HK Tower Revolution

Re-regulate Hong Kong Towers

Fall 2013/2014 @ Hong Kong University
03 September 2013 / 04 December 2013

How can HK’s housing escape its unrelenting uniformity, the absence of articulation, and the denial of diversity…? Why is it currently almost impossible to make something exciting? How to escape from the current laws? How to create more qualities? What qualities should that be? How can thus new housing towers appear?That changes Hongkong radically?

This studio is taught by The Why Factory within the guestprofessorship of Winy Maas at the Hong Kong University.

The current housing of Hong Kong have certainly a minimal quality as regulated by Hong Kong laws. But in the competition with other cities, and with the growth of the middle class, they lack size, outdoor spaces, diversity, but also greenness, ecology and not to forget they lack architectural excitement.

In general the following qualities could be added: higher ceilings, more windows, more diversity, more outdoor spaces, more connections, more collective spaces, more natural cooling, more green, more water maintenance. All elements that some how make the towers more open, more porous. How to do that? Spatially and economically?

This studio will review current building regulations of Hong Kong and aims to propose new indicators to achieve a proper balance in population density and quality of living. Building tall, compact and with small apartment sizes might be the solution to the problems of HK in relation to land scarcity, since it enables the city to remain compact and dense, and to function. But this also can have negative effects on the living qualities.

This studio wants to test the current Hong Kong housing regulations and explore new indicators with which Hong Kong’s housing qualities can be improved. Improvement of the current and adding new qualities will lead to a higher amount of porosity/ open space. The amount of porosity will be measured against construction costs and property value.

The studio aims at identifying the various environmental, social and spatial qualities, which lead to a proper definition of porosity. These qualities will be tested and modelled in a 3d-environment. New qualities will be added and tested.

First the qualities need to be understood, researched and explained. This will be done by manipulation of current floor plans according to improvements of a single quality at the scale of an apartment. For example: An apartment with a high amount of façade per m2. Or an apartment with a good view. Or a lot of outdoor space…. Etc.
This will lead to a concrete definition and formulation of each of the qualities, which in return lead to changes in regulations as well as add new ones. New organizations of residential buildings will be modelled, which will lead to more porosity. List of qualities (to be completed): View, Direct sunlight, Indirect light, Direct access to outdoor space, Ventilation, Cooling

Each of these single qualities will be first tested to a maximum and measured against construction costs (amount of steel/ façade) and property value and put into a catalogue. A starting model (fig. 1), which follows current Hong Kong regulations (footprint, class of site, plot ratio, site coverage and building height), will be used as a point of reference (imaginary site) to indicate all the changes.

Analysis/ Research questions (among others):
What are the current building codes for housing?
What qualities lead to more open space/ porosity?
How to link these building codes to spatial qualitative indicators?
What can be the new building code? What to change/ add?
What models have minimum/ maximum qualities? à highlights from the catalogue…
What models generate maximum/ minimum property value?
What are the construction costs for how much added porosity?


Winy Maas, Tihamer Salij, Sander Mulders, Arend van Waart