In 1994, a routine construction technique that has been practiced in Hong Kong for over 100 years caught the attention of photographer Peter Steinhauer - and led him to put almost a decade of work into capturing this unique urban phenomenon. The bamboo scaffolding and fabric wrappings he photographs serve the simple purpose of catching construction debris, but at a glance they look more like works by Christo and Jeanne Claude, the artists that have made their name wrapping buildings like the Reichstag in Berlin.
The resulting photos showcase the colossal towers of Hong Kong wrapped in brightly-colored fabric; their usually varied facades are made monolithic, like a plastic massing model rendered full-size. Steinhauer named his photo series “Cocoons” due to the effect they create over time: the buildings metamorphose under cover and emerge transformed.
Read on for more photos of these urban cocoons
The following are excerpts from one of 41 interviews that student researchers at the Strelka Institute are publishing as part of the Future Urbanism Project. In this interview, James Schrader speaks with Adam Snow Frampton, the co-author of Cities Without Ground and the Principal of Only If, a New York City-based practice for architecture and urbanism. They discuss his work with OMA, the difference between Western and Asian cities, his experiences opening a new firm in New York, and the future of design on an urban scale.
James Schrader: Before we get to future urbanism, I thought it would be interesting to look a bit into your past. Could you tell me about where your interest in cities came from? Were there any formative moments that led to your fascination with cities?
Adam Snow Frampton: I was always interested in cities, but not necessarily exposed to much planning at school. When I went to work at OMA Rotterdam, I was engaged in a lot of large-scale projects, mostly in the Middle East and increasingly in Asia, where there was an opportunity to plan cities at a bigger scale. In the Netherlands, there’s not necessarily more construction than in the US, but there is a tradition of thinking big and a tendency to plan. For instance, many Dutch design offices like OMA, West 8, and MVRDV have done master plans for the whole country.
Architects: Zaha Hadid Architects
Location: Hong Kong, Hung Hom, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Jockey Club Innovation Tower 賽馬會創新樓
Design: Zaha Hadid, Patrik Schumacher
Project Director : Woody K.T. Yao
Project Leader : Simon K.M. Yu
Area: 15000.0 sqm
Photographs: Virgile Simon Bertrand, Doublespace, Iwan Baan
Twenty years ago, one of the world’s most unusual and unexpected pieces of architecture was razed to the ground: Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City, the most densely populated area on earth. Squalid, dark, and labyrinthine, the informal city was not only a hotbed for organized crime, but also a vibrant community of commerce and hope. Now, the Wall Street Journal has released this short documentary, bringing the city back to life and revealing why it holds a special place in world culture today.
MVRDV has begun construction on an adaptive reuse project that will transform a former warehouse in Hong Kong’s newly designated business area of East Kowloon – the Kwun Tong district – into a “luxurious loft style working environment” for creative companies. The 14-story structure will be stripped down to its raw concrete bones and reconstructed with glass and stainless steel to provide up to 37 naturally lit, affordable office units.
Cities in Asia HKG-SHA-SIN is a four-week design and research studio organized by the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Architecture. Taught with daily learning activities by a diverse group of faculty members from the University of Hong Kong, and speakers from internationally renowned universities and independent research groups, this course offers participants a design studio experience within Asia’s most vibrant contexts.
This credit-bearing course will introduce participants to different architecture and building types that have emerged from the current state of rapid urbanization in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. These urban building types are unique in the way they resist and subvert, or become mutated or subsumed by the prevailing socio-political and economic conditions of the three cities. Participants will learn about new architectural and urban theories and analytical methods that will broaden their knowledge of architecture and the city. The course will expose students to the inter-disciplinary nature of the subject, promoting more diverse attitudes towards difference and change, and encouraging greater confidence in applying the use of such knowledge to design and the broader society.
Registration deadline is April 16. To register, please go to the event’s official website.
Title: International Summer Programme: Cities in Asia
From: Sun, 29 Jun 2014
Until: Fri, 25 Jul 2014
Venue: Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai
Architects: Rocco Design Architects
Location: Admiralty, Hong Kong
Project Team: Rocco Yim, Bernard Hui, William Tam, C M Chan, Henry Ho, Boris Lo, Lucia Cheung, William Lee, Wicky Choi, Herbert Hung, Ivy Yung, Queenie Szeto, Angela Fong, Joseph Kong, Sze Hoi Wai, Alonzo Cheng, Chan Chi Chung, Fiona Ching, Chris Wong, Tong Hui Ching, Ivan Chui, David Ho, Dathan Wun, Gary Ng, Agnus Lau, Mike Morgan
Area: 131,574 sqm
Photographs: Courtesy of Rocco Design Architects
Whenever I see sensational exposes on the supposedly sublime spatial intensity of Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City (demolished in 1994), they strike me as nothing more than colonial fantasies that have little to do with the reality of living in the midst of one of the world’s cruelest slums. You see the Walled City pop up constantly like it’s still a valid or even interesting subject. This informal settlement has been diagramed, photographed, and written about for decades from an aesthetic point of view, rendering its victimized and oppressed inhabitants all but invisible. Not to say that this wasn’t home to a lot of people and that no “fond memories” were formed there, but still, like all slums, it was a tough place to live, fraught with contradictions in the haze of hope for a better life.
schmidt hammer lassen architects, in collaboration with Thomas Chow Architects, has won a commission to design a new Island School in Hong Kong. Envisioned as a “sustainable learning landscape,” the 28,000-square-meter, state-of-the-art facility aims to promote optimal learning through flexible classroom spaces and by establishing a deep connection with the surrounding landscape and local community.
Now in its 5th edition, the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism / Architecture (UABB) is the only biennial exhibition in the world to be based exclusively on the themes of urbanism and urbanization. The Biennale is co-organized by Shenzhen and Hong Kong, two of the most intensely urban cities in the world, where political and economical contexts have shaped unique urban dynamics.
The Biennale is “informed by the singularity of Hong Kong but it will not be primarily about Hong Kong, just as the Venice Biennale is not about Venice: it will be about the cities of the world, making use of the unique bi-city setting of the Biennale as a platform to address global issues in a visionary and critical way.” You can read the complete curatorial statement here.
Photos and more about the individual exhibits after the break: