Hongkou Residential Community- Olivia Lau & Mo Wan Li, RPI/Tongji University

Check out today’s post, a housing complex from Olivia and Mo Wan Li, a joint project done while RPI student’s were abroad at Tongji University in China.  The project aims to create a more formal space for those in the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, by providing a more concrete presence to their inhabitation, and also breaks down the boundaries between the different socio-economic classes.

STUDENTS: Olivia Lau and “Elanor” Mo Wan Li
SCHOOLS: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Tongji University
CLASS: RPI/TJ Study-Abroad Program, Spring 2010
PROFESSORS: Gustavo Crembil, Hong Chen, Wei Wei, and Xu Hongtao
PROGRAMS USED: Rhinoceros 4.0, Google Sketchup, Adobe CS4

 “In the laboratory of urbanism that is today’s Chinese city, an architectural hiatus appears between the coarse-grained urban vision of centralized planning and the tangible reality of building and development. In this chaotic and unexpected gap, defined by the oppositional praxis and experiences of the planned (the idealized “power point city”) and the organic (the everyday city), there is fertile ground and opportunities for new programmatic speculations and architectural tactics.

New urban forms/situations/processes could be burgeoning within the Chinese city, but it may be necessary to develop new relational tools, at the level of the quotidian, to bring them to the surface. It could be an opportunity for a bottom-up approach. Through the observation and documentation of everyday life, students will propose alternative futures looking to establish and/or complete existing urban contexts, looking to stitch / repair / correct the urban, ecological, and social fabric.”

– Gustavo Crembil

A boundary is a restriction that contains activity or movement. The site in Hongkou, North Shanghai, is populated by residential typologies that create physical and implied boundaries. Each typology – the informal housing, the lilong complex, and the middle-rise towers – generates its own community that reinforces hierarchical boundaries between the different social groups.

This proposal replaces the informal housing with new residential communities. The voids of the elevated housing complex and the green spaces of the mixed-use village form a figure-ground relationship. The voids create an implied network that manifests as connected green spaces in plan. The undulating surfaces between the ground and the elevated complex are simulated in section by the expansion and contraction of the village’s green spaces.

Our proposal permeates the boundaries between the existing communities in four ways:

1.       The interior road is moved to combine the four residential areas and separate them from the new commercial and bus stop strip along Siping Road. It is replaced by a pedestrian walkway that connects the four areas.


2.       Horizontal paths allow access from the streets and into each residential area.

3.       Green and open spaces are created for all residents.


Rendered view underneath the housing slab.

4.       Difference programs are inserted into different areas, catering to the residents of the whole site and helping to create the proposed circulation.


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