Author : Anahita Chouhan

University : The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

Status : BArch, 2013

Advisors : Marcos Cruz, Marjan Colletti, Richard Beckett

Title : Serendipitious House

Running parallel with the notion of p o r o s i t y, the project takes a close look at housing in the [dwelling] rich-city of Hong Kong. The cities dense proximity of building + housing typologies instantly calls for vertical-ity; not just as an architectural building type, but also as a ‘go-to’ housing typology.

The design process began with material explorations, yet always accommodating the core theme of density. For instance, density was explored through experimenting with latex and how the fluidity of the material could be exploited in order to create solid, elongated and flexible rigidity. This notion of flexibility was an indirect focus influencing the design process, directly after this brief exploration exercise. Flexibility, as part of the housing type was initially incorporated as a means to inflate space, however it resolved itself through the development of triplex, quadruplex and quintuplex housing units.

[Stacking-housing] equates to efficiency in Hong Kong, in addition, reducing building footprints only adds to the efficient building type. The site, located in the Mid-Levels region of Hong Kong, sits alongside the Mid-Levels escalator. Access to the building can be achieved from multiple points, from private residential access, public intersections, including the escalator itself and underground car access – all of which coincide with Hong Kong’s extreme urban topography.

Adhering to the new building guidelines for Hong Kong, the project deals with energy efficiency by means of a solar photovoltaic façade system. The panels, which are incorporated into the flexi-material encasing the south façade of the housing unit, expand using oxygen in correlation to the amount of sunlight they receive. The expansion of the façade ensures that surface area is increased in order for the building to absorb as much sunlight as possible, to be able to feed back into the buildings’ lighting system at night. To sum up the buildings environmental strategy, the south-facing site benefits from the long exposed natural light and utilizes this natural occurrence, to design a self energized facade treatment – aiding for inventive sustainability within the built environment.

The classic building style of a central concrete core is not only employed, yet physically and visually embraced in this project. It has however, been manipulated in order to reduce the overall environmental impact of the building. Less concrete is used, and the concrete that is used, is more effective in terms of structure and primarily stabilizing to achieve static-equilibrium. The twisted, interconnecting cores surround the lift-shaft and in a tornado like form, seamlessly erect to the top of the building. Interestingly enough, these organic vertices play a dual role in structural support; not only supporting the floor slabs, but creating a series of structural nodes in which the housing becomes attached too.

Through various iterations of complex interlocking housing modules, permeability through private vertical circulation, and horizontal public interaction, the Serendipitous House for Hong Kong is manifested.


S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we, the audience, should be aware of?
Anahita Chouhan_ Dealing with the locality of Hong Kong and addressing the necessity for verticality in the city. The project is about maximizing space and potential whilst minimizing the impact on the environment by using sustainable building methods. This is most evident in the “reduction” of the concrete core structure. Concrete has been removed and then been reinforced in order to create a lattice where structural stability is required most. In addition, the project deals with photovoltaic facade systems in a contemporary way, by harnessing the properties of pliable and flexible materials with embedded PV cells. The facade expands and contacts with oxygen during peak sunlight hours, so that when the sun goes down in Hong Kong, the energy gained can be used to light up the public podium levels at night.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interests you?
AC_ I love graphics, photography, and curating. Anything to do with constructing visual information I can relate with; this notion of curating or putting together graphical components is an art in itself and would want to be apart of that process whether or not it pertains to architecture. I think one can find beauty in anything.

S//A : Most important thing you remember from architecture school?
AC_ How to draw. Drawing is essential and probably the only skill you’ll ever need in the big bad world of contractors, planners and endless meetings where things need resolving quickly, and by hand! The other most important thing I remember is, nothing is ever finished. Do it, and then do it again, the final result is just an illusion of how better it can be. Doing something once is never enough when it comes to resolving a design, because even when it’s finished, it could always be improved. The sooner you can understand that something might not be perfect the first time round, the sooner you can work on a better version of it.

S//A : What is your dream project
AC_ A large scale mixed use project in a rapidly evolving city, rich in complexities and social disparity. I want to be able to tackle the issues that are ever arising in large cities, how to encompass the need for multi functional buildings whilst being sympathetic to locality. It is so essential in contemporary architecture to be able to combine functionality with beauty and form – to make buildings that are relevant and not just iconic.