Posts categorized: General

General, Urban Planning /

Housing Crisis in Hong Kong

housing, crisis, hong kong, architect, modular, avoid obvious, urban planning

What cause the Housing Crisis in Hong Kong?

We worked with Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Design Institute for Social Innovation on the issue of Hong Kong’s housing crisis. Below are some of the problems we learned and some of the solutions we discussed.

  1. Lack of Public Housing:There was a protest in 2003 against the government. The homeowner was and still is against the government to provide public housing. Since the protest, there was no new public housing built for a decade. It created a man-made shortage.
  2. Money: the rich home buyers are swiping all the available apartments as a way to hide their illegal saving. It is ongoing for the last decade. They buy apartments and sometimes don’t want to rent out the units. They don’t want the official record to show suspicious streams of income. If you look at the ratio of the number of apartments to the number of people in Hong Kong, there are plenty of apartment for every household. It is just that most of them are luxury apartments and currently many of them are empty.
  3. Land Policy: Hong Kong is a tax haven, there is no sales tax and the tax on income is low. The government makes all of its money by selling land to the developer. the higher the price, the more they make. With this policy, they will only generate luxury apartment. Who would build a cheap public housing when the land is so expensive?
  4. Jobs: the income gap between rich and poor is widening in Hong Kong. Back in the 1980s, it is possible to buy a house even if for a blue-collar worker. People could work in a factory and would still save enough for food and a place to live. Now, the income for the labor-intensive jobs is so low that these workers typically spent all of their income on food and rent. If there is no saving, there is simply no way for them to move upstream.
  5. Health: many homeless people and people in subdivided flat originally live in a nice family with a nice apartment. Due to their drug problems, marriage problems, family problems or social problems, they drifted away from this resource and couldn’t re-enter the workforce. Some of them were injured and created extra difficulty to continue their high skill job. Without a healthy body and mind, the only place they can afford is either subdivided flats or the street.
  6. Politics: Hong Kong has a lot of lands in the new territories, but they are controlled by the indigenous people. They often work with established developers to make luxury buildings rather than giving the land to the government to make public housing.
  7. Approval: Hong Kong acts very slow in terms of solving the housing crisis. They have elected officials who have all the tools to criticize a plan. It often takes years to resolve a deal regarding housing.
  8. Geography: Hong Kong does have lots of green and mountains. 70% of the land is zoned as a park and open space. New York and Hong Kong are about the same size, but clearly, it is more difficult to build buildings and infrastructure on a mountainous terrain.
  9. Lack of Voice: Hong Kong is very divided. People at the top and bottom has a clear disconnect. Many people are not reaching out for help when they are really in need of help.
  10. Cheaters: It has become a luxury status to qualify for social housing in the midst of a crisis. The young generation will tell their bosses to lower their salary so that they can qualify for the upper-income limit to get into social housing. People who have become richer will find ways to hide their cash so that they don’t have to move out of social housing. The list to get in continue to expand while the list to move out is very slow in clearing out.

New solutions to solve the housing crisis by The Chief Executive’s 2018 Policy Address:

  1. a new artificial island known as Lantau Tomorrow – it politically divided the society. Some people love it and some people hate it.
  2. converting factories into residential buildings – some issues are being addressed in terms of safety, health, and wellbeing.
  3. converting old government building into housing – several temporary apartments arrived this week
  4. building modular houses – Avoid Obvious Architects are involved in the design for one modular housing in Sham Shui Po.
  5. building a new social program to train people – there is a project called Light House. it trained people in need to get better jobs. they do provide apartment while people are being trained
  6. Getting “nice” homeowner to donate apartment to the rental program – also part of the Light House. they started by converting an old apartment people donated into rental units
  7. redeveloping the old neighborhood. they are actively taking down buildings in old areas to build more housing. The issue with that is also money. many tenants are either illegally occupying the building or they want to hold out until the compensation become very high.
  8. telling young people to move out of Hong Kong. They encourage people to look at the Greater Bay Area. They said Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Macau can now be their home by not limiting themselves to the city of Hong Kong.

 

housing, crisis, hong kong, architect, avoid obvious, vicky chan, sketch, drawings

Team:

Alfred Kwok – interior design

Angle Shih – social worker/Christian Concern For the Homeless Association

Bakkie Chan – social worker/SoCO

Charles Ho – real estate/HKCSS

Gordon Chick – social worker/SoCO

Karen Chan – urban planning

Paul Law – modular construction/Aluhouse Co. Ltd.

Sunnie Lau – architecture/SOSArchitecture Urban Design Limited

Vicky Chan – architecture/Avoid Obvious Architects

Wai Tung Ng – social worker/SoCp

 

General, Graphics /

The Value of Hand Drawings

hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior

Hand Drawings in Urban, Building, Interior and Product Design

While we explore digital techniques to engage clients in the design process, we are still a big supporter of traditional hand drawings. Below are the reasons:

  1. Freedom: Free hand drawings are not limited by dimensions, numbers and commands. Designers get to let lose in the process and commit to the big ideas before getting caught up in technique.
  2. Clarity: Knowing that we cannot copy and paste by hand, designers tend to draw only the overall impression rather than crowding the paper with unnecessary details.
  3. Time: It allows designers to be the master of the design. When designers use computers, people expect the result to be instant; When designers draw by hand, people enjoy seeing the progress as part of the art making. We become the master of our profession rather than the slave of the computer.
  4. Intimacy: Hand drawings train designers to think in 3d. Counter intuitively, working in digital 3d model doesn’t make people better in spatial design. The ability to simplify 3d data into 2d drawings is the skill that makes architects special.
  5. Value: Hand drawings have money value in terms of art collection. We can hang it in the office. It can also be traded, but digital drawings doesn’t carry the same value as a piece of artwork.
  6. Copyright: It is very unlikely for people to steal images or ideas from a hand drawing. Much like a signature, it has authenticity. Rendering tends to get copied and pasted multiple times on the internet without crediting the author.

Below is a set of hand drawings documenting various projects from 50km city design to 0.5m product design. Some text and image cropping were done digitally.

hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interiorhand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior hand drawings, art, drawing, paper, pen, pencil, architecture, free hand, sketches, black, white, section, perspective, plan, architect, designer, city, product, building, landscape. furniture, interior

General, Hiring /

Advice for Future Designers

We conducted an interview on Coroflot and gave advice to future designers

Extracted from Coroflot Article

What do you look for when hiring a designer?

Willingness to learn, entrepreneurial spirit, and willingness to embrace green design. We don’t want people to work late and it is only possible if they learn to work very efficiently or come up with new methods to automate the process. Being humbled and willing to learn from other people is a key to achieving this goal. Entrepreneurial spirit is important to us. We don’t want people to become our slave. We ultimately think our firm is a stepping-stone for our designers to achieve something bigger and brighter. We can benefit from other successful entrepreneurs by forming a bigger network of entrepreneurs. Last and most importantly, many students talked about sustainable design, but they don’t wholeheartedly believe what they design. We want people who care about the environment and practice what they believe.

Is there a particular “tell” that signals a good or bad fit?

Good candidates are those who can describe what they do in simple terms. We sometimes ask designers to describe the steps they took to design buildings. Some spent all of the time on vague ideas but the good candidate can usually show us the steps in simple terms. Their clarity made it easier for us to know how they would fit into our office.

What is your best interview “horror story”?

We are a young practice. I am young and my partners are young. We interviewed architects who are much older than us. One candidate was lecturing us on how we should conduct our business. I am humbled and willing to learn from senior designers. However, that talk-down and bossy attitude was a little strange and disrespectful in that interview.

What is the single most valuable piece of advice you could give to those on the hunt?

Become a multidisciplinary designer who cares about people and the environment. We are architects, but we spent a lot of time on making videos, VR tour, physical models, hand drawing, photography, rendering, writing apps, 3d printing, and construction site visits. All of these tools are part of the same process to convince people to make greener buildings and cities. Jumping from one task to another without losing track of the big goal is very crucial.

Do you have any specific advice for recent graduates, or people just starting straight out from school?

Find something you care about and do something with it. We have been volunteering to teach children architecture for 15 years. I founded Architecture for Children and teach on a weekly basis. We met people who are willing to do good via many schools, parents, and teachers. We may not get paid for what we do, but it may be a very good way for recent graduates to expand their network and share their ideas.

Regarding creative employment, what do you know now that you wished you knew then?

Working long hours is not smart. Designers and architects are so proud to say they work all night. I wish I knew how to work smart and still look like I work hard. I still work long hours but those hours go directly to my own company. It is much more meaningful when I am the owner of the ideas. I wish I was smarter about the hours I spent on firms owned by someone else. The worst part is we lost all of the competition we spent countless nights making. Those extra late night hours would have been more meaningful on ideas of my own.

General, Retail /

Sustainability Award

Sustainability Award – Green Business, Green Materials and Green Design

The Artist Lab won Shop! Gold Award and Sustainability Award. Below is a few diagrams to explain our ideas and how we combine architecture with the way our clients do business. Sustainability in retail is only feasible if our clients are really to embrace the ideas. We are lucky to be able to work with The Artist.

General, Graphics /

Flower Cards

Flower cards, cards with seeds, plants, business, cards. graphic, sustainable, seeded paper

Flower Cards with Seeded Paper

We love plants and we love graphics. Seeded paper is the best method to turn our business cards into flowers. It is poetic that our names will be turned into flowers. The paper is essentially toilet paper and the ink is natural pigment. See our previous design with TextMoss.

Flower cards, cards with seeds, plants, business, cards. graphic, sustainableFlower cards, cards with seeds, plants, business, cards. graphic, sustainable, seeded paper
General, Urban Planning /

Utopian City for Businesses

G107, Bao’an, Shenzhen, masterplan, city planning, sustainable, green, manufacturing, avoid obvious, tetra, architecture, planners, architects, aoarchitect, tetra-arch, connections, drone, highway, future, futuristic, carbon zero, carbon neutral, china, hong kong, pearl river delta, Baoan, autopilot, driverless, high speed, transit, multimodal, connections, sharing economy, co-working, shared, amenities, natural, nature, road, infrastructure, water cycle, water management, landscape, design, branding, engineering, marketing, drone-view, aerial, airport

How can we create an Utopian City using Collective Intelligence?

We conducted a world-wide survey about city planning. We wanted to find out how we can use collective intelligence to design an utopian city for businesses. Our final design can be seen here. Below are data collected.International, world, business, owner, city, planning, urban, design, architects, avoid obvious International, world, business, owner, city, planning, urban, design, architects, avoid obvious

G107, Bao’an, Shenzhen, masterplan, city planning, sustainable, green, manufacturing, avoid obvious, tetra, architecture, planners, architects, aoarchitect, tetra-arch, connections, drone, highway, future, futuristic, carbon zero, carbon neutral, china, hong kong, pearl river delta, Baoan, autopilot, driverless, high speed, transit, multimodal, connections, sharing economy, co-working, shared, amenities, natural, nature, road, infrastructure, water cycle, water management, landscape, design, branding, engineering, marketing, drone-view, aerial, airport

World Business Survey

Wijdène Kaabi, KAA Studio, Tunisia/London/Hong Kong

  • Minimize social polarity
  • Social Innovation: Citizen engagement / creativity / cohesion
  • Platform for dialogue and social diversity – compact (no social and special segregation – limit costs and the impact of transport
  • Space for ecological or environmental regeneration
  • Economic growth
  • Horizontal and vertical coordination (with other cities, connectivity)

Fran Parente, Fran Parente Photographer, Brazil/New York

The freedom to come and go with a good transportation system that doesn’t rely on car, the feeling of safeness. Also the mixed use and how you can live without leaving the surroundings of your neighborhood if you want. A good balance between nature and built environment providing leisure within minutes from their house/work.

On the business side, I would say that government sponsorship/incentives is a good way to attract new companies. Co working spaces for the creatives (free?). Less bureaucracy for businesses to open and run.

Benjamin Cox, The Artist, Belgium/Hong Kong/London

Connected: Efficient transportation with meaningful interaction during commute. Efficient digital connections. Shared vehicles including bikes, cars and subway to encourage interaction.

Vibrant: Localized gathering spaces to social. Green spaces combined with cultural programs like museums, bars and restaurant. Government to have open mindset and policy for young and innovative company. Government to hold sponsor programs to provide spaces, visa, funding and connections to new businesses.

Sustainable: good quality of air, waste management, health system. A hub for medical research with good hospitals and nearby universities for research.

Nelson Ng, Lost Magazine, Singapore/Shanghai/New York

It would be exciting for businesses and talented people if cities made it super easy for anyone to live and work there. This might include abolishing or relaxing visa requirements, equal treatment to anyone who came to work in the city (and not just favoring locals), and a super simple process to start any business. To take this even further, it would be cool if major cities around the world banded together to create their own form of identity or pass for startups, where this single city pass can give you access to London, New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai or even Tokyo. With this pass, you could get access to facilities, free Wi-Fi or even basic accommodation and a simple office space for your work, making it easy for anyone to move between cities. Imagine if every city offered a free basic work space for any startup that would surely be inviting!!

Matthieu Maury, La Station, France/Hong Kong

  • Safe social environment
  • Liberty of thinking
  • City filled with people are willing to work to accomplish their dreams
  • Freedom to start a company
  • Low Government Tax
  • Administration/bureaucracy is too much involved in citizens life
  • Simplicity of life in HK
  • Being able to live in a 24/h city with the inherent stress
  • Possibility to work with different cultures
  • Ethnic Diversity
  • Digital and physical transportation to connect people to family and friends back home

Gordon Laplante, GCreate, Florida/New York

Free market layout vs controlled market

Designing creative and growth-inspired entrepreneur spaces has been a constant perplexing problem in my mind. The many spaces I have encountered have had varying strategies with a vast rage of success both on the long term global scale and the micro interactions. When bringing this to a city level it complicates the problem. Do you let the free market run wild and dictate the outline? Do you have a shared ownership between the market and an overlying “urban plan”? Or do you completely dictate the layout and allow businesses/individuals infill the spaces you have laid out?

We are a small startup and have hit some of these problems head on. As we are growing its been quite hard to find “reasonable” manufacturing spaces above 1k SF but less than 5k SF. This to me is the crux of the true innovation and startup spaces yet a huge void exists. We happen to be in an area of great tech growth and over the years we have seen a large shift from somewhat “shady” businesses to trendier tech. This has sort of left the new age tech manufacturers in limbo. We need a nice manufacturing space for our cool new product yet we need the basic amenities of any traditional manufacturing space. ie a loading dock and freight elevator access, the basic needs of a business who makes things.

Why am I diving into our very specific case? I feel the future of entrepreneur cities/developments relies on many cogs in the machine but not necessarily everything being tied into a pretty package. The free market will solve a portion due to demand yet framework is needed.

A city with product chain.

To truly allow for innovative entrepreneurial growth, you should incorporate a large portion of the entire product chain. I say a “portion” because to say the “whole chain” is a useless idealistic statement which does not allow for reality. In any case to attract entrepreneurs providing “most” of the product chain will be a huge improvement and keep the majority of their product/service local. This is a great benefit especially considering quality control however in many cases price is impacted. With this model Company A can work with Company B on a product sold by Company C. This can then be exported beyond the reach of the city etc.

Personally I have seen businesses flush with cash, from specific government grants designed to spur the economy, and shaken my head. In many cases these businesses received free money, despite lacking technologies in the hopes of growth yet many eventually fail when “the money runs out”. Many companies have received money due to following the proper procedure, or knowing the right people rather than any demand for their product. It’s for this reason I feel the free market still remains the most powerful economic force and combined with traditional organic growth a very strong economy can be made. Yet this brings me back to an earlier point, you still need framework and some oversight.

Where does this come into play when regarding a future city? I feel you must allow for organic growth opportunities within a lightly defined framework of urban planning. If these organically-grown companies have the local resources needed, (ie shipping access, loan opportunities, the correct targeted workforce, exposure) they should have all the parts necessary for growth. Of course this assumes the demand it there but that’s another topic. Perhaps the answer to this is to link investors with city planners when designing economic zones. Whether tech zones, cultural, business etc. The organizations providing the necessary capital should have some input. This could be the answer to modern urban planning using cluster zones or even a ring layout. In the new digital age communication isn’t the problem, rather close access to physical collaboration is one of the current hurdles.

 

Tesfa Gebreal, Rocket Internet AG, Ethiopia /New York

“Small businesses define the culture and way of life of Addis Ababa. They display what customers buy, eat and drink. They show how people interact with each other. For example, bargaining is a big part of Ethiopia’s culture and it is apparent in small businesses. They are the basis for the definition of a city”

 

Sally Ryder, Ryder Diamonds, Melbourne/Hong Kong

 Vibrancy of city.

  1. Conducive to business
  2. City with social and business connections.
  3. Government program to sponsor small businesses
  4. Ease to setup, open and runs business

Smrita Jain, The Aquario Group, New Delhi/New York/New Jersey

In context of creating architectural landscapes and cities, I would like to propose, spaces that have the ability to hire story tellers. I believe that any talent has and should have the capability of story telling and must have a contextual story, which can be marketed into any constructive environment. For me, that the key to a constructive, logical, strategical and creative urban planning design.

Save

Save

Save

General /

Art and Science

Art and Science in Architecture

We gave a lecture and two media interviews through HKTDC and SmartHK. We focused on architecture that combines art and science. We  believe all aesthetics decisions can be boiled down to objective decision. Throughout our design process, we communicate with our clients regarding what is feasible. From there, we will try to push the envelop to achieve design that has never been done before. We studied location, weather and culture to identify the appropriate technology for the building. Once we get the right approach, we use the science behind to drive the form making. For instance, the curved facade on our villa design was a direct result of the ventilation system we chose. The form is no longer about the appearance but rather a requirement for the integrated system. This process will not only generate an iconic form that are meaningful and useful, it will also increases the building’s real estate value.

Below is the interview conducted in Cantonese:

Presentation in Smarthk, Jinan

Presentation in Smarthk, Jinan

Presentation in Smarthk, Jinan

Presentation in Smarthk, Jinan

Presentation in Smarthk, Jinan

Presentation in Smarthk, Jinan

avoid-obvious-interview-4
General, Installation, Urban Planning /

Hong Kong as a Stage

umbrella movement, occupy central, occupy, protest, hong kong, drama, play, stage

Turning a historical event into a performance?

After seeing the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong late in 2014, we as architects thinks that it will be very interesting to turn the event into a theatrical performance. We can narrate a political movement with actions and graphics. It will help to raise more questions and discussion about the future of Hong Kong in a more entertaining way. Below is a series of set designs that describe the movement in chronological order. The graphic details borrow a lot of symbols used during the movement. Although this set describes one specific protest to demand universal suffrage, but it essentially explores the idea of identify, law and urban planning.

Country and Home

How do people in Hong Kong deal with the identity of being Chinese?

umbrella movement, occupy central, occupy, protest, hong kong, drama, play, stage

Country Vs. Home

Wall and Egg

How do people in Hong Kong deal with the rules setup by China?

umbrella movement, occupy central, occupy, protest, hong kong, drama, play, stage

Wall Vs. Egg

Law and Crime

What is the boundary between violating a law and committing a crime?

umbrella movement, occupy central, occupy, protest, hong kong, drama, play, stage

Law Vs. Crime

City and Village

Is living in a village better than the city?

umbrella movement, occupy central, occupy, protest, hong kong, drama, play, stage

City Vs. Village