This research interrogates post-World War Two housing development in Asian cities. Intensive urbanization set the stage for the mobilization of women and migrant labor and the merging of public and private spheres. In Hong Kong and Singapore, the composite or mixed-use strata building embodies the historical tensions between city and home, public and private, colonial and Chinese, real and ideal, and masculine and feminine realms. For this reason, such a commonplace housing type in Hong Kong and Singapore becomes a pertinent subject through which to establish a constructive framework in understanding the urban and the domestic, in concept and practice, from a multidisciplinary perspective.
Pre-existing scholarship on the history of working-class housing in postwar Hong Kong tends to describe the efforts of the authorities to solve “housing problems” stemming from crises (of fires, refugees and squatters). Hong Kong’s built environment is depicted as an inevitable product of free market enterprise predicated on efficiency and economy. In contrast, the research project on the composite building, proposes to uncover the gap in the city’s housing history by illuminating that the relationship between the urban landscape, domestic experience and architecture is produced by a process of contestation and negotiation among multiple actors and actions: government (development policies), developer (speculative practices), architect (housing blueprints), resident (everyday inhabitation), women and the family (domestic labor and familial routines).
The research project is organized around case studies on composite buildings. Each episode investigates how wider urban anxieties and geopolitics produced by the Cultural Revolution and the Cold War were played out through confrontations between the real and perceived inhabitation of the composite building. Collectively they offer new insight into how housing architecture has evolved in tandem with urban discourses amid the making of Hong Kong as the quintessential Asian capitalist city.
Lectures & Conferences
Eunice Seng, “Agency and Affordability: transnational technologies and housing a city,” Re: Housing: Detroit Symposium, The University of Michigan, Sep. 13. 2019
Eunice Seng, “High Density, Housing and Architecture: Some historical and critical reflections,” Rethinking Modern Asia-Pacific Architectures: New Aesthetic Pedagogies International Workshop, co-convened by A. Pereris and D.F. Lu, at The University of Melbourne, Jul 4-5, 2016
Eunice Seng, “Breaking News: narratives of a Composite Building between tradition and development, or, an Architecture of Impatience, 1964-2014,” Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE), Kuala Lumpur, Dec 14-17, 2014
Eunice Seng, “The City in a Building, Hong Kong c.1956-1966,” Expansion & Conflict: Proceedings of the 13th Docomomo International Conference Seoul, edited by Ana Tostoes, Jong Soung Kim and Tae-woo Kim, 264-69. Seoul, Sep 19-29, 2014
Eunice Seng and H. Koon Wee, “City Buildings/Building Cities,” Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) 102nd Annual Meeting: Globalizing Architecture, Miami Beach, Florida, Apr 10-12, 2014
Eunice Seng, “Whose Habitat? Housing and the Dilemma of Architectural Production,” TDSR 32, No. 2 (2021): 53-70.
Eunice Seng, “People’s Park Complex: The State, the Developer, the Architect and the Conditioned Public, c1967.” In Southeast Asia’s Modern Architecture: Questions of Translation, Epistemology and Power, edited by Chang J.-H. & I. Tajudeen, 227-64. Singapore: NUS Press, 2019.
Eunice Seng, “Multiple Domesticities versus Homogenizing Difference,” in Multiple Modernities, ed. William Lim and Jeremy Chia (Singapore: Asia Urban Lab, 2018), 171-181
Eunice Seng, “Temporary Domesticities: The Southeast Asian Hotel as (re)presentation of Modernity, 1968-1973.” The Journal of Architecture – Dwelling Asia, 22, No. 6 (2017): 1092-1136
Eunice Seng, “The City in a Building: A Brief Social History of Hong Kong.” Marginalia: Limits within the Urban Realm – Studies in History and Theory of Architecture 5 (2017): 81-98.
Eunice Seng, “City Buildings, Building Cities,” in “14 City Cases Past, Present and Future,” SZ + HK Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, (Shenzhen), Dec 6, 2013 – Feb 28, 2014.
Eunice Seng, “Dwelling Carcass: Composite Building Hong Kong, c.1950s-1970s,” in “2020 Housing China,” SZ + HK Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, Hong Kong, Dec 8, 2013 - Feb 28, 2014.
This research documents six important artifacts transformed and borne out of specific architectural discourses of the twentieth century. It includes the big roof, the linear core, the curtain wall, the green patch, the historic carcass and the pilotis deck. It will uncover alternative design histories of each of the artifacts through an analysis of its form, function and signification, with a focus on transnational and transcultural specificities. [+]
This research examines how architecture and its practices shape and reshape the meanings of nature and space, the reciprocal relationship between green open space, and the formation of collective identities. These inform the design research focusing on applying sustainable methods in architecture through innovating design conventions such as site integration, building organization, and orientation to reinvigorate architectural design and planning. [+]
This research project is an effort to trace the transnational formation of urban theories in various parts of post-war Asia. There was a unique moment in the development of national identity and national culture during the period of mass decolonization and globalization. This is an emergent scholarship aimed at stitching together fragmented accounts previously narrated from national centers of discourse. This research shows that the broad participation by multiple international actors and agencies pushed the national remit of each urban condition. [+]
This research area emphasizes building up agency and citizen participation through architecture; and foregrounds the roles of buildings as important materials and spaces of urban life. The key research and curatorial question is: Can the opinions and actions of citizens be part of the production and alteration of the built environment in a highly controlled and professionalized field? [+]
While cities have expelled industries in favor of high-yield and service-oriented land use, the factory and its organizational complex remain very much embedded in the city and its architecture. This historical and design research is further developed as a theory of the urban-industrial complex, revealing the organizational and productive nature of modern cities. This complex evolved from how industry had inserted itself within the same framework of urban growth and social control. [+]