Occupy Hygiene Control


Thomas Chung  鍾宏亮  /  Weijen Wang  王維仁

Hygiene and control are two seemingly irrelevant things depending on how we look at it. We all wear masks today and that is clear what hygiene is at a personal level. Hygiene is also related to the notion of healthy city which had been a core issue for modern urban planning, and of public concern in recent years. This issue could also relate to government funding for hospital designs and healthcare projects in the last decade specifically. At all levels hygiene is concerned not only about updating health care facilities, but also about the control of social interaction from perspectives of safety, interweaving with issues from technical measures to civic rights; public health and urban ventilation; urban access and separation; well-being and safety of building services; sample testing and data access; social distance and human interaction, as well as social and political control. Hygiene and control concerns all of us from every aspect of architecture and urban daily life: healthy buildings, healthcare projects, urban habitation and movement, as well as our urban and public spaces. WW

      Some questions we may wish to ask: What is the role of architecture in designing a hygienic and healthy city? What type of controls would and should a healthy city need for it to achieve adequate cleanliness, security and a sense of viable normality? What design challenges do pandemics pose for hospital and healthcare facilities as well as public urban spaces? How will architecture, urban design and planning respond to the emerging spatial practices and new normals of the post-pandemic world? TC

      The traditional planning model of a modern city stipulates having a central business district (CBD) for maximum commercial efficiency. CBDs typically require people to commute using public transport – a mode of operating that has demonstrated its deficiencies during a period marked by social unrest and the pandemic. All the latest technologies and new work models adopted during this period have prompted us to rethink whether CBDs are the right development mode for the future. Instead of people needing to commute long distances, could an alternative decentralised model combining commercial and residential uses in different parts of the city be a better approach for improving our city’s liveability and resilience? JC    A related issue is public transport to and from work or for other purposes. Recently, I noticed some people are starting to avoid public transport for health reasons. Cycling has been proven to be a successful means of transport in other cities in the world, yet the current design of our city does not allow us to do that extensively. I think this is another aspect we can advocate for the government to consider further – the importance and feasibility of alternative modes of transport such as bicycles. JC

      Decentralisation is one way to tackle this problem. As Covid-19 spreads by contact, we have been forced to rethink how we interact with each other while maintaining a safe distance. We see more people working from home. In public, we may require more space between people to reduce possible contact. These experiences will have an impact on land-use allocations, possibly pointing to bigger open spaces. We probably need to plan for sub-centres outside CBDs, but we could also consider building “reverse sub-centres”. One example of such a reverse centre is Central Park in New York, built around a natural centre rather than an urban one. Such schemes could allow pockets of spaces with good ventilation and a high-quality environment where we can interact safely. We might want to think about what type of planning for decentralised areas could support work, play and social activities without anyone needing to leave their own district. RL

      Since the SARS pandemic of 2003, we have become more aware of the need for social distancing – not only for people, but also for buildings. I designed the Hong Kong Community College in Hung Hom Bay about ten years ago. For this project, we deliberately expanded the building’s form, allowing it to spread out and create ventilated spaces. Two large sky gardens allow natural air to flow through the building. They also provide the open space needed to house 3,000 students on a small site. With more airflow through buildings, the city is better ventilated. While developers, clients and even the government may be more concerned with GFA control and ensuring sufficient development bulk, architects, urban designers and planners should strive to design for a healthy city. Perhaps we should have systems that promote the incorporation of environment and nature into building projects, for example through the Building Department’s Review of Bonus GFA Concession Scheme. That would not only allow developers to gain more floor area but would also create more public or green space. Singapore, I understand, has such incentives and requirements, so we see more public spaces and greenery on roofs there. BL