Claudia Cheng
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New(s) Architecture

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. ​Ho Puay Peng

Site: Edinburgh Place, Central, Hong Kong

Conceptualized amidst the 2019 Hong Kong protests, this thesis explores the news media landscape and its architecture in today's post-truth digital age, an issue very much rooted within the larger architectural discourse of the diminishing physicality of place. The digital revolution has created easy access to information abundance, filtering our worldviews through the algorithms that build our social networks. With the echo chamber of social media replacing journalism, the public sphere is at stake. The disappearance of the architecture of news media is a physical manifestation of this decline, perpetuating a vicious cycle in which the lack of urban presence and identity-relevant architecture creates increasing public distrust in the news.

In today’s fast-paced news environment, it is difficult to extract information and find time to reflect, de-ritualizing cycle of news, seperating it from time and place. This thesis thus speculates a new typology for a news media centre that encompasses an archival facility and co-working hub open to the public, key programs becoming increasingly intertwined due to the increasing speed of the news cycle. The architecture aims to reflect the present state of the physicality of news media as a series of temporal instances, reinstating the ritual of news and embedding it in space by capturing and displaying the ephemeral “flow” of information and time as breaking news becomes accessible archival material. 

Edinburgh Place Masterplan & Conservation

Edinburgh Place presents a centrality in relation to financial and political powers and a historical significance as a civic centre due to its location on the low-lying axis of leisure spaces stretching towards the harbour and its trifecta of civic programs - the City Hall, General Post Office and the piers. Due to land reclamation, however, the site has been pushed inland by a new commercial waterfront space. This lends an opportunity for the new proposed materplan and conservation efforts to reintroduce a sense of "public-ness", supporting the news media program as the "fourth estate".  

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Strategies

(1) Site Entrances + Plaza

A sunken plaza acts as a public node for gathering at the intersection of the main circulation across the site, providing vantage points to view the ‘signs’ of information

(2) Urban Connector

An above ground connection across the site that weaves through the building to, blur the  boundary between public and private programs, while displaying a spectacle of temporality.

(3) Historical

Key features and the column grid are conserved. The General Post Office volume is divided and the middle zone tilted parallel to that of the historical axis to enhance the relationship between both structures and frame the activities within the space.

(4) Programmatic Massing

The programs represent different slices of time within the flow of information. The arrangement of programs in relation to the connector situate visitors within the interstices of time as they experience the informatio flow.

The disconnection between the three buildings on site posed an opportunity to extend the elevated walkways unique to the Central district into the site. Borrowing from the vertically layered urban landscape, the urban connector weaves public access through the architecture, blurring the boundary between public and private. This increases transparency through visual connections between visitors and news media and archival programs, while also allowing the flow of people and informational material to become part of the facade, creating a ‘spectacle’ of temporality emerging from the interaction between the public and the architecture.

Creating Flow - The Urban Connector

The formal programmatic elements, including the newsroom and broadcasting studios, are housed within glass blocks that float above the urban connector, creating a display for the public, while the archival stacks are housed in the basement, stretching up above the ground floor so they can be viewed upon approach and from the atrium spaces above. Collection cores bring material up from the archival stacks to be collected in lockers inspired by the rows of letter boxes once situated within the GPO. These vertical stacks, coupled with the mechanical systems in the basement allow for the archival material to be in constant motion, forming a dynamic centerpiece and a sense of connectivity throughout the different floors.

The New General Post Office -  Accessible Information
Bridging Time through the Physical + the Virtual

The Depository and Vault reflects the shift of news media towards a democratic record of temporal events which act as a collective approach to preserving the temporal nature of Hong Kong’s “culture of disappearance”. The Depository draws from the heterotopic nature of the site’s history of civic demonstration, aiming to reflect a more ground-up attitude, while the Vault acts as the centre-piece of the site, presenting a sculptural form visually symbolic of the temporal and multifaceted condition of the current landscape of news media. VR and AR engage the viewers throughout these spaces, creating a dualistic experience invoking the dynamic element of constant change which defines the news cycle. 

View Zoom Critique here: