LocationMei Foo Sun Chuen, Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Architect in ChargePeter W. Ferretto(Associate Professor), CHOI Sze Ho Jack(Research Assistant),
Design TeamCHAN Chun Yu, CHOI Sze Ho Jack, LUO Jing, WANG Haoran, WU Yi Jane, WONG Yuk Tsin Beryl
MeiFoo District CouncilCHEUNG Wing Sum Ambrose(Chairman), LAW Siu Yin(Chairman Assistant)
Structural EngineersSprenPlan Engineering(Portugal), Prof. ZHOU Yun(Research Center for Public Safety & Disaster Prevention and Reduction, Guangzhou University)
Text description provided by the architects. The “Book Tree” occupies 25 m², consisting a tree structure of bookshelves surrounded by an undulating interactive sitting and reading platform. The tree structure is made of pre-fabricated timber components that is assembled and dismantled by students in 1-2 days, while the platform consists of 50 (600x600 mm) timber boxes of different height. The tree structure is lined with a waterproof fabric, which provides sun and rain protection. It is equipped with LED lighting for reading.
Book Tree is a research project conceived by Associate Professor Peter W. Ferretto at the School of Architecture at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, in collaboration with the Mei Foo District Counsellor Ambrose Cheung. The objective of the project is twofold: to inhabit a lost urban space and simultaneously to create a new type of reading experience for children within the Mei Foo neighbourhood.
Due to its high density and unique topography, Hong Kong has a high concentration of residual urban spaces, spaces that are not planned and typically occur by accident. These lost spaces have become invisible to local people who usually dismiss them as mundane background places devoid of purpose.
Our research starts from the notion that through design, such spaces can be activated and transformed into inhabitable places. Rather than design being a high-end service, the predominant case in Hong Kong, design here becomes a tool to transform a neglected corner beneath a flyover into a real open community space.
Libraries are typically associated with quiet and studious spaces. The idea behind the “Book Tree” is to install a structure where children can play while reading, rather than a chore reading books becomes a fun experience. The temporary installation is composed of two elements, an open timber landscape to sit down and a tree structure that holds books. The structure was conceived as a tree where the different branches each house books for different ages. The structure was built from untreated timber as to reconnect children to the warmth of natural materials contrasted to the mineral and hard materiality of the surrounding infrastructure.
The manner in which the “Book Tree” operates is unique in Hong Kong. Books are not registered nor borrowed, they are simply donated by the community for the community to take freely. There is no trading, no promise to return, the tree acts as a temporary deposit for the many books Mei Foo households can no longer store.
This dynamic sharing system creates a sense of pride in an otherwise transitional space between A and B. The Mei Foo estate built in phases between 1968 and 1978, comprises 99 residential towers housing more than 70,000 residents within 13,500 apartments. It is one of Hong Kong’s first private housing estates and is bisected by Kwai Chung Road. It was selected as the site for our first prototype due to its unique inhabitation of residual spaces below the highway, which include a community centre, a clinic and wet market.
Architecture has a fundamental role to help society, it is our ambition that this humble insertion can rekindle a sense of pride and joy for the children of the neighbourhood.