Saturday, September 29

3rd Annual Architecture for Humanity Minnesota Design Charrette | A Memorial Garden

The site of a future Memorial Garden.

We are happy to announce that the 3rd Annual Architecture for Humanity Minnesota Design Charrette is quickly approaching. Here are the deetz:

Hindu Temple, 10530 Troy Ln N, Maple Grove, MN 55311

Friday, October 12th (6pm to 9pm) - Introduction
Saturday, October 13th (9am to 6pm) - Design & Present

In July of 2006 two young men broke into the then still incomplete Hindu Temple through windows with baseball bats and destroyed many of the sacred deity statues that were to be honored inside the temple.
This MPR article provides a good backstory of the vandalism that was the catalyst for the Hindu Society’s request for design help from AFHMN.

Architecture for Humanity Minnesota connected with the
Hindu Society of Minnesota through Shivanthi Sathanandan, a member of the Pan-Asian Tsunami Healing (PATH) group who we worked with to design a recently completed community center in Sri Lanka (coincidently, the result of our First Annual Design Charrette back in 2005). She is a very active member of the Temple and thought of us when they started talking about designing a Memorial Garden for the burial of the icons damaged in the vandalism of 2006.

We learned that the traditional way of burying icons is to immerse them in water but that due to State and City code, the temple will not be allowed to bury the icons in this way and has asked us for some creative ideas for their burial and a concept design for a memorial garden next to the temple. The garden will be a place for people to reflect on the events that occurred at the temple and will honor the memory of these important deities.

For more information visit or contact Jeffrey at jeffrey[at]swainhart[dot]com.

We hope to see you there!

Friday Photography | Kowloon Walled City

Kowloon Walled City in 1915

We "Go East" in tonight's episode of Friday Photography. I wanted to follow up on a previous post about density in which I mentioned the Kowloon Walled City because it really is a fascinating story. I first learned about the city in reading William Gibson's Idoru, and later learned that he took further inspiration from the city for his amazingly realized anarchic sqautter city built into the Golden Gate Bridge Oakland Bay Bridge in his novel Virtual Light. As a real life local, the city has shown up up in various movies, even a Jackie Chan flick (1993's Crime Story). The Walled City even inspired the virtual settings for the video game Shenmue 2. An abbreviated & slightly annotated Wikipedia entry will weave us a short story about the amazing but now demolished Walled City:

The history of the Walled City (known as Kowloon then) can be traced back to the Song Dynasty, where it served as a watchpost defending the area against pirates and managing the production of salt. The Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory of 1898 which handed parts of Hong Kong to Britain for 99 years excluded the Walled City [which at this point was located in the heart of Honk Kong proper], with a population of roughly 700.

[Throughout the next 50 years] the Walled City remained a curiosity - a tourist attraction where British colonials could have a taste of the old China - [that is] until 1940, when during its WWII occupation of Hong Kong, Japan evicted people from the Walled City, and then demolished much of it - including the wall.

After Japan's surrender, squatters [mostly newcomers] began to occupy the Walled City, resisting several attempts by Britain in 1948 to drive them out. With no wall to protect it, the Walled City became a haven for crooks and drug addicts, as the Hong Kong Police had no right to enter the City. Mainland China refused to take care of it. The foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949 added thousands of refugees to the population.
This is my favorite paragraph. By this time it is the late 1970's and 1980's:

Square buildings folded up into one another as thousands of modifications were made, virtually none by architects or engineers, until hundreds of square meters were simply a kind of patchwork monolith. Labyrinthine corridors ran through the monolith, some of those being former streets (at the ground level, and often clogged up with trash), and some of those running through upper floors, practically between buildings. The streets were illuminated by fluorescent lights, as sunlight was rare except for the rooftops. The only rules of construction were twofold: electricity had to be provided to avoid fire, and the buildings could be no more than about fourteen stories high, because of the nearby airport. A mere eight municipal pipes somehow provided water to the entire structure (although more could have come from wells).
... the story continues:

Over time, both the British and the Chinese governments found the massive, anarchic city to be increasingly intolerable - despite the low reported crime rate. The quality of life in the city, sanitary conditions in particular, was far behind the rest of Hong Kong. After the Joint Declaration in 1984, the Peoples Republic of China agreed with British authorities to demolish the City and resettle its inhabitants. The mutual decision to tear down the walled city was made in 1987. At that time, it had 50,000 inhabitants on 0.026 km², and therefore a very high population density of 1,900,000 / km². At its height, it was one of the most densely populated urban areas on Earth.

Evacuations started in 1991 and were completed in 1992. The 1993 movie Crime Story starring Jackie Chan was partly made in the deserted Walled City, and includes real scenes of building explosions. Kowloon Walled City was destroyed in the same year. Also, as the Walled City was beginning to be torn down, a group of Japanese explorers took about a week to tour the empty walled city, making a sort of map and a cross section of the city.
That last part is fascinating. Whoever that group was, I really hope they published their research. If anybody has any information on it, or on the Kowloon Walled city in general, get in touch! Until then, I'll be keeping my eyes out for it...

OK! Enough chit chat, on with the pictures (all of which were found with a simple Google search):

Kowloon Walled City in 1973

City Of Darkness: Life in Kowloon City seems to be the definitive book documenting the city and what it was like to live there with beautiful full color photographs - this has been on my wish list for years. The only other online resource worth mentioning, besides the Wiki entry above, is this page from Twenty4 - there are some great photographs (presumbly taken from City of Darkness) there.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 27

Extreme divides between rich & poor

Disparity manifest in land use patterns pulled together by the always interesting deputydog.

The first two come to us from Caracas, Venezuela.

This one is taken on the edge of the Paraisopolis Favela in Morumbi, Sau Paulo.

Full post here. Thanks Maureen!

Saturday, September 22

Talk about mixed use

This is right up there with the Kowloon Walled City in terms of jaw dropping examples of shear density. I have no idea where this video was taken, but it's incredible. File under further evidence of ingenuity in the face of massive over population.

Skip to the end of this one for some beautiful shots from the side of train.

Saturday, September 1

The role of design in global, social, & humanitarian crisis

The lovely Cassie Neu on why design matters and our approach to it here at Architecture for Humanity: Minnesota - let it be local, let it be sustainable, let it be appropriate, let it be collaborative.

Recorded on May 2nd, 2007 at Solutions Volume 1 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.