Revealing North Point: Urban Voids
探尋北角: 城市之間

Play to Reveal invented playful ways to map, reveal and explore different types of public spaces in North Point and the Eastern District in order to imagine alternative uses for them. Led by Thomas Chung, Associate Professor, CUHK Architecture, we collaborated with Liber Research Community and the Hong Kong Public Space Initiative (HKPSI). Under the creative framework “Play to Change” provided by the Hong Kong Architecture Centre and Oi!, we exhibited at Oil Street Art Space and held seminar workshops, guided tours and hands-on events to engage the community at different levels – we revealed land vacancy issues, discovered their locations and potential and enabled participants to activate underused public spaces.

We compiled interactive maps of the Eastern district with different layers: 1) Publicly managed spaces including parks as well as lesser-known sitting-out pocket areas; 2) privately managed POSPD; 3) Vacant (fenced off) government land available for short term tenancy (GLA-STT); 4) Urban voids – other neglected spaces in the city from infrastructure, policy or economic reasons (eg space under flyovers, footbridges, pedestrian back-alleys, vacant shop units on street level, empty units in “dead-malls”).

We collaborated with Liber Research Community to reveal top-down procedures and official categorizations of urban land, to enable the general public to gain awareness and appreciate the potentials of such vacant land. Through looking at available maps and online tools that track changes, we revealed a different perspective and accessed a wealth of information not readily available. Through identifying different types of vacant land and recognizing the rationale for their existence, participants also gained a deeper understanding of pertinent land use issues in Hong Kong.

We collaborated with HKPSI to reveal the bottom-up potential of public spaces by engaging the community in site tours, brainstorming and hands-on testing alternative functions of selected locations. Drawing from the HKPSI’s Public Space Directory, we identified locations with potential and invited visitors and locals to enrich the mapping. We toured the selected locations and conducted brainstorming and making of simple playful interventions in order to occupy and activate an example of neglected public space by testing out alternative uses on site.

Project data

Name PLAY to Reveal 玩轉 ˙尋  

Collaborators  Liber Research Community, Hong Kong Public Space Initiative

Exhibition 21 Dec 2017 – 4 Feb 2018

Venue  Oil Street Art Space, North Point

Events   ‘Revealing Urban Voids’ experiment tour
13 Jan 2018 I 14:30 – 17:30

Places to Reveal Talk & Workshop
27 Jan 2018 I 14:30 – 17:30

‘Revealing Urban Voids’ experiment workshop
20 Feb 2018 I 14:30 – 17:30

‘Revealing Urban Voids’ experiment Fun Day
03 Feb 2018 I 14:30 – 17:30

Related projects

A pilot study in Investigating the Metabolism of Hong Kong’s Urban Voids: From Mapping to Creative Reuse of vacant spaces in North Point, 2016-17

This research investigated the key role architecture and urban settings of different scales and sequences play in Hong Kong’s city-making process, focusing particularly on the documentation and assessment of the potential of urban voids to positively contribute to collective identity, social innovation, physical permeability and shared amenities in the area. North Point, on the northern coast of Hong Kong island is selected as a test case due to its generic orthogonal urban grid contrasting its rich history and socio-cultural dynamics and its ‘typical down-to-earth’ character. This pilot study defined and mapped the area’s urban voids, analysed their challenges and possibilities, and developed alternative scenarios for their creative reuse in a specific case.

 Hetero-HK, 2017-18

Hetero-HK creatively researched and reused empty urban voids to reinterpret Hong Kong’s contemporary conditions – heterogeneity, disappearance and permanent transition through a series of exhibition, performances and installations. The project focused on North Point, with its orthogonal urban grid containing rich historical and socio-cultural dynamics, acts as a synecdoche of Hong Kong. Led by Thomas Chung, Associate Professor CUHK Architecture, Hetero-HK was a multi-disciplinary collaboration with Alex Tam, Founder and Artistic Director of Theatre Ronin; Lawrence Pun, novelist and cultural critic; and Siu Man, MAUD graduate of the University of Cambridge. The project was supported by Design Trust and the UABB(HK) 2018.

Design Trust Award 

Media coverage 

Visitor feedback

I found out about the tour on Facebook. It interested me because I had always wanted to learn more about land use in HK, but information are often scattered. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to really go out there onto the streets and hear from experts directly.

When I signed up, I didn’t know that it was a fully structured programme which progressed from learning (the tour) to participation/intervention (designing play facilities in a selected public space) supplemented by technical knowledge (the workshop by Liber Research Community). I appreciate this a lot because community workshops are often one-off (unless you are signing up for paid courses), and with a multiple-session structured programme like this, participants can really dig deep into the topic and gain insights.

It was a pity my personal schedule didn’t allow me to participate in everything. I joined 2 sessions – the tour and the first play facilities workshop. Both the tour and workshop were brilliantly led. They were informative, engaging and inspiring. I had walked those streets in Fortress Hill/ North Point all the time (I thought) but it turned out I had been missing out so much all the time.

Public discourse on land use in HK seems to have hit dead end in recent years. How can we find new ways out as an individual? LRC and HKPSI have set great examples how bottom-up actions and civic participation can bring about change. The Play to Reveal programme was a great effort in empowering individuals with knowledge both hard (e.g. all the information about idle or under-functioning spaces around us) and soft (e.g. by showing us that there could be all these new possibities if you have the imagination to make things happen). Urban design is a topic that’s highly relevant to our life. It’s lovely to see quality programmes like this one happen at a government-run art space. It’s also lovely to have workshop leaders from different organisations so we got different perspectives.

Thanks for making these happen. Please do programmes like this more, and wishing more people can participate in the future!


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