02/06/2021 , by , in News/Views, Past Event, Story, Videos

Speaking at the Havells Insignia presents ADEX series Architect Vicky Chan, Founder, Avoid Obvious Architects emphasized on the use of technology as an enabler for sustainable architecture and future ready smart cities.

Architect Vicky chan is the founder of Avoid Obvious Architects, with offices in New York and Hong Kong. The firm specializes in sustainable design for buildings and cities with a focus on combining art and green technology. He also founded a volunteering organization called Architecture for Children, teaching over 3,000 children about sustainable design and architecture. 

Ar. Vicky Chan described the architect’s role in combining design, technology and sustainability is pivotal. “The collaboration between experts from various domains is a long process but can give some amazing results in terms of the end-product. We architects need to keep ourselves updated with the latest technologies across sectors and fields.  Engaging with professionals from other domains widens the perspective. Also, the technology changes at a fast pace while designing is a slow process. By the time the design is implemented, the technology has already upgraded to the next level. We as designers have to many a time tweak the final design to incorporate the improved technologies and systems during the implementation stage.”


Through his presentation Architect Vicky Chan presented his own projects to elaborate on the wider themes of:
  1. Use of farming to connect people, city, and nature
  2. Use of technology for energy efficiency in buildings 
  3. Use of building automation for sustainability in built spaces 



“We used farming as a way to make to improve people’s life. For example, “The Artist Hous” with Aqua Farm is a multipurpose space to explore craft beers through co-creation and experiences. It has the first farm-to-glass concept in Hong Kong. The in-house aqua farm provides most of the ingredients for their food and drinks. It helps to lower the carbon footprint by lowering the traffic distance, reducing water and fertilizer consumption by 90%. The Artist House has an on-site aqua farm for beer ingredients. Major constraint was that the place had no sunlight as it was an underground mall setup with no windows. So we used some of the latest technology that is hydroponic as an interior lighting with a very controlled climate. And we were able to grow some of the ingredients they need in the restaurant. 

On a building level, “The Cloud”, headquarter for a well-known aviation company that uses nature and passive design to create a sharing-centric hub. The design makes many empty space as planted area that can be mechanically shifted if the space is to be used as meeting area or lobby. In a larger setting of a city, similar concept finds its way in “Walk DVRC”, a pedestrianization plan to turn 1 km of Des Voeux Road Central in downtown Hong Kong into a park. The project called for a partial pedestrianization so that retail businesses can still deliver their goods during off-peak hours and Tramways can provide sustainable transportation throughout the road. To make the pavilion mobile and flexible, we provided a car battery to power the LED and wheels at the bottom of the seating. Multiple modules can be moved together to form an off-the-grid performance space. Each pavilion module is 3m x 3m in plan. 9 modules together will form three 10m-long pavilions on Des Voeux Road Central. The structural support is in metal and the exterior wood is made with locally sourced beech wood.

An example of Smart and sustainable city is the Detroit’s mixed use project that combines agricultural, industrial, residential and commercial spaces. The landmark building will not only define the skyline of Detroit, it will also become a milestone of how future mixed use building should be planned. Smart City has a simple idea to alter spaces for multiple programs. Factory requires a large footprint. Its roof naturally becomes a perfect location for farming and residential area. The mountain form allows for terraced urban farming. Residential and commercial area form a shell-like structure and the void inside the mountain become a large open area for green industry. The solar panel at the top of the mountain is multi-functional. It collects water and solar energy while it is the main support for the shell-like structure. Design is a collaborative process to discover the greener and happier ways to live, work and play.



Architect Vicky Can giving examples of his large scale projects such as the conversion of a historical factory building into a public park with sustainable technologies in China and waterfront project in South Korea that aims to have a holistic development of the Hangang River Pedestrian Network through, inclusivity, vertical elements and day and night cycles consideration stated that an architect can only conceptualize the project, however the implementation of the ideas in its true form remains uncertain

“In the waterfront park we have proposed a mobile pods for business meetings and creating a creating a green highway with pedestrian network and connections. Planning for the next 20 years, provisions for autonomous and a highway for delivery drones has also been included. On a smaller scale of a built-in space the scope of experimenting and correcting is more and within budgets. However, as the scale of the project increases such as a building and further to city planning, the implementation of new ideas become difficult. But in Asian countries given the fast paced economy, the revisions are accepted along with implementation, unlike western countries where the same is not possible and by the time a lapse is identified, it becomes too late or too costly to implement.”


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