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Reconstructing the Transition at the Luohu Border Crossing (Thesis, 2000/2001)

By : Yau Ho

Hong Kong’s northern land “border” with mainland China is today visibly marked by barbed wire and concrete. Such a border acquires overwhelming significance when it is encroached upon by the growing city. By definition, a border negates continuity. It is simply a line but it seems higher than a mountain and deeper than an ocean. This implies that a border crossing must be very special. But at the Luohu border crossing, there’s no ceremony. There’s no elegance to the transition. With this in mind, there’s no convincing reason why the landscaping could not pass through the border. And there’s no reason for travelers to wait a long time at the border, either. Ecology doesn’t stop at the Luohu border. Birds don’t stop there. The whales migrate north and south, too, and they don’t need the Luohu crossing at all. Even the air passes without question…is there an alternative instead of drawing a line between them? Is there chance of blending instead of isolation?
This thesis exploits the Luohu station environment as an invisible means for neutralizing and harmonizing such a dominant border. A border station should not merely serve its functional purpose but should also blend with the border environment. The station itself should not take any dominant form; instead it is merely a landscape which flows from one part to another. Not only does it serve as a connector of different transport modes, but also a landscape garden linking various residential, commercial and entertainment activities.
“Station Landscape” thus unifies the Luohu border environment. Physical borders in the transition area should once again become an imaginary line.

Tutor’s Comments
The aim of any project like this is to solve a problem, rather than create a form, structure or a programmed composition. It is, however, not an excuse for the student to avoid or fail designing a “beautiful” structure. Nevertheless, this project did expose the simple fact that traditional architecture schools do not lend themselves to infrastructural design, here where large masses of people move in several directions in an extremely congested site. Here, almost everybody must pass two checkpoints at the Luohu border each time they cross it.
The student finally chose an open building approach. An open building is indifferent to notions of form. It strives for invisibility, even assuming a temporary identity. An open building transition can only be perceived in performative terms, where it guarantees a smooth transition; an efficient and pleasant flow of passengers and traffic despite wide daily volume fluctuations. A building of transportation can only be evaluated by its performance as a coherent infrastructural entity. This will undoubtedly offend those who believe architects superior to engineers – or vice versa!

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