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Residential Hall as a Living-Learning Community (Thesis 2000/2001)

By : Wong Yan Pan

This thesis tried to explore a new typology of student dormitory for future development of a university in Hong Kong. Earlier dormitories were designed for isolated living only. Integration within the campus was lacking. Future education philosophy already emphasizes continuous learning processes, real-life experience and group learning as a means to transform knowledge into intelligence. Dormitories will incorporate group-living, group-working, and group-learning. The site chosen is surrounded by a few existing residential halls (living), a library (learning) and a student centre (community) – all ready and waiting to experience these new educational concepts.
The project mass consists of three spines: living, learning and community, which formed overlapping and weaving spaces integrated with existing buildings. It aimed at creating an activity centre of the campus. To reconcile future patterns of group living and working with the reality of Hong Kong’s tight spaces, the same units were designed to accommodate group activities by day and individual activities by night. The community space can be flexibly reconfigured by means of movable panels. The design has tried to foster a new living pattern based on new concepts of university education.

Tutor’s Comments
To me, the open building concept seemed more to address the term “open” rather than the term “building”. This design project confirms my perception. The proposal suggests a transformation of the relationships between existing buildings on a sloping site: large and small, private and public, existing and new. It does not focus on buildings per se, but on the open spaces between buildings. It is not about outdoor space, such as parks, landscape or plazas, but rather indoor and protected space which is as open as the outdoors. That is why it does not look like a “proper” “building”, or a “proper” architectural thesis for that matter, as we might expect with an older mindset. It does begin to combine new buildings and landscape, but admittedly to an insufficient degree. Nevertheless, diverse yet coherent fields are already apparent. The project shows a shift from the dominance of form to a mediation of form between buildings.
Another brave move the student made was to explode the deadlock between architecture and Euclidean geometry, which is based on a transcendental imperative instead of reality-as-it-is. Forms may look accidental, but really do provide efficient paths inside and between existing buildings. The instrumental role of linkage replaced geometry with non-geometry. Therefore, open building can mean open minds – minds free from the constraints of transcendental assumptions, and free to see things as they really are, even it might not “please” our conditioned attitudes. A good book need not “please” us either. This design is unapologetic.

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