Delft University of Technology
February 2017 - July 2017
On Site: Design Research in Emerging Contexts
Municiple Services Sanctuary
Hong Kong (S.A.R.) - People's Republic of China
Being born and risen in the Netherlands means being used to flat landscapes and open skies. To arrive with such a background in a city where residential high rises have conquered the skies and where one can entirely reside inside because of the continuously connected built environment has an overwhelming impact. This proposal for a municiple services building (MSB) aims to provide an alternative space to temporarily escape these conditions. A MSB is a typology specific to Hong Kong in which the municipality provides certain services to the residents as sports facilities, a library, and a lecture hall. This MSB is located in the commercial center of a yet to be developed area of Hong Kong. Underneath a large dome on which an eternally twilighting sky is projected the several functions are located in glass boxes on a rammed earth monolith.
The juxtaposition of the dense urban and wild rural in Fanling North expresses the commercially driven expansion drift of Hong Kong. The decrease of non-commercial public space and the disappearing of the sky by the residential high rises are most tangible in this situation. It is here where this proposal of a municipal services building provides an alternative to the current new developments. It is a sanctuary for non-commercial public space. In between the malls and shops of Fanling North, a park covers a gently sloping hill. The only thing giving away the presence of the MSB underneath it are two ripples in the landscape, opening up slits which provide the msb's entrances. Through these slits a rather dim concrete underpass is entered, gradually changing form while descending into earth. Through a hole in the landscape at the end of the tunnel sunlight shatters from above onto an excavated rammed earth monolith, which is accessible through two openings in it. A central corridor carved out of the monolith opens up and on both sides. Branches provide access to several functions of the MSB. A mysterious glow illuminates the corridor from a translucent natural stone ceiling and gives, along with several voids, a suggestion of an upper floor. Two monumental staircases in a void at the center of the corridor provide access to this floor. Ascending these staircases a vast dome is entered in its center and a dusking/dawning sky is experienced. Several glass boxes either contain a function or penetrate from the lower level.
The functions of the MSB are either related to the mental health or the physical health. In general the functions related to the physical health as the sport courts are located at the upper floor, the ones related to the mental health, as the library, and serving spaces, as toilets and dressing rooms, on the lower floor. However, they are interdependent and occasionally penetrate the other floor or are visually connected through vides or the translucent floor/ceiling. Due to this arrangement and materialization the activities of the upper floor are reflected into the mental health related functions. The restaurant is located at the lower level, but it penetrates the upper level through a big vide and balcony. As serving spaces, the kitchen and storages stay on the lower level. In a similar way the children daycare occupies both levels, with play areas on the upper and sleeping areas on the lower. Obviously, on top of the sleeping areas no specific function is placed and the stone ceiling is opaque. Another occasion where the stone ceiling is opaque is at the library reading area. It is located along the boundaries of the circular plan, and on top of it a running track is situated. The running track is slightly elevated on a sound absorbing floor. Between the running track and the outer wall a transparent tile allows light to strike along the wall’s surface into the reading areas. Shadows cast by the runners on this surface again creates a relation between the functions. Also occupying both levels is the lecture hall. From the lower level the seatings descend one level towards the stage, and ascend two other level from the stage. The negative space which is created by this morphology contains the foyer, a double height space located on the lower level with an 18 meters long window on the upper level.
The carved out monolith is made out of rammed earth excavated from the site. Placed in voids left in the top of the rammed earth are wooden beams. These support the translucent natural stone tiles, which form both ceiling and floor. The glass boxes are constructed by glass fins which are situated on the rammed earth wall or a slightly wider beam. The dome is constructed by concrete trusses, supported right outside of the monolith, but extending to the end of the sloping landscape, making use of the weight of the earth and vegetation which are suspended between the trusses. The vegetation on the dome itself is slightly less intensive and placed in borders on top of the trusses. The arrangement of these borders are determined by the two plans of the MSB by reflecting them onto the dome. At the location of the ascension points in the MSB, in the park small pavilions are situated. As a sanctuary for public space free from commercial influences the MSB is reduced to mere dualities, as Yin and Yang. The two ripples in the landscape, the two openings in the monolith, the two monumental staircases, the duality in function, the two levels, and the earth and the sky, all reflect this reduction to the mental and physical of the self.