Master Design Studio



Collective Housing Project in To Kwa Wan


Francesco Rossini

Design Studio in collaboration with GSAPP Columbia University

Paraphrasing Robbert Verheij (2015) Palimpsest is a metaphor to suggest the processes oftransformation through time. The evolution involves adaptation to new conditions but at the sametime the history leaves inscriptions and traces.

The term palimpsest contains in itself the narration of these traces and is a relevant analogy since itrefers to these long-term processes. It makes us aware of the responsibility take in account the layersof the city having a more sensitive design attitude. Whether these layers are temporal or spatial anurban settlement and its continuous transformation are the physical text in which we are alwaysworking with.

As architects we are constantly adding new elements to the existing traces of the city engaginga dialogue with the context and the history. The term palimpsest was reintroduced in the moderndiscourse of urbanism and landscape in 1983 by Swiss urbanist and architecture historian AndréCorboz in his essay Le territoire comme palimpseste, but other authors such as Aldo Rossi and KevinLynch point out the significance and the presence of the past in the evolution of the city.

In recent years, Hong Kong has experienced frequent and rapid changes of its urban structure. Withseveral buildings constructed during the 1960s and 1970s, different parts of the city have begun, orare in the process of embarking on, a comprehensive urban renewal strategy to improve the quality ofthe urban environment. Perceiving a city as a palimpsest becomes essential understand that anurban settlement is constantly expanding and recreated with the addition of more layers.

According to a long-term land planning report issued by the government as a supplement to the “2030Plus long-term strategy for planning and development beyond 2030”, Hong Kong will need one millionflats to be built by 2046 to accommodate household growth and families displacedby redevelopment projects. The social demand for decent housing represents a great challenge forgovernments, seeing as it is their responsibility to promote housing programmes aimed at reducingsocial inequality.

In a housing market dominated by economic interest this studio aims to address the challenge of howto design new typologies of collective housing by exploring different urban forms. Proposals will focusin particular on the opportunity of sharing, the mixing of household types and uses, and the blurringof physical boundaries between private, shared and public space.

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