Inhabitants' colonization, the city's facade

Inhabitants’ colonization, the city’s facade

Dense with 30,000 (or more) inhabitants within 300 interconnected 10-storey building, all living together without contributions of a single architect or the government. This happened in Hong Kong’s infamous Kowloon Walled City before the demolition in early 1990s. The city of darkness was notorious for drugs, crime and other illegal issues you named. However, within the all the intolerable profanity terrorizing the space lived 30,000 peaceful residents.

Without the convenience of any architect, residents had built up strong relationships with one another, all close-knitted in recreating their houses as a home. In the midst of the densely occupied buildings, there was a sense of community and the different programmes and activities they created connected the residents. Informal settings such as opening of kindergartens, factories that employ the residents to even housewives babysitting neighbour’s children. The diversity of the way they lived was the expression and façade of the city. These insights of the Kowloon walled city depicted the colonization of inhabitants, which eventually created social networks among the inhabitants.

Currently in today’s context, we try to activate the realms of community bonding in public housing, ideally a bond like the residents in the Kowloon Wall City. But before jumping into the public realm of a community bonding, we should perhaps look into the realms of the residual spaces. Usually a layer in between the public and the collective realm, where direct neighbours, be it sharing the same block or same level meet. It could be the linkways, void decks, and lift lobbies and corridors. And based on the older HDBs (Singapore’s public housing) that were seen, these layers are areas that define the identity, sense of belonging due to the different spatial levels of residents colonizing the space. This also leads to frequent meeting points for neighbours at most times.

 

Outside: Ellebo Housing

Outside: Ellebo Housing

Similarly, FORA and Beth Hughes had a purposed of bringing the community together by activating the realm in between the collective and the public. They entered the Nordic Built Challenge where they had to rejuvenate a current built context, the Ellebo Housing Estate in Denmark. The current housing estate comprises of collective blocks, overlooking a common green communal space. It was altered in the 1990s, introduced closed balconies that extended the living spaces but separated the residents from the external view. Hence FORA and Beth Hughes aimed to enhance, magnify and maximize the qualities of the current scheme, achieving the main purpose of bringing the community closer together.

 

Ellebo Housing, 3 design principles

Ellebo Housing, 3 design principles

They started with 3 design principles, community, outing (extension), and density. The community strategy started off with the existing central green plot, which was not up to use. They saw the huge potential of using it as a community resource and had a collective list of programmes to be integrated into the central space: sports field, playgrounds, sitting areas and other collective facilities at the center to aid gatherings and events. At the outer perimeter of the large green communal space, FORA and Beth Hughes made the realm into a participative process. Community facilities, gardens and allotments meets the residents in the building, suggesting an area where neighbours could share responsibilities and join the gardens on such small plot of land within the bigger scale garden.

Ellebo Housing, new site plan

Ellebo Housing, new site plan

Without compromising the current interior layout, a new outer layer of exterior zone is added to improve the spatial quality of the existing building. Each flat is provided with a generous number of new balconies that allowed the new space to be used most of the year, which was also called a collective winter garden. The architects also took considerations of the Danish climatic conditions by providing an operable glass façade and skylight panels that could be adjusted for better ventilation and direct relationship with the exterior garden.

Ellebo Housing, axonometric

Ellebo Housing, axonometric

Moving on to their concept of the winter garden layout (balcony), inhabitants colonizing the communal space are present. Neighbours are very much welcome in extending their private realms to the balconies, be it an individual balcony or sharing it with a neighbour. In this design process, not only do you see the engagement of the inhabitants, but also “ a mosaic of diversity becoming a new façade to the building.” Adding new typologies to the existing housing blocks would optimistically increase the programmatic complexity of the estate. Given the time, they could mutate to different kinds of uses, adding different levels of spatial qualities from the existing typology.

Ellebo Housing, new extension of spatial ground

Ellebo Housing, new extension of spatial ground

The extension of the Ellebo housing was a good example in encouraging new spatial grounds of interactions happening on the start of the inhabitant’s threshold. What about applying the current intervention with the existing Singapore context of public housing with technical regulations and dimensions to abide? Achieving the ideal plot efficiency of blocks due to land scarcity and limiting corridor dimensions to prevent hazardous accidents are also priorities for the Housing board. Henceforth, how do we grasp and create the balance of both matters.

 

Reference

images

“the kowloon walled city.” backgroundwallpapers.in. http://www.backgroundswallpapers.in/download/kowloon-walled-city-29200.htm (accessed September 20, 2013)

FORA and Beth Hughes. “Outside.” for-a.eu. http://www.for-a.eu/Outside.html(accessed September 20, 2013)

text

FORA and Beth Hughes. “Outside.” for-a.eu. http://www.for-a.eu/Outside.html(accessed September 20, 2013)

Alison Furuto. “nordic-built-challenge-finalist-proposal-fora-beth-hughes” archdaily.com  http://www.archdaily.com/356788/nordic-built-challenge-finalist-proposal-fora-beth-hughes/ (accessed September 20, 2013)

Pamela Owen. “A-rare-insight-Kowloon-Walled-City” Daily mail.co.uk http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2139914/A-rare-insight-Kowloon-Walled-City.html(accessed September 20, 2013)

Jonathan DeHart. “kowloon-walled-city-anarchy-and-inspiration-in-the-city-of-darkness” the diplomat.com  http://thediplomat.com/asia-life/2013/04/kowloon-walled-city-anarchy-and-inspiration-in-the-city-of-darkness/ (accessed September 20, 2013)