Built and the Unbuilt. Two opposing realities leave a big question mark on what happens in the third space – the space of transition. Or rather why do the two realities end up being so oppositional? There is no better project that attempts answering this question than a competition – a project that is pushing the boundaries of the Unbuilt with the promise to be built.
1983 was the year of the Hong Kong Peak competition attracting 1700 participants including Zaha Hadid’s winning entry. Tucked away on the mountain slope, the Peak leisure club acts as a threshold between the visionary and the real. Shattered, extruded, compressed and inclined – this was Zaha’s Hong Kong drawn through the lens of her project. By breaking away from the shackles of reality, she abstracts the city, transforming its state in order to situate her building. The conceptual and physical malleability empowers the architect and her architecture to return to the animalistic instincts of the lion and the chameleon, forcing her seamless vision of the city upon the viewer.
We flip the coin to see what happens on the other side. By materialising the project in its real form, the portal connecting the visionary and the real is broken. The peak goes back to its real physicality – a part of the mountainous rock formation no longer exuding the power of manipulating the world around it. In its journey from idea to form it has lost its connection to the context of the city, changing its state to become a rock.
The project interrogates the constructed reality of the space of transition through the scales of the mountain, the glass factory and the molecule. It embraces the split personality of the Unbuilt by stating that nothing can be described in one term. Malleability, transformation and state change, therefore become the key attributes for the conceptual and material ground of my project.
We start with a blank slate. Through a series of rotational iterations going from a point to line, to plane, to cube we finally arrive at the site – a mountainous landform – the result of the first sequence of state change from abstract to real. It is a familiar situation where we as architects go through a series of means of representation, moulding our ideas and translating them into form, going from lineform to landform to builtform.
Traditionally architectural profession has been dealing with the extensive properties of matter and space; properties that you can measure and subdivide, such as length, area and volume. The fluctuating nature of the project calls for a shift from extensive to intensive properties, describing speed, temperature and density among others. The landform is never fully built. It is in constant process of transformation by the external forces. “To study its form is to study change.”
This is, however, no ordinary landform. As we embark on our journey to its Peak, we encounter visual clues to its hybrid nature of acting as both the site and the building material. Carved into the rocky grounds of the mountain sits the glass factory, the ultimate laboratory of state change, a space where raw ingredients get mixed, moulded and transformed to become their translucent alter egos. The factory does not simply occupy a given site. Instead it constructs the site itself, by constantly carving and depositing raw materials around it.
We now enter the factory, a space of critical threshold where Built and the Unbuilt coexist. It is the space where ideas are translated to form and where coarse qualities of the rock are gradually replaced with the refractive qualities of glass. The factory becomes the living organism, the homage to the cycle of architectural transformation