WIND VALLEY by David Rohr

FINAL YEAR MSC PROJECT 2
EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY

How do you make space where there is none ?

This proposal takes place in the district of Kowloon, Hong Kong. It constitutes a reflection on issues and opportunities in Asian Cities. 
Its core design parameters are gentrification, urban regeneration and air quality and aims at linking these topics together to benefit each other.

Kowloon under Construction

Since Hong Kong Island is close to built saturation, the next logical step seems to be Kowloon’s urban regeneration. This is confirmed by the simultaneous presence of 3 large scale projects within a mile’s radius. They are largely responsible for tripling the area’s real estate prices in less than a decade and could very well be triggering a “Bilbao effect”. 
As much as a well conducted urban regeneration is beneficial to the local population and economy, its collateral effects, notably gentrification, also need careful consideration during the planning process.

1) Central Kowloon Route

This project proposes to link Kowloon’s west with the south east through an underground 4.7 km dual 3-lane trunk road. It is commissioned by HKSAR Government’s Highways department. Expected to start in 2015 and reach completion as early as 2020/2021, the project’s design and planning are roughly estimated at HKD 200 million.

2) WEST KOWLOON TERMINUS

The west Kowloon terminus would link Beijing to Hong Kong with a direct High speed train line. It is commissioned by MTR Corporation, started in 2008 and is expected to be completed in 2015. Its costs are estimated at HKD 23 Billion.

3) WEST kowloon Cultural district

WKCD is the largest of the 3 projects. It is a multi-use development with priority on cultural spaces such as museums, theatres, and concert halls. Started in 2006, its second stage is expected to reach completion in 2026. It has benefited from an up-front endowment of HKD 21.6 Billion from the HKSAR Government.

URBAN CANYON

It affects cities where polluted atmosphere is stuck between tightly packed buildings. This problem may seem economically unsolvable as Hong Kong’s real estate prices keep on rising. However, progress in computer assisted design and engineering might open new opportunities in sustainable design. For instance, Computational Fluid Dynamics enabled the simulation and visualization of wind patterns hitting the urban mass.  

As impermeable as the city may appear at first glance, a detailed study revealed that some large scale turbulences and irregularities within the city’s edges may be harvested and channeled into town. This would allow to re-instigate lost air channels through the streets, purging toxicity and also countering the “Heat Island” effect.

CARVING NEW AIR CORRIDORS


1) Mapping Airflow and the Physical environment

The first step was to assess the terrain in terms of potential for regeneration. This is done visually by rating the state and size of the buildings within the site. Small and damaged ones (darker on the map) are deemed in greater need of attention and more financially accessible to investors. Tall buildings in a good state are disregarded from the regeneration process.

 

2) Selecting the Area of intervention

After evaluation, the site is refined to a smaller area of intervention. The wind corridor restoration is done by carving out a path starting from potential air entry points, through the smallest and most decrepit buildings, and towards the city centre.

 

3) Differentiating buildings

Within the carved “valley”, a distinction is made between the buildings. The one in the center of the corridor are marked to be extracted completely, whereas some of the border ones are chosen for greater architectural redevelopment, bringing a potential source of private revenue to the project.

 

4) Recovered Air Corridor

At completion, the project is expected to greatly increase the quality of air and life within the site and its neighborhood, by restoring and enhancing wind corridors while generating rare open spaces.

MANipulating vertical typologies

Once a  wind corridor  has been carved out  through Yau Ma Tei, a re-organization of what’s left is necessary. The redeveloped buildings will serve as foundation to develop the district’s core vertically. This enables a reasonable rise in the urban density while still creating more open spaces. Furthermore, it will increase the size of the buildings to match the district’s edges.

The footprints of the removed buildings are kept as a reminder of the urban fabric and grid. Three building layers are stacked upon each other.
Gaps are left between them to further increase airflow regeneration  while creating desperately needed open spaces.

Gentrification is accepted into the development, as a design constant to be built upon. Penthouse development will welcome higher social classes into the district and increase financial over all viability.
The 2nd garden layer will be exclusively accessible to the people living in the 3rd and 2nd building layers, as a quiet retreat from the buzzing market life underneath.
The 2nd building layer will offer a mixed-use development of office and residential spaces. The resulting building blocks are designed to match the pre-existing height (6-8 stories) of the Yau Ma Tei district.
The 1st garden layer will be publicly accessible, affording pedestrians to circulate higher above ground pollutants in open spaces of better quality.
Although the building chosen for regeneration will be rebuild from scratch, the 1st building layer will be greatly inspired by Yau Ma Tei’s market-place-character and mixed use typology. Indeed a similar arrangement of residential spaces, shopping centres, boutiques and restaurants will be specified to help blend into the district.