Building future at HKU, CUHK

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 January, 2012, 12:00am


As the process of urbanisation powers on in major cities across Asia, communities are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of better urban design to their quality of life. Issues such as urban heritage and conservation, suitability of public infrastructures and public places, and environmental and social sustainability concerns are being publicly debated, as people seek to have their opinions included in urban planning.

With its proximity to China and Asia in general, the architectural profession in Hong Kong has experienced high demand for its services and has achieved worldwide respect for the way it has kept up with societal changes.

The quality and relevance of postgraduate training programmes in architecture provided by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) have contributed to the high standing of the profession.

HKU offers a two-year, full-time master's in architecture programme that confronts students with the complexities of modern architectural discourse, design and practice, by providing them with contemporary design problems such as the reconstruction of Sendai airport in Japan based on tsunami-like conditions.

The programme's curriculum is multidisciplinary in nature and emphasises current design and production technologies, as well as a foundation in the history, theory and the culture of architecture.

Students are required to complete three so-called 'design studios' and produce one design thesis. Elective studies involve students in lectures and tutorials, seminars presented by private practitioners, government officials or overseas guests, fieldwork, technical training sessions and workshops.

Students currently studying in the programme will be the first to benefit from new research and development (R&D) studios to commence in early 2012, to provide students with authentic experiences.

In each R&D studio, students are teamed with a professor from HKU, and an industry partner operating in the region, to work on a design challenge that is related to a project in development.

'Reflecting the department of architecture's commitment to experiential learning, the R&D studio preserves the academic integrity of the design studio,' says Jonathon D Soloman, acting head of department and associate professor at HKU's department of architecture.

He adds that the R&D studio 'provides students with the opportunity to learn about the practices of the profession from the inside, while creatively questioning and productively challenging the profession's prevailing practices.'

Students go on site visits and conduct on-site research, participate in project meetings and are present for presentations that relate to the project. They have the opportunity to experience current professional practices first-hand, and are encouraged to question and challenge these practices.

'Students need to have quantitative design and spacial thinking skills,' says Soloman. 'They need to be good at multi-tasking and effective time managers.'

Applicants must hold a bachelor of arts in architectural studies or an equivalent degree from an accredited Institution. The cost of the programme is HK$238,000 for non-local students $84,200 for local students.

Meanwhile, CUHK is offering two new courses in the 2012-2013 academic year. The first is the master of science in architectural conservation and design, to train students to understand architectural heritage, to assess their value, and to devise strategies and techniques in protecting, revitalising and designing heritage buildings.

'Through a programme of lectures, discussion forums, design studios, field trips, and desktop research, students will gain credentials and expertise in dealing with historical architecture,' says Professor Ho Puay-peng, director of the School of Architecture, faculty of social science at CUHK.

The programme will be taught from an international perspective by leading academics and practicing professionals in the field of architectural conservation. Students will also benefit from the CUHK's relationships with similar institutions in China and Taiwan.

CUHK has also developed a new master of science in urban design in response to the increasing number of architecture and planning firms in Hong Kong and China that are now working on larger urban development projects in the region.

The aim is to better prepare young architects, landscape architects and planners for work on these large scale and highly complex urban design projects.

'We want to give students an understanding of the complex challenges and opportunities of contemporary urban conditions,' says Professor Hendrik Tieben, of the School of Architecture, faculty of social science, CUHK.

'Students will be given an opportunity to focus on many of Hong Kong's and China's current urban issues including: urban heritage, community participation, public infrastructures and public spaces,' he adds.

Students can complete these new programmes full-time over one year or part-time over two years. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree in a related field. The cost is HK$100,000 and HK$115,000, respectively.