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ReEco Spine – An Urban Fringe Development (Thesis 2001/2002)

By : Lam Kong

Development and conservation are equally necessary for the city and for the discharge of our responsibilities as trustees of natural resources for future generations. In order to ensure the built environment’s long-term stability in the biosphere, buildings should be designed to integrate into natural ecosystems, rather than being isolated from them. The dichotomy between rural and urban values implies the need for integration. Isolation of urban life from the processes of nature creates destructive attitudes towards the environment. An urban fringe area with both natural and urban elements was chosen to explore this hypothesis.
The site, located on the north side of a subway station, possesses a special rural and cultural character. Low-rise village houses, temples and retreats are scattered around. Medium to high-density development with housing and communal facilities is proposed for the site. Ecological concepts are to be applied with positive effect.
Building massing was designed as a spine twisting itself in response to different site forces to gain maximum benefit from the natural surroundings. A high-rise tower incorporating several ecological features is located on the axis of the temple, serving as “pagoda”, the symbolic site focus. The flow of the existing stream in the site is utilized to generate electricity. Several ponds are built along the stream to collect rainwater for irrigation.
The buildings, elevated above ground, maximize conservation of the natural landscape. The area underneath is available as communal spaces to promote eco-activities. Green building envelopes allow greenery to continue from ground to roof. The building becomes a natural extension of the ground. Various gardens allow nature to penetrate through the building mass. A green matrix provides residents with a three-dimensional garden experience. The balance between communal and private life is achieved by locating buffer areas between public and private zones. Flexible structure and outfitting allow residents to reconfigure their homes according to changes in family structure.
The building is composed of prefabricated elements for easy on-site construction. Easy rearrangement of prefabricated partitions enhances flexibility. The building structure is also designed to encourage residents to add ecological features on the façade and bring a touch of creative self-identity to their homes. Finally, symbiosis of development and conservation of cultural and natural assets is achieved.

Tutor’s Comments
This project is a significant hypothetical investigation towards a unity of open building, ecological conservation and high-rise / high-dense development. It tries to prove these three dimensions were profoundly interrelated. High-rise / high-density development uses much less resources than low-rise / low density development, and with less impact to the adjacent natural setting. Because open building approaches enhance diversity and individuality in otherwise sterile apartment buildings, they are instruments to enhance the quality of life. Most important, open buildings offer structures the potential for longer life spans. They are adaptable to changing future requirements. Longer building life-spans make the efficient use of energy and resources worthwhile; and when we consider the vast amounts of embodied energy buried in the actual physical structure, open building becomes understood as “ecological” in an even broader sense.
Another open approach adopted in project is the application of eco-centric community activities and businesses. Compared against conventional examples, residential activities are broadened and more meaningful. However, the project’s technical aspects appeared diagrammatic and lacked reliable justification.

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