This is my thesis for the master of architecture degree in HKU.
The thesis is about the scale of public space. The scale of architecture and city has been enlarged in the past decades, and has deeply impacted urban public space. In my thesis, I will firstly argue that, public space is not a kind of space, but a condition of space, which cannot be calculated by numbers. Moreover, the enlargement of space has not created more public space, but has eliminated a lot, which also brings inequality both socially and economically.
The site is located in the center of Shenzhen, named as Gangxia Village. This part of the village has been demolished, and is under construction. Through the comparison, we can easily find the huge transformation:
68,000 people used to live here, while only 4,000 people after redevelopment;
The population density drops down from 290,000 pp. /sqkm, to 17,000;
However, the GFA doubles, from 500,000 to 1 million.
Particularly, it is clearly stated in the redevelopment plan that, there will be 23,000 sqm of public space in the future.
While when I tried to define public space in the demolished village, it seemed every space could be public at certain moments: people watched TV in the lobby of a clinic, sat in front of restaurants, and circled around a tricycle on the road, playing cards. Then I realized, public space is not a kind of space, but a condition of space. Therefore, the increase in area does not necessarily mean more public spaces.
Then I compared the two conditions of the site on 4 scales, using Nolli map and sectional Nolli map as the methodologies, to see how this transformation has impacted public space:
On the 1-1000 scale, the continuous public ground is divided into pieces by the new road system, which makes it difficult for people to get, use, and explore public spaces.
On the 1-500 scale, the intimate interfaces between private and public have disappeared a lot, which on one hand, means less interface to go through from private to public, and on the other hand, means a longer distance.
On the 1-100 scale, the dynamic boundary between public and private has been replaced by a solid, fixed façade, which means less chance to extend public spaces.
The last but not least, on the 1-50 scale, a lot of spontaneous spaces have been merged, such as these. This means not only spaces of this scale, but also activities attached to these spaces become missing in the new development.
Therefore, based on the series of comparison, I proposed strategies on different scales: reconnecting the discontinuous ground by using houses as connections; intensifying the interfaces by splitting towers and podiums; thickening the boundary by changing the façade into a space; and designing insertions by making use of super-micro spaces.
An APP named Spacehunter is developed here to help share and discover spaces: a salesman can find a space under escalator to have a rest after lunch, new-comers can just buy a small bedroom, and book one kitchen for 2h whenever they want to cook, fresh graduates can find a workshop between columns to start their business.
To conclude, scale is not only about the perception of space, but relates to who can occupy the space, what you can do in the space, and eventually, the democracy of space, which is the nature of public space.