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Inhabitable Bridge in Aberdeen (Thesis 1999/2000)

By : Yau Kei Wai

The rapid development of Aberdeen, accompanied by transport improvement schemes, has necessitated the widening of Aberdeen Main Road along the waterfront near the Aberdeen Harbor. The original waterfront tourist and commercial facilities were therefore forced to yield to land reclamation.
Ostensibly, a “waterfront promenade” was acquired after this reclamation work. In actuality, such drastic eradication of the waterfront facilities explains the present lack of a smooth transition between land and water. As a result Aberdeen is losing her identity as an international tourist spot.
There is a need for an improvement or a solution so that: (1) vehicular infrastructure will not overwhelm the site and (2) pedestrian road crossings will not be dull or anticlimactic. The thesis aims to contribute its part to the issues by introducing an open school with an integrated mixed-use structure which links the town area with the waterfront.
Here, the proposed school shall house a Chinese culinary training institute.
Objectives are of two types. First, site objectives seek to:
1. Re-establish an acceptable land-water relationship;
2. Revitalize tourism by recapturing attractive waterfront images;
3. Provide adequate civic facilities to meet present and future demands; and
4. Enhance pedestrianization along the waterfront.
Second, school objectives aim to:
1. Deliver systematic training in the preparation of Chinese cuisine;
2. Provide trade testing facilities for the industry;
3. Serve as a regional accreditation body for those undergoing Chinese cuisine training; and
4. Enable cross-fertilization of ideas, recipes and cooking styles with top Mainland chefs and culinary masters.

Tutor’s Comments
The inhabitable bridge is part of a long tradition of urban development in many cultures around the world. However it seems there has been not much study about the essential principles of hybridized architecture, particularly of this kind. The thesis posed a question rather than solution. The site is problematic. A highway cuts through a community center amidst high density construction, population and activities, isolating it from the harbor and waterfront. Therefore it seems to invite a structure to re-establish a smooth link. The thesis is certainly a challenge to the current, conventional relationship between buildings and infrastructure. It is an attempt to expand the scope of the architectural profession, which is not normally known to engage in public works or civil engineering design. However whether a school is an appropriate program for this bridge remains a question. The weakest note in this inhabitable bridge is probably a lingering disparity between form and true function. While the “school” (or any other programmed entity, for that matter) may easily yield to the formal effect of bridge infrastructure, this scheme may not smoothly yield to the utilitarian and quite ruthless “flow-connector” operational effect any bridge necessarily embodies.

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