Spaces of Exception: Housing as a Common Framework


Jing Guo, Student ASLA; Fabiana Alvear, Student ASLA; Hao Chen, Student ASLA | Graduate | Faculty Advisor: Christopher Lee, Simon Whittle | Harvard University Graduate School of Design | Somerville, MA


Spaces of Exception introduces a new framework for future development in Macau. The proposal intends to diminish the struggle of the city with the power and subjugation of the gambling industry through housing and landscape. The concept is achieved by large exception zone, where casino are allowed to operate, carved out of the large patterns of housing and landscape for the city. Collective grounds are restored by a large framework providing social and economic sustainable development for Macau.


A City of Enclaves

Macau is a territory of spatial urban conflict displayed in the rapid growth of Casino development and the segregated high-rise housing. Undeveloped, vacant or residual land becomes a place of tension between the need to: (1) ‘decongest’ housing conditions, (2) speculative real-estate and (3) casino construction. Macau’s territory has been redefined by layers of landscape and infrastructure. The need for expansion has required Macau to undergo a series of land reclamation projects, constantly redefining its forms of occupation. Its border condition with China, and their oppositions, allow for the exploitation across sides. This asymmetry is a blend from nature/geography, economic, cultural, and political conditions. However, the expansion, collaboration and exchange over time has developed a condition defined more by their similarities across borders than their economic and political differences. These exchanges and forms of development dilute the cultural and spatial identity of the Macanese urban landscape.

Polarity across boarders promotes the flow between Mainland and Macau. The tension of this exchange generates anxiety for Macanese identity. To continuw this pattern of 'Macanese exclusion' development will conclude decanting its population and turning Macau in a city of temporary occupants. The border and its its built form then becomes the space where these two forms of occupants coexist. While the projection towards Hengqin might become an opportunity to diversify its economy, its transform Macau to a CITY OF ENCLAVES. One that support the patterns of speculative real estate and fails to improve quality of life and maintain a sense of autonomy for Macanese.

While the expansion and collaboration across borders provides a new framework of development and education for the region, one must propose a strategy that recreates the city of parts and coexistence, disrupting the enclave condition and providing spaces of exception. The project utilizes the border-checkpoint as a catalyst for urban development. It proposes a common framework for the Cotai Island, as a tool to return the island to a city. Its shifts the existing border and redifines it as ground.

The exceptions, defined by the border and road infrastructure, double as boarder checkpoint. The border becomes the moment of coexistence between the contrasting conditions. Providing both grounds for public and private amenities. The consistency of housing is contrasted with the incoherence in the rings of exception. The new infrastructure defines spaces that cater to the freedom casino developers expect for their projects. This contrast is dictated by the organizational logic that the various dominant types, of high-rise/high density housing and Casinos, the proposal intends to: return Cotai is returned to the city of Macau, provide an opportunity for spatial, social, and economic integration without diluting the identity of the region and economic diversification. there are four housing types that represent the current and projected need for housing in Macau. The Exceptions: provide the space for coexistence. By transferring the border checkpoint to these nodes in the city, the public is then required to move through the exception and encounter the city and its multiple parts in the same space.

Capturing the collective space, the exception and their undulating structure define the perimeter of the site by submerging and lifting the Casino and gambling related areas, shelter public spaces, and delineate grounds for private and public occupancy. The exceptions exist in multiple layers and multiple scales. The landscape, as a mediator between housing and gambling, presents exceptions that reverse the void condition of gambling. These exceptions become incursions of political and economic implications across sides. Like Macau's University political incursion in Hengqin in our proposal Casinos function as tolorated spaces of ecomonic incursion into the city. Gambling tourism is subjugated by housing of the city. This flips the current power relation between the temporary and permanent occupants of Macau.

The exceptions are not the artifacts of collective will or monuments of outstanding quality, the exceptions are the spaces of agonism, in the that they are incompatible but exist as islands of concessions, a space of negotiated difference. They exacerbate the interiorized condition of casino culture and liberate the ground level for public amenities and green spaces. The strategy reconstructs the notion of Macau as a City of parts. It rejects the notion to dispossess Macanese from their land, and the complete disconnection and fragmentation of the city. It provides a framework for collective living through the re-organization of the border. This larger framework begins to structure future development of Macau still collaborating with its borders and maintaining its identity.

"The drawings are extraordinary--very nostalgic. Thoughtful weaving together of passive and active recreation. The rendering of homes in relationship to parks is quite beautiful. It flips the relationship of what is generating taxes and money to support a basic, livable city"

- 2014 Awards Jury