Potential Futures: the Changing Cultural Landscape of Yangon's Waterfront
2014 International Symposium of the Asian Cultural Landscape Association: Waterfront Asian Cultural Landscapes
Seoul National University, Seoul
co-authored by Melissa Cate Christ, Scott Melbourne, and Ivan Valin
Photo credit: Scott Melbourne
Historically, Yangon was a strategically important British colonial trading port with a vast and productive hinterland. The city’s riverfront, the Strand, was a broad public edge devoted to commercial processing, industry, and transportation. Today, it is a contested site: increasingly walled-off, disconnected, secured, privatized, and undervalued as a public resource and heritage asset. Yangon’s ongoing economic, demographic, and physical transformations are challenging its leaders, planners, and communities to accommodate these changes fairly and efficiently while preserving Yangon’s unique heritage and urban character.
To engage in this conversation, landscape architecture students from the University of Hong Kong took part in a design research-based travel studio in the Spring of 2014. This paper presents the resultant student and faculty design research and asks how the challenges facing this working port and logistics zone can function as a lens to understand the environmental, social, and infrastructural challenges impacting the city and region.
August 30 - September 5, 2014
Designing places of emancipation?
Vienna University of Technology
I was selected to take part in Designing places of emancipation?, an interdisciplinary intensive summer school workshop which was organized by The Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space (SKuOR) in cooperation with the Centre of Local Planning (IFOER) at the Department of Spatial Planning, Faculty of Architecture and Planning of Vienna University of Technology (TUWien) where the aim was "to understand and change the social world through participation, action and research in public space."
From the SKuOR website:
The programme of the summer school spans across 7 days, and includes research walks and talks with local activists, NGOs and neighbours, five guest lectures by international keynote speakers and workshops supported by the local scientific team and members of the Thematic Group for Public Spaces and Urban Culture of the Association of European Schools of Planning. Invited guests will not only “deliver” knowledge, but also join in the practical teamwork. Local initiatives will particularly provide insights on emerging cultures and local needs, and supply provocative questions related to the practical examination of the site and the topic. The workshops will then put emphasis on the development of the action research approach and provide room for feedback and exchange on participants’ work. The programme will culminate with a self-organized public event which will involve local residents. It is here, where alternative ideas for opening the area towards the wider local public will be displayed and shared.
This summer school will explore possibilities and limitations of participatory action research as an empowering catalyst for the constitution of city publics. The school will be conducted in five teams, each engaged in one of five learning fields. Each team of six students will ideally be supported by a local actor, a keynote speaker, a member of the local scientific team and an European scholar.
Find out more about the TUWien SKuOR Summer School here and on Facebook.
July 18, 2014
Open source system developer needed (Contract position)
The Caritas Pokfulam Community Development Project is looking to put together an online, open source platform to crowdsource emergency management for the village, ideally using an existing free system such as Ushahidihi. The project will run from Sept 2014 - Feb 2015 with a budget of approx. HK$25-30K for a developer to install, customize, and test the platform, as well as provide initial training for the villagers in collaboration with the project coordinators (who will run a series of workshops to engage villagers in the development process). The developer should also be able to advise on sustainable hosting and data storage options. Fluency in English is required, Cantonese ability is a plus. For more information, please contact Melissa Cate Christ at email@example.com.
Also see http://job.opensource.hk/node/44
July 16, 2014
Moving Hong Kong
My short piece on the Mid-Levels escalator and the future of the pedestrian landscape in Hong Kong (illustrated by my photos and those of the talented Kevin Dharmawan) has been published in the 2nd issue of MY LIVEABLE CITY, a new magazine sold and distributed across India which focuses on the contemporary challenges of creating dynamic, livable cities. More information about the magazine can be found here and @citieswelike. Download the article here.
July 15, 2014
TOURETTE #00: Wide Open
Andrew Toland, Susanne Trumpf and I are pleased to announce that our submission to TOURETTE#00, 'What's the matter?' has been accepted as a finalist for the guest editing of one issue of the journal. Issue #00 will publish the 18 selected 'call for calls' finalists. From the journal website:
WIDEOPEN: Call for Calls
offers winning applicants the opportunity to curate one issue of the journal and contribute to the all-too-contemporary quest for relevancy within architectural discourse. At a time of collective and disciplinary crisis, in which architecture is looking outside of itself in order to redefine its boundaries, WIDEOPEN looks for intriguing questions rather than easy answers, challenging doubts rather than soothing certainties. WIDEOPEN challenges issues of authoriality within the discipline by soliciting a collective effort and foregrounding participation. The first issue of the journal, gathering the collection of accepted calls, will read as a crowd sourced manifesto of contemporary architecture. The whole structure of the journal will revolve around this first issue, expanding it and implementing its scope.
Submitted call for papers will deal with one of the following macrothemes/tagwords, expanding it, stretching it and counterubbing it in any way possible. The tagwords are intended to cover some significant moments in the process of design, but are intentionally ambiguous so as to encourage the most diverse interpretations of them:
. PROPHECY (Tourette #1)
. ACTORS (Tourette #2)
. REPRESENTATION (Tourette #3)
. MATTER (Tourette #4)
. MACHINE (Tourette #5)
. FATE (Tourette #6)
July 15, 2014
Citizens, Civil Society and the Cultural Politics of Heritage-Making in East and Southeast Asia
Conference at the Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica
Taipei, Taiwan (forthcoming 11-13 December, 2014)
I have been funded to attend and present a paper at this conference on heritage politics in Taipei in December 2014. From the CFP:
In considering the role of local communities and civil society organizations in heritage-making, the second conference will dwell on the figure of the citizen, broadly understood. What are the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of a citizen, and how does this relate to the modern nation-state and the notion of heritage, particularly in the contemporary environment where the role of the state and that of citizens are being reconfigured to serve a neo-liberal agenda? How does citizens’ involvement in heritage-making contribute to the civility of a shared societal life, and indeed, in some countries, to the sense of nationhood and civilization? In other words, what are the dynamics involved when local communities, as citizens, not just in the narrow legal-constitutional sense (with the propensity this restrained status has to turn citizens into citizen- consumers), but more broadly speaking in the socio-political sense, engage in the definition of their heritage-scape through a common civil space where multiple interests and agendas vie for resources and meanings? In raising these questions, the conference explores how processes of heritage-making, as part of the everyday cultural practices through which cultural citizenship is asserted and discursively constituted, challenges the dominance of the state in defining its citizens.
More information and the full call for proposals for the conference can be found here.
July 1, 2014
Hong Kong Stair Archive funded by the Research Grants Council
I am pleased to announce that my project, Hong Kong Stair Archive, has been awarded an Early Career Scheme grant by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council. The total award is HK$856,355, with HK$50,000 of that specifically earmarked for the training of undergraduate students. For more information on the award and other awardees from across Hong Kong, see here and for a brief introduction to the project see here.
June 26, 2014
Specifics: Discussing Landscape Architecture
My paper on understanding everyday landscape constructions as evidence of distributed infrastructural action, which I presented at the ECLAS 2013 conference on Specifics in Hamburg, has been published by Jovis.
The publication Specifics: Discussing Landscape Architecture is based on a selection of the papers from the conference and has been edited by Christiane Sörensen and Karoline Liedtke.
In Evidence of Action: Towards an Ecology of Objects, I discuss the importance of a close examination and documentation of the vernacular as fundamental to a landscape pedagogy which emphasizes learning from local conditions as essential to design solutions which can adapt a typical assembly to a specific environmental condition. The paper draws from student work developed in the project Hong Kong Detail Catalogue in the Division of Landscape Architecture at the University of Hong Kong. Download the paper here.
May 17, 2014
Open Source Cities: Next Generation Community Mapping & Open Data Infrastructure
organized and moderated by Melissa Cate Christ, transverse studio & Etienne Turpin, anexact office & SMART Infrastructure Facility
as part of Open Platform: Asia Art Archive @ Art Basel Hong Kong 2014
Level 1, Booth P1, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre
Saturday 17 May 2014 14:00-15:30
Community-led mapping practices have become an integral part of architecture and design, geography and urban studies, and artistic, curatorial, and social scientific research. In order to study the transformation of urban systems, researchers can no longer rely on inherited, proprietary maps; the next generation of urban scholars are learning to map the city with new tools and, together with residents, develop public, open source, and open access resources for civic co-management and participatory democracy.
Essential for this work is developing a better understanding of how new open source software (OSS) and open data management tools can respond to community-led activities; such a dialogue must happen in both directions to allow the technical advancement to keep pace with community action and to allow community organizers to benefit from new OSS tools. During the Open Source Cities session, we will examine new methods of OSS development as means for community transformation, preservation, and resistance in an era of relentless urban “renewal” and development.
We welcome three “types” of participants: community organizers and planners in need of better mapping tools; technical experts working on open source software development; funding bodies and government agencies who can support the development of these tools. We are excited to develop this conversation as part of the Open Platform programme of the Asia Art Archive.
- Dr. Tomas Holderness, PetaJakarta.org, UoW/Australia, 2014 Twitter Data Grant Recipient
- Mart van de Ven, Co-founder & Director and Darcy Christ, Journalism and Policy Analyst, Open Data Hong Kong, local chapter of Open Knowledge Foundation
- Hong Kong MTR data and social media representative (TBD)
- Paul Zimmerman, Founder and CEO, Designing Hong Kong
- Gabrielle Kirstein, Executive Director, Feeding HK
- Benjamin Sin, Team Leader, Caritas Community Development Project
- Other local NGO / community groups interested in or currently using open mapping tools (TBD)
A PDF flyer for the panel discussion can be found here.
All are welcome to join the discussion!
Community activists from Ciliwung Merdeka in Bukit Duri, Jakarta, test a new social media platform for post-flood damage surveys in Feb. 2014. Image courtesy of anexact.org
May 10, 2014
Make 3.0: Data with a Purpose
2-6pm, Journalism and Media Studies Centre, HKU
Daisy Tam and I will be presenting our idea for an open source application to track food waste, FoodConnectHK, at the Open Data Hong Kong hackathon Make 3.0:Data with purpose. FoodConnectHK intends to make information about food waste available for food banks, NGOs and individuals in Hong Kong based on a platform for crowdsourcing logistics. Everyday, Hong Kong throws away 32 000 tonnes of food (that’s equivalent to 120 double decker buses) and at the same time, more than 1.5 million people go to bed hungry. We want to enable the recuperation and redirection of this waste to food banks and charities that can feed the people in need. The project will start with a pilot application which identifies where waste occurs along the supply chains and distribution outlets and will provide a location based, real time platform where this information can be made available. The project is ongoing - get in touch if you are interested in participating as a researcher, developer or data journalist!
For info on Make 3.0 here and on our project here.
March 29-30, 2014
On Air: It all starts from the air
Event organized by the Clean Air Network, art exhibition curated by Yan Kallen
Melissa has been invited to exhibit photos from the 'Floating in Hong Kong' series at the event 'On Air' in Taipingshan. See the Facebook event page for more details.
Floating in Hong Kong
Melissa Cate Christ / transversestudio.com
Project Team: Andrew Toland and 2012/13 HKU BALS2 students
This series presents a new way of seeing Taipingshan, familiar yet disorienting. Taken with a camera shooting continuously while attached to a weather balloon, the accidental and somewhat precarious perspectives flatten and convolute, but also reinforce, our typical understanding of Hong Kong's densely layered urban environment. Simultaneously focusing on the neighborhood's plentiful and often underused roofs and on the crevasses separating the towers, the images reveal the complex overlay of environmental, cultural and social conditions in Taipingshan. The lack of direct sunlight on a north-facing slope crammed tightly with high rise buildings, the visual and physical relief of trees and open spaces, people negotiating the city’s complex network of pedestrian pathways - the photos ask us to consider the duality of living both on the ground and in the air.
Archiving a moment in a city perpetually reconstructing itself, our attention is captured by the spaces in between the buildings, the public spaces which are often overlooked by developers, but which make up our everyday lives, floating above, yet tethered to the ground.
Excerpted from the organizers website:
The Clean Air Network is hosting "ON AIR: It all starts from the air," a two-day event which draws attention to air pollution, sustainable transport policies, and areas such as urban planning to explore how to make our cities more people-oriented. We invite the public to explore the neighborhood of Tai Ping Shan Street in Sheung Wan. In the public spaces, alleyways, parks, sport grounds and shops, there will be a variety of different happenings for the public to participate in. The hope is to rethink the relationship between air pollution, transportation policy, urban planning and our daily lives.
March 27, 2014
Strategies of Spatial Occupation in Hong Kong
Association of Asian Studies Annual Conference
Philadelphia, PA, USA
Organizer & Chair: Melissa Cate Christ
Paper presenters: Megan Blake
Melissa Cate Christ
Discussant: Jeff Hou
Strategies of Spatial Occupation in Hong Kong
Prior to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China by the British, there was great “uncertainty as to what might disappear as Hong Kong ‘entered the Chinese fold” . However, in the past 15 years, rather than evidencing a radical or even a gradual cultural disappearance, Hong Kong residents have been reclaiming public space and its necessary operations as a way to resist the hegemonic policies of the HKSAR. This spatial occupation can be understood as a way for residents to assert their rights to the city through everyday or temporary practices and protests, but also through the identification of physical and cultural constructs that have come to define and signify their urban environments.
This panel is composed of four papers which present contemporary examples of literal and symbolic spatial occupation in Hong Kong and its effects on the construction of social, political and cultural identities in post-colonial, pre-2047 HKSAR. From examinations of migrant workers and their positive parasitic ecology; to hawkers and their provision of alternative food sources for the poor; to local resistance to global, Hong Kong and Mainland political economic policies; to community groups calling for cultural landscape characteristics to supersede top down planning initiatives, the panel presents a range of alternative strategies of spatial occupation which resist the neoliberal trajectories often applauded as the predefined path of a future Hong Kong.
For a complete description of the panel and paper abstracts, see here.
February 21, 2014
Season Shift: Radical Phenology and the Global Economy of Food
Assistant Professor Melissa Cate Christ
Lunchtime Public Lecture
HKU Division of Landscape Architecture
Friday, 21 February 2014, 1–2pm
KB622, 6/F Knowles Building, Pokfulam Road, the University of Hong Kong
This lecture is part of ‘The Lay of the Land’, a lecture series hosted by the HKU Division of Landscape Architecture focused on research in progress.
This talk presents initial research that seeks to understand our pervasive seasonal disassociation with respect to food. In particular, it highlights nodes of historical, technological and vernacular agencies and practices that have enabled the global food economy.
February 14, 2014
February 14 - May 31, 2014
HKU Visitor Centre Gallery, Centennial Campus HKU
Part of “On the Urban Fringe: In Search of the Ideal City”: a Collateral Exhibition of 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism Architecture (Hong Kong) UABB (HK), http://uabb.hk/ Co-curated by Melissa Cate Christ and Seth Denizen in collaboration with the Pokfulam Village Cultural Landscape Conservation Group and the HKU Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Centre. http://www.pokfulamvillage.com
HKU Visitor Centre Opening Ceremony
February 14, 2014 (Friday), 2:30pm
Visitor Centre, G/F, Centennial Campus, HKU
January 25 & 26, 2014
Roof Painting in Pokfulam Village
Designed by Melissa Cate Christ & Seth Denizen in collaboration with BALS3 students, and coordinated and supported by the Pokfulam Village Cultural Landscape Conservation Group, the Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Centre and the WAY Fund.
From the project's Press Release:
On the weekend of January 25th and 26th, 174 students from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) painted 50 rooftops in Pokfulam Village. Designed by HKU Landscape Architecture professors Melissa Cate Christ and Seth Denizen based on site and visual research gathered by their team of Bachelor of Landscape Architecture student research assistants and in collaboration with villagers, the project aimed to support the Pokfulam Village Landscape Conservation Group and the Caritas Pokfulam Community Development Project’s efforts to co-build a sustainable community and advocate for the re-evaluation of the existing Squatter Control Policy.
Pokfulam Village is one of the oldest villages in Hong Kong, dating back to the 1730s. It has gone through several transformations: from a simple agricultural community; to a local commercial centre in the 1950s; to a densely populated low-rise community surrounded by high-rise housing projects. Despite these changes, local traditions are still central to village life. For example, during Mid-Autumn Festival, a locally crafted Fire Dragon is paraded around Aberdeen and Pokfulam Village to pray for good health and fortune. However, many people in Hong Kong do not know about the traditional culture of the village and wrongly believe it is an informal settlement.
“According to the regulations of the 1982 squatter control policy enacted and enforced by the HK Government, many homes in Pokfulam Village are restricted in their use of material and the size of their structure so that no changes can be made to the physical materials of the structure even they deteriorate. The limited and low cost material palette of some of the village homes built in 1940s and 1980s, but whose materiality is fixed by the Policy, creates the illusion that Pokfulam Village is an urban slum”, said Mr. Allan Siu, core member of the Pokfulam Village Landscape Conservation.
Interested in the complex environmental and cultural conditions present in the village, Cate Christ and Denizen sited their HKU design studio in the village, asking students to document and propose landscape interventions in the village. This engagement in the village led Cate Christ to apply for the ‘We Are With You Project’ (WAY Project) Fund with Mary Ho in order to fund the grassroots initiative to paint the roofs. Working with a group of HKU Landscape Architecture students and in consultation with the villagers, they mapped out which roofs could be painted, and designed a plan and colour palette based on site and visual research.
“This weekend is only the beginning of the project. HKU students are only painting one quarter of the rooftops designated for painting by the design. We hope the initiative we have started will encourage other villagers to paint their rooftops and bring out the vibrancy of the village. Working closely with HKU faculty teachers and students in building a sustainable community, we hope to integrate urban heritage values into a wider framework of city development. This is also one of the recommendations in UNESCO’s Historic Urban Landscape, and we hope Pokfulam Village will be Hong Kong’s shining example”
‘Being a neighbour of Pokfulam Village, our University formed a partnership with Caritas Pokfulam Community Development Project to foster positive community capacity building in the village. Our students thus have the opportunity to discover the value of intentional communities, to develop habits of reflection and in reconciling people of different backgrounds and social groups, and also to demonstrate an understanding of sustainable community and heritage development in Hong Kong”, said Mary Ho of the HKU Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Centre.
The WAY Project is a four-year community-based social capital development project in the Southern District. Its objective is to develop a replicable model for social capital development, particularly with the involvement of staff and students of HKU.
December 30-31, 2013
Grassroots Balloon Mapping of Pokfulam Village
Project team: BALS3 student research assistants May Chan Ka Ying, Issac Chui Ho Wan, Natalie Law Wai Yan, Monique Wong Hui Yan, Olive Wong Lok Yan, and Tony Yuen Chun Yin.
As part of the site and research phase of the Pokfulam Village rooftop painting design project, BALS3 RAs spent two days creating a high resolution composite photograph of Pokfulam Village using grassroots mapping techniques - a 1.5m diameter weather balloon! Here are a few of the 10K shots they captured in 5 balloon launches from various parts of the village.
December 20, 2013
Envisioning Pokfulam Village: A Rich Cultural Landscape 薄扶林村：管制下的多元生活空間
2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism Architecture Hong Kong
December 20, 2013 - February 28, 2014
Kwun Tong Ferry Pier, Kowloon
Installation collaborators: Pokfulam Village Cultural Landscape Conservation Group, the Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Centre, and the HKU Division of Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Architecture (Melissa Cate Christ, Seth Denizen and BALS3 LADiv students)
參展團隊：薄扶林村文化環境保育小組, 香港大學何耀棣體驗學習中心, 香港大學建築學院園境建築學部
From the installation's descriptive text (by Benjamin Sin, Caritas):
The naming of Pokfulam Village to the World Monuments Fund Watch List has drawn international attention to the threatened cultural heritage of this 280-year-old village. In the 1950s, there was a dramatic increase of population in Hong Kong, with many new immigrants squatting on land in and around the village. Over time, the newcomers and the villagers have formed a single community, retaining the local traditions of the original village. This exhibit seeks to highlight the rich cultural landscape of Pokfulam Village which has flourished in spite of the restrictions the Squatter Control Policy has imposed on its physical development.
Squatter Control Policy
"The Government conducted a territory-wide Squatter Structure Survey in 1982. The purpose was to freeze the number of squatter huts at that time. Surveyed squatter huts are still unauthorised structures though they are allowed to remain in existence on a temporary basis. In normal circumstances, surveyed squatter huts will be cleared when the areas in which they are located are included in development clearance programmes or environmental improvement programmes, or for safety reasons. As such, the Government does not encourage squatter hut residents to use permanent materials to rebuild or repair squatter huts.”
-Mrs. Carrie Lam, Secretary for Development, 7.7.2010, in Legco
A large number of immigrants from China took up residence in Pokfulam Village in the 1950's, joining the existing population of indigenous residents. At that time, decent building materials were not available for constructing proper shelters, leading to the construction of so called 'squatter' housing. Some common materials were used which are prone to decay and damage, forcing residents to repair their houses frequently. Some homes were even in danger of collapse or fire, threatening the safety of inhabitants.
Intending to prohibit the transformation of squatter houses into permanent structures, the 1982 Squatter Control Policy requires that every squatter house be renovated with only the building materials which were registered in the 1982 Government, referred to above in the quote from Carrie Lam. This policy has discouraged residents from improving their homes, e.g. to provide a more solid structure, better heat insulation or a brighter appearance, as any violation of the Policy will lead to forced demolition. Deprived from improving their standard of living as other Hong Kongers have been able to do, and threatened with the loss of their only shelter, the inhabitants of the village could not help but retain the settlement’s dilapidated appearance, sometimes seen as an eyesore to the villages’s middle-class neighbours, who are unaware of the requirements of the Policy. Other Hong Kong people who share the same fate as Pokfulam Village have also requested the government to reassess and review the Policy accordingly, but so far there has been no progress or success in updating the Policy.
No one is willing to stand prolonged oppression, especially those who are embedded in an environment with rich historical, cultural and social capital. The Pokfulamers lead their reform from within their homes. They build brick walls to ensure a safe and secure home, while leaving the outside appearance untouched. The metal and wooden plates (on view to your left), understood as the masking layers, symbolize the absurdity of the Squatter Control Policy.
December 7, 2013
a celebration of HK stairs through art, theatre, dance, design and community initiatives
December 7-15, 2013
Opening tour by Melissa Cate Christ: December 7, 4pm
Join me on a walk from Wan Chai's Dominion Garden to Tai Ping Shan to tour the installations which are part of step up! and experience Hong Kong's unique Stair Culture.
More information on the installations and performances can be found at http://stepuphk.wordpress.com/
and on facebook
part of very hong kong
November 27, 2013
Wednesday, 27 November, 2013
6:30pm reception, 7-9pm discussion
Broadway Cinematheque (next to Kubrick Cafe and Bookstore), Foyer area on 1/F
Prosperous Garden, 3 Public Square Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
To celebrate the launch of SCAPEGOAT’s 6th issue - Excess - please join us for a discussion with contributors Melissa Cate Christ and Seth Denizen, issue editor Etienne Turpin, and Hammad Nasar of the Asia Art Archive
EXCESS: Consuming Hong Kong / Scapegoat Launch
Lauded as a luxury capital, with the world’s highest per capita consumption rate of luxury goods thanks to Mainland Chinese tourists, Hong Kong is exemplary of the paradoxical relationship of excess and restriction. Haunted by myths of perpetual land scarcity, the valorization of imported goods, and a leisure culture of obsessive consumption, in Hong Kong land redevelopment policy and practice have prioritized revenue generation, shopping mall tourism and outdated models of public housing construction at the expense of both cultural and environmental heritage, and the potential for a more equitable, food-secure society.
In a discussion moderated by Hammad Nasar of the Asia Art Archive, Scapegoat editor Etienne Turpin will present the concept “excess” -- the theme of Issue 05 -- as a lens which we can use to observe and assess relations of confinement and consumption, and as a provocation to intervene in these processes through activism, design, and other public platforms. Scapegoat contributors Seth Denizen and Melissa Cate Christ will then discuss, respectively, the shopping mall as a model for the therapeutic transformation of the subject, and the extreme environmental and social effects of our out-of-season desire for imported vegetables on the landscape of Almeria, Spain. These presentations will be followed by a conversation with the audience about the reciprocal relations between architecture and its adjacencies, the rise of cultural tourism, and the role of independent counter-practices in the context of Hong Kong. With this presentation and discussion, we hope the launch of Scapegoat 05 will provoke further conversations about expenditure, consumption culture, and cultural politics.
From the editorial board:
SCAPEGOAT: Architecture | Landscape | Political Economy is an independent, not-for-profit, bi-annual journal designed to create a context for research and development regarding design practice, historical investigation, and theoretical inquiry. As a mytheme, the figure of the scapegoat carries the burden of the city and its sins. Walking in exile, the scapegoat was once freed from the constraints of civilization. Today, with no land left unmapped, and with processes of urbanization central to political economic struggles, SCAPEGOAT is exiled within the reality of global capital. The journal examines the relationship between capitalism and the built environment, confronting the coercive and violent organization of space, the exploitation of labour and resources, and the unequal distribution of environmental risks and benefits. Throughout our investigation of design and its promises, we return to the politics of making as a politics to be constructed. www.scapegoatjournal.org
From the issue introduction:
SCAPEGOAT Issue 05 - Excess - Summer/Fall 2013 Ours is unquestionably a time of excess. While currencies and commodities continue to circulate and reify segregation and inequality throughout the global political economy, excess leaks out in all directions, sometimes fostering movements of resistance,at other times permitting improvisational opportunism among often neglected actors, and still at other moments irrevocably damaging ecologies and environments which we humans precariously but ruthlessly inhabit. The pleasures and perils of excess cross divisions of class, race, gender and sexuality, while also reinforcing aspects of these and other identities. Can we design for, or among, the excess of contemporary culture? How do practices of architecture and landscape architecture, as well as adjacent practices of art, installation, theory, typography, suggest ways to amplify, capture, or redirect excess?
Melissa Cate Christ is an Asst. Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Hong Kong and director of transverse studio.
Seth Denizen is a writer and landscape architect, currently teaching at the University of Hong Kong.
Hammad Nasar is a writer, curator and the Head of Research and Programmes at the Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong.
Etienne Turpin is a writer and curator living and working in Jakarta, Indonesia. He is a founder and contributing editor of Scapegoat.
November 23, 2013
Without Exteriority/Excessive Urbanism
EXCESS launch: Shanghai
Saturday November 23
3-5pm discussion, 5-7 reception
Shanghai Study Centre - more info here
WITHOUT EXTERIORITY: ARCHITECTURE AFTER THE URBAN-RURAL DICHOTOMY
By 1973, Raymond Williams’ The Country and the City had already located fundamental contradictions in the urban, academic image of rural life. For Williams, the rural was a myth functioning as a memory of the origins of the city; yet, despite his prescient analysis, the myth of a natural, conflict-free, rural space outside the city remains a compelling image even in our contemporary discourse. Following the continuing discussion of the rural-urban relation in China, initiated this year through the programming of the HKU Shanghai Study Center, this event introduces several new perspectives on architecture after the urban-rural divide.
In a discussion moderated by Daan Roggeveen and Xiaoyu Weng, Scapegoat editor Etienne Turpin will present the project of “Excess” as a means to better examine the past and present of urban-rural assemblages. Journal contributors Seth Denizen and Melissa Cate Christ will discuss, respectively, the therapeutic role of the pastoral in the psychosocial history of American urbanism, and the explosive growth of the garden as factory in Spain’s miracle economy. These presentations will be followed by a further discussion of China’s rural growth and its implications for designers and planners. If, as Peter Sloterdijk has suggested, the planet of terrestrial globalization has itself become a world interior of capital, we must examine how this global transition has entangled America, Europe, and Asia in a hyper-productive paradox of perpetual growth and the attendant crises of resource depletion, biodiversity loss, and megacity pollution. With this presentation and discussion, we hope our launch of Scapegoat Issue 05 will provoke conversations about excess, expenditure, and this architecture without exteriority.
Study Center Moderator _ Daan Roggeveen, director
Guest Moderator _ Xiaoyu Weng, writer and curator
Participants _ Seth Denizen, contributor _ Melissa Cate Christ, contributor _ Etienne Turpin, editor
See a video of the discussion here.
November 22, 2013
Melissa will be an invited studio critic, giving her lecture "Food Security and the Commons: the role of Singapore", and introducing the HKU MLA program at Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology.
Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology
Just another 'hazy' day in western-Central China!
November 10, 2013
Envisioning Pokfulam Village
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Choi Yuen Community Garden, Pokfulam Village
Join us for a community workshop to create a more accessible village!
This event is part of the Historical Settlement Festival, is organized and led by students from the HKU Division of Landscape Architecture and is supported by the Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Fund and the Division of Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Architecture, HKU. www.ad.arch.hku.hk/arch2043 firstname.lastname@example.org
October 5, 2013
a celebration of HK stairs through art, theatre, dance, design and community initiatives
December 7-15, 2013
curated by melissa cate christ
part of very hong kong
download the request for proposals (RFP) here and submit to email@example.com by October 21!
step up! is a curated exhibition of performances, events, art, and architecture installations which reflect on conflict, ownership, responsibility and cultural occupation in the context of public right of ways in Hong Kong. The installations are situated on an essential typology of pedestrian right of way on Hong Kong Island, the public staircase.
The intent of step up! is to bring greater awareness about the importance and role of stairs in Hong Kong culture and daily life. As part of the everyday landscape of mountainous Hong Kong, outdoor stairways play a critical role in creating a permeable and accessible public realm. Embedded in hillsides, stacked on sidewalks or replacing streets and alleys altogether, Hong Kong’s ubiquitous and often emergent stairs (and the complex wayfinding they enable), are a reflection of a diverse city in continual flux. Serving as markets, ephemeral gathering places, secret short-cuts, wedding photo hot-spots, or quiet rest areas away from vehicular traffic, stairways are a vital typology of pedestrian and community infrastructure which define and embody the shared cultural experience of Hong Kong’s extreme topography. Stairs in many places in the city are threatened by careless maintenance practices, infrastructure proposals and/or urban development – step up! is a chance to celebrate these unique places and the often unacknowledged stair culture they engender in Hong Kong.
Although it is relatively straightforward for government departments or utilities to acquire an excavation permit to destroy and rebuild the public surface, granting permission to occupy the same spaces with art is a complex jurisdictional negotiation. In order to successfully circumvent administrative hurdles, the challenge of step up! is to design and install work that is light, temporary, site specific, or interactive, and/or is needed and self-evident, like it has always been there. For the performances, the challenge is how to leave a trace, evidence of an event past, or a clue to a future one.
For all projects, the intent is to uncover the hidden potentials of stairs as occupiable public space, celebrate the uniqueness and complexity of HK’s urban fabric and inject an element of spontaneity and surprise into our everyday routines.
Please submit your proposal by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 21. We are offering a $1000 honorarium for each artist/team. See http://goo.gl/A4TN5H for a map of the proposed route and the RFP for more info.
September 24, 2013
This Garden of the Sun: A Report on Almería’s Miracle Economy
Melissa Cate Christ
As part of Melissa's ongoing research on the political economies and ecologies of global food production sites, networks and systems, her article "This Garden of the Sun: A Report on Almería’s Miracle Economy" has been published in Issue 05: SCAPEGOAT: Architecture | Landscape | Political Economy. You can download a pdf of the article here.
More information on the issue and a link to order it online is at
Evidence of Action
ECLAS Annual Conference
HafenCity University, Hamburg, Germany
For the 2013 European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools (ECLAS) Annual Conference, Melissa will be presenting her paper “Evidence of Action: Towards an Ecology of Objects”, as part of the Best Practices Landscape Architecture session. More information on the conference can be found here.
Extracting the notion of ecology from its traditional application in the natural sciences, we can sidestep the opposition of natural and man-made by positing that urban landscapes are collections of objects. Drawing critically on the thinking of authors such as Jane Bennett, Levi R. Bryant, Manual DeLanda, and Bruno Latour, this paper situates the practice of landscape design and planning within this collection of individual objects that participate in “systems of interdependent relations” (Bryant 2012). Objects can then be understood as evidence of infrastructural action, or as “a source of action and susceptible to being altered or “affected” by…encounters with others, and thus also a recipient of action”(Bennett and Livingston 2011, p. 12).
Within this ecology of objects, documenting individual instances as evidence of action exposes both the objects themselves and the systems they evidence, uncovering opportunities for design agency. This process creates new objects and assemblies, and affects their constituent systems. Recent work to catalog objects as evidence of action, such as Linda Pollack’s image matrices documenting ‘traces of phenomena’ (Felson and Pollack 2010, p. 362), illustrate objects both in their real, material state as things in-themselves (e.g. a curb) but also as evidencing processes which are often unseen.
To ground this movement towards an ecology of infrastructural actions, this paper presents work from the Division of Landscape Architecture at HKU where a developing pedagogy requires the investigation, documentation, and design of urban infrastructural objects simultaneously embedded within and withdrawing from their complex contingent conditions. This methodology of close observation of and active engagement in specific situations allows students to link the ‘real’ existence of objects to forces such as policy, code, construction and material practices, and social and cultural appropriation, enabling design intervention at the scale of the object (e.g. a bus stop) and with respect to the processes that the objects evidence (e.g. the public transportation network). This concurrently contextual and individuated approach requires familiarization with what exists in order to understand how, where, and why to intervene in the urban environment.
August 31, 2013
pound lane picnic 2013!
As the consultation period for the proposed pound lane escalator draws to a close (visit here to see the Government's site and give your feedback), join us in the second annual pound lane picnic to ‘occupy’ the pound lane stairs in support of preserving the valued character of Pound Lane and the Blake Garden neighborhood – our goal is to fill the entire length of the stairs with people and of course picnics!
date: saturday, august 31, 2013
location: pound lane stairs between Hollywood and Bonham Roads
This event is part of ‘step up!’ – a celebration of HK stairs through art, theatre, dance, and community initiatives. step up! will be part of the Very Hong Kong Festival in December 2013 - more details to come!
The picnic is organized by Melissa Cate Christ and supported by the Division of Landscape Architecture, University of Hong Kong, Pound Lane Concern Group, 30SGroup, Central and Western Concern Group, Greensense, Ghost Pine Organization and the Alliance for a Beautiful Hong Kong.
August 22-25, 2013
Food Security and the Commons
Beyond Borders: Building a Regional Commons in Southeast Asia: 3rd International Conference on International Relations and Development (ICIRD 2013)
Chulalongkorn University, Bankok, Thailand
As part of the panel Agriculture, Food Security and the Commons in ASEAN, chaired by Dr. George Michael Hayes, Melissa will be presenting her recent research on Singaporean local food production in relation to regional food security policy in the paper “Food Security and the Commons in ASEAN: the role of Singapore” on August 22, 2013. For more information on the panel see here and on the conference see here.
Since the conception of the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework in 2008, ASEAN member states have taken steps to implement the components and strategic thrusts laid out in the AIFS Framework. These actions can be seen as contributing to the development of a regional “commons” which is based on prioritizing the right of “all people, at all times, [to] have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO 1996). Although a wide range of conditions exist with regard to this right across the ASEAN member states, as a net-food importing country which imports 90% of its food from a limited number of sources, in this paper Singapore is presented as a case study for the increasing importance of taking a commons perspective on food supply and security. The paper is particularly concerned with actions to diversify food sources, increase local food production and promote food and agro-based industry, research, and development. In the context of a highly urbanized population with limited land and natural resources, the paper argues that those seeming disadvantages can serve to benefit both the local and wider community.
Initially part of a design research project to discover, document, and test potential strategies to address Hong Kong’s situation as a net-food importing territory which relies on a limited number of sources - 95% of its food is imported and 60% of that comes from Mainland China - this paper traces the recent history of food security policies and actions in Singapore with respect to increasing local production. The paper examines several case studies that demonstrate the application of the AIFS framework, in particular the development of research, technology and community resources for urban agricultural production. The paper concludes with a reflection on Singapore’s role in providing for a food secure future for itself, and by extension, the entire region.
July 6, 2013
viewing the archive / archiving the view
Asia Art Archive Open Weekend
Andrew Toland and Melissa Cate Christ have been invited by the AAA to hold a workshop during Open Weekend which will serve as a participatory record of the AAA’s current space, employees and visitors. The workshop will offer the public an opportunity to experience how designers document spatial conditions and experiences using the space of the AAA and its surroundings. Through a structured process, participants will take on the roles of designer, artist, storyteller and archivist to create a visual narrative about the Archive and its immediate context in order to archive past, present and future stories in Sheung Wan.
More info about Open Weekend and other events here.
June 28-29, 2013
ON WALKING conference
University of Sunderland, UK
Andrew Toland will be presenting his paper WALKING—LANDSCAPE—URBANISM at the ON WALKING conference held at the University of Sunderland and organised by the research group W.A.L.K. (www.WALK.uk.net) in association with WALK ON, an exhibition at the Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art, aims to provide a critical and discursive meeting-point for artists, writers, thinkers, and academics who are engaged in the study of walking, and to document the many diverse approaches to the study of walking.
More info about the conference here.
In April and May 2011 I walked 1200 kiometres around the island of Shikoku in Japan. I was following the ancient Buddhist pilgrimage route known as the Henro Michi. When I told them, most people visualised an extended stroll around a giant Zen garden, or a scroll painting come to life. The reality was much more brutal. Most of it was by the side of a highway though the endless, sprawling wasteland of Japanese exurbia. This paper considers walking as a medium for developing and deepening Landscape Urbanism as a theoretical position within contemporary Landscape and Architectural theory, using this experience of Japan’s contemporary landscape as a starting point.
To date, the theory of Landscape Urbanism has relied on two increasingly important techniques of representation within the built environment disciplines: satellite/aerial photography, and the field diagram. These techniques are fundamentally distancing and totalising, placing the subject and the object into an abstract relationship. They are part of the continuing legacy of modernist theory and representation in the landscape and architectural disciplines.
Walking as a medium of experience does the opposite. It embeds the subject in the urban environment, and allows for an important corrective to the distancing tendencies of other modes of experience through representation. This paper examines the implications of walking and representation for our current understanding of both landscape and urbanisation within the landscape and architectural disciplines.
June 21-September 20, 2013
Environment, Community and Design
DLA Gallery, 6/F Knowles Building, University of Hong Kong. Exhibition of student work, co-curated by Melissa Cate Christ and Andrew Toland.
June 14- 21, 2013
alternate constructions: Stair culture in Hong Kong
June 14-21, 2013
Opening reception: June 14, 6-9pm
Mapping workshop: June 15, 2-4pm
TopZoo, 66 Po Hing Fong, Sheung Wan
The exhibition features the design research of HKU students and faculty in the context of the proposed escalator along Pound Lane.
Organized by Melissa Cate Christ
Exhibition design by Andrew Toland
Supported by the Division of Landscape Architecture, University of Hong Kong and the Knowledge Exchange Fund.
More info and images from the exhibition at an escalator for pound lane? and stairculture.com.
Press statement and exhibition specs here.
May 26, 2013
Tai Ping Shan Post
Join us for the launch of the first issue of the Tai Ping Shan Post, Sunday, May 26 at 2:30pm. 32 Po Hing Fong, Sheung Wan. Check out a short video of the process of printing the paper at the last printer in the neighborhood, located on the Shing Wong stairs.
May 7, 2013
Walkable City, Living Streets
Melissa has been invited to chair the session "Streets as Public Spaces" at the conference Walkable City, Living Streets, organized by Civic Exchange, Community for Road Safety and Designing Hong Kong.
7 May 2013 (Tue)
09:00 – 17:00
Exhibition Hall, Energizing Kowloon East Office, 122 Hoi Bun Road, Kwun Tong (Map)
The full-day conference will be conducted in English (lunch-time forum will be conducted in Cantonese)
This event is free of charge but registration is needed.
From the conference website:
In support of the Second United Nations Global Road Safety Week focused on ‘pedestrian safety’, Civic Exchange, Community for Road Safety and Designing Hong Kong will co-host a full day event entitled Walkable City, Living Streets. The day is divided into three sessions/themes, ‘Pedestrian Network Planning’, ‘Pedestrian Safety’ and ‘Streets as Public Space’, and will be followed by a panel discussion on integrating the three themes in urban and transport planning in Hong Kong.
With the reputation of a world-class transport system, a major emphasis in Hong Kong has been on the efficient movement of vehicular traffic. This approach, however, can often sacrifice the safety, convenience, and comfort of non-motorized road users. How do we balance the interests of different road users and entice people to walk longer before taking transport? If we aspire to the vision of building Hong Kong as a liveable city, are we giving enough priority to the needs of pedestrians? Do our networks offer excellent connectivity and accessibility, as well as quality spaces for all to enjoy social life?
April 24-26, 2013
Open Stall / 開檔
Exhibition: April 24-26, 2013
Opening: Wednesday, April 24, 8pm
Poly U, between Core P and Core Q podium level.
Several students from Melissa's Fall 2012 Environment Community and Design course have been invited to participate in an exhibition organized by PolyU Architecture and Social Work students about HK hawker culture and issues. Winnie Yeung, Freda Yu and Dennis Fung from the BALS program will exhibit their research and engagement activity concerning Fa Yuen Street, where they solicited hawker and public opinion about the future of the street in light of new regulations proposed by the HK government in the wake of devastating fires in the market last year. The exhibition is organized by Polytechnic University School of Design and School of Social Work in collaboration with: Fa Yuen Street hawkers, Hawkerama alliance of street design, the Hawkers development platform, Hawkerama artists, and the Faculty of Architecture, University of Hong Kong,
Hawkerama artist installations include:
1. The Confessional (Chan Ka Hing)
2. Sausage Tricycle (KaCaMa)
3. Large metal Reflective Pole (Manfred Yuen)
4. Transform Bar (Kacey Wong)
5. Sketching Booth (Rainbow Leung)
6. Salt Stall (Michael Leung)
February 7, 2013
Organized and supported by the DLA, HKU, Kathryn Gustafson and Neil Porter will be lecturing on 'Designing Atmospheres and a Place that Fits' Thursday, February 7 at 6:30pm, Lecture Hall T2, Meng Wah Complex, HKU. Watch the lecture here on HKU FACArch Vimeo page.
February 2, 2013
in the know: experiments in spatial memory
At the invitation of the Asia Art Archive, Andrew Toland, Adam Bobbette and Melissa Cate Christ will be holding a workshop as part of Song Dong's new exhibition, 36 Calandars, at ArtisTree, TaiKoo Place, HK. The workshop will guide participants through a series of experiments in spatial memory, tracing and overlaying their present and past routine paths through the urban landscape of Hong Kong. The two hour session will culminate in an idiosyncratic guidebook to the secret routes of the city through collage, mapping, and mixed media construction.
More info on the Song Dong exhibition and other affiliated programmes here.
A selection of photos from the workshop can be found here.
participant memory path intersections and overlays @ in the know, feb 2, 2013
January 21, 2013
Song Dong 36 Calendars Opening event
At the invitation of the Asia Art Archive, Adam Bobbette, Melissa and four students from the Division of Landscape Architecture are participating in the opening event of Song Dong's 36 Calendars project.
From the exhibition statement: On 22 January 2013, Beijing-based artist Song Dong (b. 1966) will open his first solo exhibition in Hong Kong. Entitled ‘Song Dong: 36 Calendars’, the exhibition is co-presented by Asia Art Archive (AAA) and Mobile M+ of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority. Conceived and initiated during his residency at AAA in October 2011 and January 2012, Song spent more than a year realising this ambitious participatory project which involves the re-writing of the last 36 years of history (1978-2013) from his personal perspective in the form of 36 years of hand-drawn, wire-bound annual household wall calendars. Each of the 432 months is accompanied by a sketch of a significant historical event, relaying Song’s longtime interest in socio-political history, individual experience, and art history. During the exhibition opening, Song Dong invites over 400 members of the public to collaborate with him to complete the project by adding, changing, or editing individual months according to their own memories of historical events. Alongside Song Dong’s version of the calendar, participants’ creations will add another layer to the artwork, on display throughout the exhibition period from 22 January to 8 February 2013.
More information about the opening participatory event and the project here.
December 17, 2012
transverse studio, in a collaborative project with Seth Denizen, has been chosen as one of six finalists for a site in Landing: Lausanne Jardins 2014. From the organizers:
"The overall quality of the participating teams, and the enthusiasm we observed in the more than 400 submissions we have received, has been a great source of pleasure for us. Indeed this time the event has become more international than ever, and the call to compete has spread far and wide, from China to Mexico and from India to Norway. All in all 28 countries have been represented. Of the 150 submissions accepted for the competition stage, we have shared out the choice of locations in order to receive 6 projects per site." Final proposals are due in March. More information on Lausanne Jardins here.
December 16, 2012
pound lane picnic!
join us in ‘occupying’ the pound lane stairs to support preserving the valued character of Pound Lane and the Blake Garden neighborhood – our goal is to fill the entire length of the stairs with people and of course picnics!
date: sunday, december 16, 2012
location: pound lane stairs between Hollywood and Bonham
地點: 磅巷 (荷李活道與般咸道之間) 介時 請自備食物、飲品、及餐具等
This event is part of ‘step up!’ – a celebration of HK stairs through art, theatre, dance, and community initiatives.
Supported by the Division of Landscape Architecture, University of Hong Kong, Pound Lane Concern Group, 30SGroup, Central and Western Concern Group, Greensense, Ghost Pine Organization and the Alliance for a Beautiful Hong Kong.
此活動為 “STEP UP” 計劃的一部份。“STEP UP” 為推廣香港樓梯文化的一系列活動，內容包括藝術、劇場、舞蹈及社區推廣等
press conference at the picnic
December 12, 2012
Melissa will be presenting her work in the first HKU Arch Dept Petcha Kutcha along with Yan Gao, Tris Kee, Dylan Baker-Rice, Marcin Klocek, Jason Carlow, Martin Riese, Christian Langhe, Tom Verebes, Kristof Crolla, Olivier Ottovaere, Steven Ma, and Riyad Joucka.
December 6-7, 2012
John Lin and Melissa have been selected by HKU to present the paper Engaging Communities, Experiential Learning and a Classroom in the Real World at the 2012 ASAHIL conference at Far Eastern University (FEU) in Manila. More information on the conference here and here..
view of the san juan river from quezon ave, manila
November 19/20, 2012
Melissa will be giving a talk on 'the agency of landscape' and introducing the HKU MLA program at Chongqing University and the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts.
shibati (18 steps) neighborhood, chongqing