City Fragments, Building Transitions: An Urban Stitching of Hong Kong through Film


As a city of extreme density, Hong Kong has developed a unique urban and spatial condition through which it is experienced and understood. The fact that most traveling within the city is carried out by public transportation or pedestrian movement suggests that Hong Kong itself is cinematic. As such, the most immersive way to experience the city is through a “kinesthetic montage”­­—an exploration through the walking body and documentation through film and cinematography. The project aim of the studio was to develop a proposal for a new Film Archive in central Hong Kong through the renovation of the existing Central Market Building. In the process of doing so, the studio draws upon spatial and experiential qualities unique to film, using the medium as an equally viable design tool to create spaces for the public realm.


Individual pieces (of Hong Kong, of current Central Market) are currently disjointed, but are understood within the context of one another.


A space in-between that stitches together city and building fragments in order to articulate and heighten spatial relations between the two. This is what the Film Archive should be.

The project builds upon its existing physical integration within the city’s pedestrian network. At street level, 24-hour access areas of the Film Archive become extensions of the city’s public space. In return, parts of the building program extend out into the city in various forms such as a resource center and bookshop hybrid, a popup cinema gallery, and a suspended net theater for screenings. Through this symbiotic exchange of program, the project restructures the role of what a public Film Archive can be in its context—a place to learn about Hong Kong’s rich cinematic history and simultaneously, a transitional space that becomes the city’s own urban living room.


What defined the language of representation of the project?

Our reading of an object or place is never in isolation. Although we actively choose on what to focus, our perception is constantly framed by our peripheries. A window is not a window without the walls beside it. Black is not black without its inverse.

As a project that explores the power of transitions in both film and architecture, the relationship between object and context was an important theme to articulate in its graphic representation. For this reason, the use of the axonometric is prevalent because of its unique ability to unify plane, section, volume and context. The monochromatic palette that originated from an early conceptual drawing, further reinforces the notion of relativity and composition as opposed to the isolation of elements through selective coloring. My personal experience of Hong Kong—its extreme density and complexity—was another factor that influenced the development of the project’s representation.

How do the static drawings sit in relation to the animated movie?

Each of the 1:1 ratio drawings correspond to a specific film (total 3 drawings and 3 films) and aim to distill all the qualities and ideas of the film within a single snapshot. To summarize briefly, the first drawing/film pairing explores the idea of parallax and relational geometries, the origin of the project. The second pairing portrays Hong Kong as a melting pot of visual and auditory fragments. The last pairing documents the subjective and objective qualities of the Film Archive project itself.

What is your take on colour, what is the effect and purpose of a continuous monochromatic palette?

The continuity of the monochromatic palette, both in film and drawing, emphasizes composition over subject. The placement and arrangement of elements within the frame or on the page relative to one another becomes the central focus. In doing so, the silhouettes of people, objects, and buildings are placed on the same ‘plane’, resulting in a field of ambiguous thresholds and transitions that stem from one element onto the next.

How and to what extent were the models constructed as to be framed through the medium of the movie?

The first film is about the model itself, a “set-piece” that demanded logistical filming considerations as much as the concept itself. In that sense, the model and resulting film are closely correlated. The site and section models were constructed using a similar monochromatic palette and were also used as “sets” for the third film. I would say that the primary purpose of those models, however, was to spatially document the project rather than deliberately tie into the medium of film.

What defined the various moments/fragments revealed in the movie? Were these chosen randomly or mapped according to specific locations?

The scenes from Hong Kong were selected to illustrate the concept of the film, which explores the superimposition of various moments and scales of the city through found reflective surfaces. Many of the scenes were filmed near the site of the project though they were not deliberately cataloged.

What role does the film director play in the choreography and programming of space? Can we call him an ‘architect’?

Great question. I would strongly agree that film directors and architects share many of the same creative visions and could almost be used synonymously. We talk about the narrative of a building all the time—the approach, the transitional quality of a space, the manner in which spaces are revealed, the building’s cadence and rhythm, the emotional experiences strung to all of these. When done well, these are all facets of design that contribute to a building’s lasting impression, one that resonates to the core. The same ingredients form the narrative basis of cinematography. Film is also the choreography of space, sequence, build-up, light, mood, and emotion.  In the end, the resulting mediums may be different, but how we experience them may not be too dissimilar after all.

How do you as an architect perceive the medium of the moving image? To what extent do you relate to Schoning’s view of the ‘The production of images by cinema is the epitome of the physical construction of space by architecture’?

The out-of-body experience of film and its ability to transport the viewer to another world is not too different from what architecture can also achieve. To that end, I fully agree with Schoning’s view that “it is when we touch the depths of personal and collective memory that architecture and cinema reveal their constructive force.” Both mediums are a form of storytelling and expression of the heart.

Are you interested in exploring the potential of the animated movie further?

As a designer of spaces and a photographer of moments, I think it makes sense to do so.