Back Alley Filter
Urban Environmental Interventions in Hong Kong
With increasing demands for public space, the redevelopment schemes in Hong Kong led by the government and real estate developers aim to create an image of clean alleys to relieve the urgency. Although the city’s back alleys are usually cramped with building service equipment that have negative environment impacts on the environment, the functionality of these space is not addressed in the schemes.
By looking into environmental principles, the proposal treats back alleys as a filter rather than the source of environmental harm, reversing the negative connotations through passive and active strategies and eventually providing a hygienic and pleasant environment for the public.
The research process started from learning the principle environmental aspects through model-making and experiments, looking for a way to interpret the environment principles with architectural solutions. Through site selection process done by observation and documentation, spatial varieties in different back alleys are addressed.
One specific site was chosen as the test ground for interventions, to provide guidelines to other places in high density urban context. The design and research process went back and forth, tackling with subjects from small scales like pipes and ducts to large scales including building façade and patterns. The form of the final design presented represents the ideas and aims behind this thesis project. The outcome could be multiple iterations when situated in different sites.
This thesis research investigates the conflicts between the demand of more urban space and the functionality nature of these back lanes. Back alleys have the potential to be adapted by the public and maintain its functions, while the latter could provide thermal comfort to the former to foster new form of public space.
Public space could come into shape informally and naturally when the space is pleasant and easy to use. The existing back alleys have the potential to become part of the public space when provided with better environmental performances.
To integrate the back alleys into district walking system and become part of public space, the environmental performances act as prerequisite, combining with building service equipment that contextualized under varied spatial conditions. The design and research process are supplementary in this thesis project, tackling issues from large urban scale to detail joints and intervention unit’s mechanism. The selected site may have its limitations in addressing the issues in other urban contexts. Nevertheless, it is treated as a test ground allowing for the proposal of a combination between intervention units and systematic logic to be contextualized with program and architecture space. The site condition is unique in its sense. Through experimentation and various iterations, one could imagine the application of such system in other places with similar urban situations. The project intended to address the exhaust emitted from the buildings, to take care of the neglected side of the city and to include the thermal comfort into the conversation of shaping the public space, when talking about pedestrian-friendly city redevelopment plan in the next decades.
This thesis provides insights into the existing leftover public space in Hong Kong and hints on the future development of the city from environmental comfort and public space-making perspectives. How will the city evolve with the podium typology buildings and increasing density of urban blocks that eliminates the back alleys?
2021 HKU Faculty of Architecture, Distinction Thesis Project
Shortlisted 2022 INDE.Awards – The Graduate Category
Exhibited at International Exhibition of Architecture Graduation Design 2021
Nominated for 2021 TEAM20 Urban Planning Category
Principle Experiment - including air, water filtration model interpreting back alley environmental and spatial condition.