Kickoff Day – Part 2


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While we looked a lot at how vegetation worked with buildings to define public space, we also learned about how trees develop or get stunted in the urban environments. The tree roots above were originally limited to a very tight box, and even when they were given more space, many of the roots were stuck in the original enclosure.

As we moved back to the university district, we saw how some magnificent trees had been able to grow on walls. It is estimated that over 1200 trees, mostly Chinese Banyan, spouted up in the joints of the pre-war stone retaining walls. The tree roots can stabilize the soils and relieve the water pressure of the soil through transpiration while providing shade and air-cleansing. Unfortunately, on Bonham Road near the University, one tree fell down and that caused the authorities to cut down a row of other trees.
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Kickoff Day – Part 1

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The term started with a bang as the students were asked to weave together commonalities between different topics, with landscape at the center. After excellent lectures about the constructed aspect of “natural” landscapes (Matthew Pryor) and Public space in Hong Kong (Gavin Coates), we headed out to explore a transect of Wanchai.

monmouth_path1sWe snaked through the hills behind Hong Kong Park and the Asia Society to find Monmouth Path, that provides vertiginous views through dense vegetation. A perfect contrast to the din of the city just below.

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As we moved down the hill crossing the major east-west boulevards, we experienced the crush of humanity on the sidewalks and over street walkways.  Looking from O’Brian Bridge, we were able to contrast the different eras of development from the original Queens Road East shoreline to the current reclamation. Gavin pointed out that the streets below were sometimes under-utilized.  His morning lecture had shown how the city was transformed when cars were displaced by pedestrians during the Occupy Central movement.


The Walk provided an opportunity to see buildings of different eras.  After the intensity of Wanchai, we enjoyed walking to the latest Central Reclamation Park that sits above the major underground highway.


Alumni Dinner

UO Alumni in Hong Kong, Aug 18, 2015

Standing left to right: Gary Wong, Vikki Lew, Ken Li, Tony Wong, Stephen Ip, Esther Chu, Winnie Lau, Kevin So, Isabella Wu. Seated left to right: Eugene Chung, Bart Chui, Jiaqi Li, Austin Christianson, Wei Wang, Andrew Mohr.

Our group had a delightful dinner with UO alumni at the Assiaggio Trattoria Italiana in the Hong Kong Arts Centre on Tuesday night. We enjoyed hearing about the recent professional activities of the architectural graduates and learning about the paths that they have taken to get there. They are involved with building housing, tall towers, hospitals, and glamorous retail. And it was fun to spend time with the gregarious alumni like Dennis Ziengs, Tony Wong and Julia Lau who have contributed so much of their time and energy to our university. It is inspiring to hear about how they target their energies to shape the world.  As a teacher, it is very rewarding for me to be around people who appreciate their education and see that my former students have been able to grow so much.

Oregon Alumni dinner, Aug 18, 2015

UO Alumni meet UO students. Left to right: Ken Li, Winnie Lau, Gary Wong, Stephen Ip, Esther Chu, Nancy Cheng, Kevin So, Isabella Wu, Austin Christianson, and Tony Wong.

Earlier in the day, we had a warm welcome from former HKU Architecture Dean David Lung, our alumnus who was pivotal in setting up the UO-HKU connection.  He motivated our students to think about the key role that architecture and the built environment plays in conveying and preserving a community’s culture.  He ended his visit to the class with two exquisitely produced videos from his MOOC (online course) about conserving the Architectural Heritage of Hong Kong.  All of us are eager to sign up, if only to see more of the lovely footage of hidden gems and hear his insightful comments.  It was especially touching that in a sequence about the role of the courtyard, he mentioned Oregon Professor Emeritus John Reynolds.  John’s book eloquently describes how courtyards in different countries support social interaction while modifying sun, wind and sometimes humidity for thermal comfort.  Wonderful to see that after retirement, David Lung is able to embrace new technology and grow his teaching in a new direction.

Southern bus trip


To have a contrast from the crush of humanity in Tsim Sha Tsui, we took a bus to the South Side of the island. I hadn’t realized how much Aberdeen had densified, it was probably half the size when I previously saw the city ~20 years previously. The extension of the MTR to this rather distant side of the island really amazed me:  I am so impressed with Hong Kong’s non-stop investment into public transportation. The new HKU MTR station has made our lives incredibly convenient.  The Sunday car traffic made our journey more arduous until we cleared Ocean Park.

The beauty of the island’s coast is undeniable even while careening at a breakneck pace past branches brushing the buses window.  And awaiting us was a completely sanitized, mall-ified Stanley. Even though the development was quite tastefully done with some generous gathering spaces, I was rather disappointed to see that one entered the village through the escalators of an air-conditioned mall. MurrayH_BlakeP-s

In Hong Kong, picturesque pieces of colonialism have been artfully arranged.  Here you see the 1844 Murray House barracks from Central that was dismantled in 1982 and rebuilt in Stanley in 2002.  It is seen through the portal of Blake Pier, also originally from Central, whose canopy for many years served as a pavilion in Kowloon.  They both provide a very dignified experience of the waterfront, although a rather mixed-up version of history.

– Nancy

Arrival in Hong Kong

We started the Hong Kong program with a marathon. For better or worse we were blessed by raging thunderstorms this morning, which cooled the temperatures enormously but limited our walking tour possibilities.  Two gracious and patient HKU MLA 2nd year students, Jasmine and Laura gave us a nice walk through the campus, helping us get oriented to the newer parts of campus. It was helpful for our students to connect with local students.  Jasmine came with a Bachelor’s in Interior Design, Laura comes from Surabaya, Indonesia. In a class of 30, she is the only international student outside of the strong mainland Chinese contingent who make up about half of the class.

150815_uo-hku_group-sIt has been great to get a warm welcome from Matthew Pryor, Maxime Decaudin, Gavin Coates, and Vincci Mak of the L.Arch. department.  They provided us with a handy orientation booklet with maps of local resources and copious listings of eating places. On Friday, they scheduled a very practical talk by Barnaby Smith about the steps in executing a playful resort landscape on the roof of large Macau casino podium.  He explained in detail the challenges of working with many players in trying to realize a complex project with many water and landscape features.  The talk emphasized crucial technical decisions and their consequences, including waterproofing the surfaces, preparing the soil, cultivating plants and installing the plants.  I was most surprised at how the HKU students were articulate at asking thoughtful questions, as from my previous HKU teaching I was used to students who would signal respect with quiet.

I was very glad that all the students had arrived safely.  Everyone was very excited to be exploring the city together.  We have two ringers, the young second year architecture students, Bella Wu and Kevin So, who speak Cantonese and have previously visited the city.  Isabella, who is quite familiar with Kowloon, was invaluable in helping navigate and interpret.

The Hong Kong Museum of History provided great overview of the Hong Kong’s natural environment, its ancient heritage and contemporary development.  While I had read rave reviews about the museum, I was still surprised to see the scale of the installations, which dramatically depicted both natural environments (such as tropical forest, upland stream, mangrove forest) and architectural structures.  The traditional residences, row of shops and recreations of festival structures were particularly impressive in their richness of detail. While I studied the geological, ecological and urban development displays for our program, I was amused by the plastic toys and 60’s rock and roll images. The museum showed how Chinese and Western people intersected in the political, business and domestic realms, including pivotal events such as the Japanese occupation and the 1997 handover.

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Delighted to have a great view from my room at Robert Black College.

Overall, it was impressive to see the material culture organized in clear logical themes and eras. While the museum focuses on the specific situation of Hong Kong, it provides the larger context of the Earth’s geological development, evidence of ancient to recent Chinese habitation. While the farming and fishing industries are inextricably dependent on forces of nature, much of Hong Kong’s pride comes from its man-made achievements such as trade, transportation and the financial industry.

Because the rain subsided, we were able to walk through Kowloon Park and crowded shopping areas to the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade.  While the crush of people made it difficult to navigate, glimpses of lush nature and surreal slick mega-advertising provided relief.  At the harbor edge, we enjoyed the expansive view of Hong Kong’s skyline with delightful cool breezes before taking the classic Star Ferry, on the lower deck to feel the roll of the ocean.  – Nancy Cheng