Studio Exhibition (10/F): Participatory Design

Normalization, Control, and Tooling for Maintenance in Participatory Design

This photo essay documents repair, maintenance, and modification zof Hong Kong’s fixed-pitch “Hawker Stall” locations in on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula. These images will be presented along with Hong Kong Hawker Stalls – Normalization, Control and Maintenance in Participatory Design (Elkin 2017), at the College Art Association (CAA) February 2018 Conference in Los Angeles:

After a 2011 fire in Fa Yuen Street, designers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University created a new, standardized hawker stall they deployed in parts of the city to reduce risk of fire and improve the utility of hawkers in certain locations. The consequences of agency caused by this normalization become evident in hawkers’ efforts to repair, alter and maintain their new stalls since the transition. Tooling decisions such as the use of powder coating, positioning of enclosure, and electrical layout reflect contests between top-down and bottom-up design as the new hawker stalls develop the patina of modification and repair.

This research presents a photo essay on this process and suggests that, while no normative design process can anticipate all change, the relationships between tooling, repair, and consumer agency should be part of any consumer-oriented, top-down design process. Thereby, this work probes the boundaries designers provide between the need for aesthetic normalization and the inevitabilities of repair, modification, and maintenance.

This inquiry is a continuing body of work researching the relationship between tooling, design representation, and agency, particularly focused on metalworking and designers’ ability to add value by closely examining tooling capacity in particular sites and groups. The paper and photo essay are to be published via the CAA conference proceedings,, and ellipsisstudiodesign on Instagram.

Exhibitor: Daniel Elkin (Assistant Professor)