MDes Talks: Workshop – Ten Thousand at Sea

The first workshop started with the “first official week of classes” after the Mid-autumn Festival.

With an incredible team of 39 Italian students and 6 professors from Venice, Reggio Calabria, and Ancona, from Università Iuav di Venezia, Università degli Studi Mediterranea, and Marche Polytechnic University, and 13 students and two professors from Hong Kong, PolyU Urban Environments Design (MDes) programme, this huge group, divided into 7 teams, had a one week work to think about the theme, « Ten Thousand at Sea ».

Hong Kong doesn't give the right of abode, asylum or any right (work, live, and access to, healthcare system, education, transportation,etc) to refugees that come to this land. They just get stuck in a “legal limbo”. For a hypothetical situation, the refugees could try to find abode in a no one land, the open sea located in Sok Kwu Wan, a protected bay in Lamma Island, the third largest island in Hong Kong.

Venice and Hong Kong: Cities in Common

Students from Venice and Hong Kong – cities surrounded by water – should already be familiar with an environment of islands and sea. Despite some common understanding of this topic, all students set out on a visiting tour to explore Lamma Island to understand the locality. Not only to explore, but also to feel and discover first-hand on what is and what means to be in this particular place that is so different from Hong Kong (in terms of its urbanized high-density living) and yet, makes part of one of the 150 islands that comprises of this area. By the end of the day, a heart-warming and delicious reward: dinner at Lamma Hilton Restaurant, with fresh seafood and a breathtaking night view of the sea and Aberdeen.

The Water is the Land and the Land is the Water

Among many proposals, one of them was to think of the sea as the « new new territory », where the values are opposite to the regular idea of land and sea. In this case, the water is the land and the land is the water. Since refugees have no right of abode in Hong Kong and the water is the only place that belongs to no one, the water becomes their land. Another perspective contributed by this group was the idea that the refugees are nothing more nor nothing less than people, of course, in a specific situation, but people that have the same needs as any other communities.

As a hypothetical project, some groups went afar and afforded the luxury of creativity to propose ideas like a cloud housing for the refugees, or even a “bridge” for them – in a place untouched by land, sea and sky. All the groups had different ideas, different conceptions and ways to work and build this scenario.

No matter where the solution was found, the groups were trying to find themselves, trying to define a scope and a common language to make it work, by using at least two medium including, sketch, diagram, photomontage, storyboard, or video. A unique mix of cultures and differents opinions composes a patchwork.

To be Part of the World, to Know the Meaning of Human Being

This week meant much more than an exchange of cultures, ideas and information. A humanistic project like this one is about being part of the world and also knowing more about the meaning of human being. Just like a refugee, a human being in the middle of the sea, in a place of belonging to nowhere and at the same time a place where everyone can belong.

Photo Credit: Sylvia Yeung, Matteo Vianello

Posted by Sylvia Yeung - Living the 20's years old issues and doubts. Born in Brazil, with the heart in Hong Kong. Graduated in Architecture and Urban Planning at Mackenzie Presbyterian University, Sao Paulo. Living and exploring the concrete jungle and mix of emotions contained in the city where the journey of the ancestors began. A current Master's student in Urban Environments Design (MDes).
MDes Talks is a series of Student Blogs contributed by students in different specialisms under the Master of Design Scheme. It is set out to share students’ first-hand experience in the d-school pedagogy, their projects, takeaways, and student life in general.