Hong Kong. A city that rewrites boundaries through gravity-defying skyscrapers, innovative transport systems, densely-populated business hubs and unique leisure facilities. It’s a glimpse into what’s possible when urban living and progressive city planning are combined, serving as an insight into the challenges that arise.
Hong Kong has already achieved the impossible – transforming sparsely-inhabited, rocky promontory and islands into a thriving metropolis – but there’s more to the city’s impressive emergence than meets the eye. As well as providing a backdrop to technological developments and societal progression, innovative architecture has allowed Hong Kong to be the masterpiece it’s known as today – much of it the vision of the University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) graduates.
It’s this architectural masterpiece that makes the HKU Faculty of Architecture (FoA) the boundary-pushing educational hub it is today, providing students with an education that’s so much more than just a faculty; it’s ‘a laboratory in architecture and city building’, shaped by analysing and overcoming the unique challenges found within Hong Kong’s iconic futuristic environment.
Looking beyond the city today, FoA brings together the brightest students and most influential researchers to be a part of the city’s – and the world’s – progression as it enters a new era of issues and change.
Hyper-urbanisation has become a fact of life for much of the world. By 2050, 70 percent of the global population is predicted to be living in cities. This comes with benefits like better employment opportunities, higher quality of life, centralised data collection and improved social mobility and services. FoA’s teaching and research doesn’t just focus on the immediate positives of city dwelling, but also the challenges that must be overcome if these improvements are to drive the global economy and society towards sustainable living.
The new demands of cities in our complex, populated and interconnected world means they are thriving systems, constantly growing, adapting and evolving to meet our ever-changing needs. FoA recognises this and views these vibrant systems as part of an integrated whole that rely on each other for sustained progression.
Across five departments and divisions, the faculty studies these systems from the point of view of environment and design, economy and space, politics and prosperity, art and culture, law and economics, landscape and ecology, energy and health and many other research fields.
FoA sees cities as living, breathing organisms that respond to their environment and citizens’ needs. With transport links as the city’s arteries; the collective consciousness, imagination and mental health, the city’s mind; pockets of nature among concrete, its beating heart; and its people and economy its lifeblood, the work of the academic community in this faculty respects Hong Kong’s robust ecosystems that are deeply interconnected and reliant on its integrated whole for health.
So, as we look towards 70 percent urbanisation by 2050, FoA asks whether ‘hypercities’, modelled on Hong Kong, could be part of the answer to overpopulation, ageing demographics, social and economic inequality, energy conservation, and mental health, obesity and the other modern urban ‘plagues’ associated with comfortable, sedentary living.
Can cities better care for the ageing populations who will soon need high levels of support from welfare systems? Are there new ways in which cities can help us feel closer to the natural state, rather than removed from nature and our instincts? Can cities manage their own micro-climates? Can we design carbon-neutral neighbourhoods? Can we bring food production into the city? And what happens to rural communities who get left outside the boundaries of burgeoning metropoles? What about people who don’t want to live in cities?
What role does architecture play in this? How can visionary thinking transform our daily lives and streamline existing processes? FoA answers this in the only way possible: through interdisciplinary learning, scholarship and by active collaborative research and teaching laboratories with the Faculties of Science, Business and Economics, Engineering, Law, and Medicine.
FoA, with its 68-year history, represents a leading example of how mixed planned-spontaneous urban development can progress a society, strengthen an economy and change peoples’ lives for the better. The school also has a long tradition of working with local communities, ensuring no one gets left behind in the hyper-urbanisation surge.
Tomorrow’s greatest architects and urban planners will have this global responsibility on their shoulders once they graduate, equipped with the knowledge and awareness needed to bring these needs to life and guide the future to new horizons. This means students must possess an awareness of the challenges currently occurring within the urban landscape and beyond, and how the inevitable changes will rewrite the economy’s rules.
As automation takes hold, will the trajectory towards 70 percent urbanisation ever be reached? Or will we return to a simpler existence outside the concrete jungle?
If you would like to be a part of carving out the role of urban living in the future and integrating architecture with personal welfare, you can find out more here.