷史的路 徑 」 , 臺大中文學報 第四十八期 (Taiwan: 2015) 徐振邦以及一群80後本土青年寫作人, 《我哋當舖好有情》(Hong Kong: 突 破出版社, 2015) 秦嗣林, 《29張當票3: 門簾外的人生鑑定》(Taiwan: 麥田出版, 2014) 董啟章, 《V城系列: 地圖集》(Taiwan: 聯經出版, 2011) 董啟章, 《V城系列: 夢華錄》(Taiwan: 聯經出版, 2011)
Other Sources 1. Government Records Services (GRS) 2. Multimedia Information System, HK Public Libraries (MMIS, https://mmis.hkpl. gov.hk/) 3. Architectural Services Department (ArchSD) 4. Hong Kong Map Services (HKMS 2.0, https://www.hkmapservice.gov.hk/) 5. Hong Kong Historic Maps (http://www.hkmaps.hk/)
(for Precedents and other study materials, please see Volume III)
"The Function of Fiction in Making Architecture" is an M.Arch thesis by Jasmine Chan submitted to CUHK. A thesis on the productive capacitie...
Published on May 22, 2019
"The Function of Fiction in Making Architecture" is an M.Arch thesis by Jasmine Chan submitted to CUHK. A thesis on the productive capacitie...