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Transforming Traditional Fishing Village into Modern Floating Community

By : Xu Jian Feng

Hong Kong historically began as a fishing village. In 1967, its water-borne population exceeded 130,000 people. Especially after World War II, Hong Kong developed into a megacity through an incremental process where fishing village were invaded and land reclaimed from the water.. Victoria Harbor may shrink into a canal if recent landfill proposals are not abandoned.
Is it possible to keep a traditional fishermen’s lifestyle while pursuing an alternative urban development path? With an open housing approach we designed a modern floating community in Aberdeen, in south Hong Kong. A hierarchical order from flat level, block level and settlement level was applied. At the flat level, we integrated “served spaces” symbolizing the traditional fishermen’s boats accompanied by standard plug-in “serving spaces” presenting the conveniences of modern life. These open structures can be outfitted in various ways. At the building level, we introduced a green court and a water court, each accessible by foot or by boat. Flat entry spaces were enlarged and recessed away from the corridor to encourage friendly gathering. At the “tissue” level, we planned several inhabitable bridges to link the building blocks to the land. This idea avoids large-scale landfill by using the coastal water space. The first floor of the bridge is a fishing market; the second floor, a parking area; and the roof, a linear park. Community activities including festival events could take place on the bridge deck.
As a preliminary conceptual project, it may be inspire architects and planners to build and sustain a healthy, pleasant, and culturally meaningful environment in Hong Kong.
(Student design team mambers: Xu Jian Feng and Q.M.M-u-Zaman)

Tutor’s Comments
This project intends to revitalize Hong Kong’s fishing culture. Here, boat life was architecturally interpreted as living in buildings not fixed to the ground. This concept begins to open up conventional constraints to building concepts in two ways. First, the environmental impact of land reclamation can be minimized by building on poles or stilts in the water. Secondly, a heavy, static and complicated manner of building can be improved and developed into a lightweight, mobile and simple manner of construction. In this project, the latter aspect was more clearly presented in the unit design. The large balcony symbolizing a prow functions as a multi-purpose space much as that in a typical fishing trawler. Each unit was divided with flexible partitions which fulfill changing requirements through time. A flexible wall can create several spatial effects, such as enlarging or reducing room size, or combining and dividing apartment rooms. Unfortunately, the analogy and metaphor of boat was more arbitrarily “formal” than “operational” in this project. It won an international student competition probably because of its thesis, and not the building design, which is rather conservative and dull.

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