Service: Architectural, Interior Design

Category: Residential, Villa

Location: Yuen Long, Hong Kong

Year: 2013
Client: Private
Construction cost: HKD 6,000,000
Area: 6,300 sqft

The 3 detached villas are making a statement to challenge the conventional “New Territories Exempted Houses“ prototype which has been predefined by stringent government regulation. By lifting, slicing and interlocking different volumes in a three-storey villa, unique external forms and interior spaces are created.

Design Statement:

Ha Tsuen Village Houses- Un-volumetrizing Volumes for Living 

In Hong Kong, architecture falls victim to the tyranny of faceless 'volumes for living'.

In a typical residential developments in Hong Kong dictated by stringent statutory control and developers’ financial concerns, 
architecture is synonymous to the act of collective buying and selling of homogeneous 'volumes for living' that are deliberately 
devoid of characters. Sold as a tabula rasa, thousands of individual buyers may reinterpret these right-angled volumes to suit their individual needs.

New Territories Exempted Houses (NTEH, colloquially referred to as 'village houses'), which are governed by meta-spatial 
descriptions under the Buildings Ordinance (In a nutshell, they are not to exceed 3 stories, 8.23m tall and 700 sq ft roofed area) and often developed by small developers for merely a handful of buyers - offers one the opportunity to rethink whether these meta-spatial descriptions, drastically more flexible than provisions applicable elsewhere, should lead again to the same anonymous living spaces. 

Alas, in most cases the NTEH meta-spatial provisions aspire not, for instance, to 3 stories, 8.23m tall and 700 sq. ft. of "unfolded 
planes"; of "congested diversities"; nor of "urban artifacts"...in other words, of any brave new architectural tenets, but to the same impartial 'volumes for living' with no will nor agenda of its own, ready to be prostituted, even though nowhere does it say it has to be so. 

Brutal, monotonous and yet ironically 'custom-made' unions of anonymous living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms... 'volumes for living' form a landscape that belong unmistakably to the New Territories. 

In designing the Ha Tsuen Villas, we have taken 3 stories, 8.23m tall and 700 sq. ft. (of something) as it is - no more and no less than a set of meta-spatial descriptions with an open-ended raison d'être. Within this boundary, we allowed floors, walls and openings to clash with, juxtapose with and defy against each other; we pushed, pulled, interlocked volumes of living spaces, slashed through wall to let slits of light in here, chiseled monoliths of volumes to leave crevasses within which staircases snake through, pry open masses to create soaring clerestory atria and- in other words- fissured an imaginary, orthogonal three-dimensional boundary permitted under the Ordinance. Pointe-ing at equilibrium, every wall, slab and door revolts against the hegemony of the monotonous 'volumes for living'. They blur the boundary between the inside and the outside; they unfold volumes into platforms for spontaneous uses; they allow masses to float, walls to dissolve, partitions to be torn open and, most importantly, they form a staccatoed, rhythmic series of spaces that allow human activities to expand and contract within accordingly. 

The results of these Gordon Matta Clarke- styled 'rage against the volume' were astounding juxtaposition of contradictory spatial notions: the houses appear to be restless and bursting with energy, and yet they share a harmonious, amicable existence with their neighbors; massive, monolithic, aluminium-clad volumes protrude out from the external wall, and yet they appear to float peacefully in mid-air at the same time; walls separate and define spaces not by their masses but by the slits of light they let through their gaps... as such, rather than being an uneventful combination of ideologically whitewashed rooms and kitchens, the Ha Tsuen Villas offer breathtaking spatial moments, each with their own characters. 

All these took place with no rules broken - because each of the Ha Tsuen Villas is, after all, a 3 stories, 8.23m tall and 700 sq. ft. of - as it is now known - un-volumetrization of the volumes for living.


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