Architects of our future

Mabel Sieh

Mabel Sieh talks to three young men who hope to guide, design and shape the way we live

Mabel Sieh |

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From left, Chris Tsui, Gordon Fu and Wesley Ho, students of the University of Hong Kong's Department of Architecture, created designs for future living as part of their final-year projects.
The twisted tornado of a building on the table may look like fantasy but for Gordon Fu Kin-fai it represents the future. Fu is a graduate master's student in the department of architecture at the University of Hong Kong and his design maximises the movement of wind and sunlight into the building, making it a comfortable place to live.

Before coming up with the design, Fu visited Lee Tung Street in Wan Chai, an area surrounded by tall buildings in narrow spaces, creating what is called the 'street canyon effect'.

His project aims to tackle the issue of high urban density in the city by re-developing the area.

Chris Tsui Chun-shing's project, on the other hand, combines the idea of leisure in a living environment. He has placed individual houses on a hillside with a piece of farmable land on each rooftop. Tsui believes it is the ideal mass customised housing scheme in Shenzhen for the 21st century.

'The rooftop is a place for farming as well as for community life. People can gather here in their leisure time,' says Tsui, who has completed the bachelor's programme in the architecture department.

His design is based on a newly developed area called Da Mei Sha in Shenzhen. 'There is potential to make the concept a reality as more and more people are interested in green-related activities like farming in Hong Kong. Also, Shenzhen is very close and easy to travel to.'

His classmate Wesley Ho Hung-lai looks for individuality and connectivity in his vision for a future living space. His model comprises open-plan flats of different sizes suitable for small, medium and large families. The buildings are inter-connected by bridges or parks.

'In Hong Kong, all [new] buildings look the same. It is just copy-cat design. I like the idea of letting people decide their layouts, like having their own identity,' says Ho. 'The buildings have been designed to give every one a sea view, not just the rich people.'

The three designs were displayed at the Degree Show, an annual exhibition of architectural thesis projects by master's and bachelor's students. The exhibits reflect students' concerns over social and cultural environments, and ways to tackle contemporary issues in architecture with new approaches.

'We're not training the students for current practices, but for becoming leaders [in the field]. We expect them to be sensitive to the environment and sustainability,' says Professor Ralph Lerner, dean of the faculty of architecture at HKU.

Fu is closest to becoming an architect after seven years of study, including three years in the bachelor's programme and two years in the master's programme, plus one year of work experience after each degree. All architecture students at HKU are required to do the same, in addition to passing several public examinations to qualify.

Fu thinks the effort is worth it. 'Architecture is like a social art; you need to understand society to create something suitable for the people living in it,' he says.

'One day, I want to open my own firm and work on projects that interest me.'

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