Chelsea Chan - PhD. Design and Social engagement

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PhD Researcher
Ms Chelsea Chan

Ms Chan Hei, Chelsea has engaged in architectural and interior design profession for more than ten years. She graduated from School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Environmental Design and Southern California Institute of Architecture in Master of Architecture. She received the Hong Kong Young Design Talent Awards in 2006 and worked in world-renowned architectural firms, such as Aedas and RTKL, as well as small design studio such as Graft and Design for People, participated in big and small projects including mixed-used commercial, office, exhibition, entertainment etc. She is also committed to charity projects and involved in Sri Lanka school design, Yunnan earthquake rebuild and leprosy recovery village participatory building etc. Questioning why great architecture serve so few and how can architects use their training for the greater good, she came back to School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University to pursue her PhD research in social design, with a focus on social architecture, rural vulnerable community.and sustainable development.

PhD Title
Capacity vs. Vulnerability: Healing through spatial intervention in rural vulnerable community



Spatial intervention, asset-based community development, participatory design, interdisciplinary cooperation, sustainable development.

Research Abstract
The production of space for a rural vulnerable community is usually done through the government and professionals in a needs-based, top down, outside in approach without understand the underlying causes and local culture.The outcome, after investing considerable human and financial capital, might not be effective and even worse, it may have harmed vulnerable people when trying to support them. More often, vulnerability is not only lack of material resources, but also suffering from poverty of spiritual intimacy, poverty of being, poverty of community and poverty of stewardship. A more desirable way would be an asset-based, bottom up, inside out approach. The design process itself could be a healing process to empower their capacity. This research study is to explore in what extent spatial intervention through a holistic approach with interdisciplinary, asset-based, participatory development can activate tangible and intangible value to increase the capacity of people as well as contribute to locally driven sustainable community development.

Research Methodology
Literature reviews will be made to study the current knowledge including substantive findings as well as theoretical and methodological contributions on related topics. Case study will be conducted to make an in-depth exploration on how different communities have applied spatial strategy to increase local capacity and achieve sustainable community development. The data will be collected through documentation, archival records, interviews and observations. It contributes to the understanding of varies communities on their strategic choice, implementation and effect. Based on findings through both literature review and case study, a critical evaluation and theoretical framework would be developed. The theory built will be then applied to a vulnerable community through participatory action research (PAR) for theory testing, which will engage vulnerable groups, NGO and related parties as co-researchers.

Results / Outcomes
1. To foster culture, economy, social relationship and built environment of underserved community and increase capacity and self esteem of the vulnerable people.
2. To build up a typology towards community sustainability development upon the result of the spatial intervention model.
3. To explore the role of designers in fostering sustainable community development process.

Key Publications
Chan. H, Hasdell. P, Hsieh. M.H, & Kwong, M.Y, 2020. "Interdisciplinary, asset‐based, participatory development approach confronting with vulnerabilities and inequalities‐ Superadobe house architectural intervention in XiaoShuiJing leprosy rehabilitation village as case study", 27th World Congress of architects UIA 2021 Rio, Brazil

BA Hons in Environmental Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (First Class Honours);
Masters of Architecture, Southern California Institute of Architecture;
Chartered member of RIBA;

Mr. Peter Hasdell  (Chief Supervisor) Gerhard Bruyns (Co-supervisor)

Specialization / Interests
Spatial Design, Social Design

Date of Completion
August 2022

Study: Phd
Study mode: Full time