Name Withheld


Masters in Design Studies Thesis Prize

Departing Departures: Mapping the Hong Kong International Airport as a Spatial-Political Threshold of the City in the Post-National-Security-Law Era

Advised by Malkit Shoshan

The second return of Hong Kong marks the end of the one country two system. As the clock strikes midnight, the fine dress of the city turns into rugs and her carriage reverted to pumpkins. With the rupture, comes the displacement of the city’s population like the brain drain that prompted the Berlin Wall erection. The Hong Kong airport have since become a precarious spatial-geopolitical threshold over which the specter of a second Cold War looms. The Norman Foster architectural and engineering marvel, once a symbol of pride signifying Hong Kong’s free and open society, now devolves into a set of fragile Pearly gates that struggles to uphold its promise as an egress to the world beyond. The thesis probes the underlying sociopolitical, historical and psychological vectors that converge at this increasingly critical border crossing. Peeling away the physical veneer, it seeks to expose and deconstruct the spatial-geographical politics of the air terminal. Taping into the realm of the unnarratable and intangibles, it probes the border-architecture in an age when telaesthesia perpetuates traumas, and traumas foreshadows memories of the future. In the manner of an autopsy, the immersive game medium is experimented as a tool to revisit the city’s final episodes. Developed alongside the thesis, the video game project serves as a set of visceral spatial re-enactments designed for public expression, connection, empowerment and archival of history. In the afterlife of the city, the simulacrum is an antidote to the bon fire of vanity, a therapy for reconciliation with traumatic encounters, as well as a virtual media artifact continuing the fairy tale’s unfulfilled glamours that is short-changed by an abrupt ending. As a methodology, the video game artifact is an alternative form of archaeology by which historical events could be systematically deconstructed, whereby intangible vectors of memories and perceptions can be explicated and rendered accessible.

In Game Footage Videos:

A person wearing a backpack and pulling a rolling suitcase walking through a hilly landscape made of piles of objects.
Chapter 7 – Exit and Rebirth: Final scene of departure signifying freedom from political persecution, systemic violence, and psychological stresses. Beginning of a diasporic person’s journey to find a new identity.m player’s apartment to final departure by plane.

Illustration of flowchart showing various objects travelling through a conveyer belt system.
Sketch Illustrating overall flow of game narrative, from player’s apartment to final departure by plane.

Person with backpack and suitcase walking down a city street past riot police facing off against civilians.
Chapter 5.7 – Narrow Streets: Video game scene Illustrating Hong Kong’s State Of Exception. Police rounding up pedestrians in downtown Central, perpetuating public fear under constant police surveillance.

Flow chart of different scenes and their chapter numbers and titles.
Scene Diagram illustrating scene breakdowns and overall chapter organization.

Collage of images of domestic apartment interiors and television news footage with text.
Game Story Board – Prologue scene depicting a Hong Kong resident preparing to depart the city for good. The backdrop is a typical compact Hong Kong apartment, with everyday objects acting as storytelling devices.

Collage of images showing rendered interiors with a police officer depicted as a marionette.
Chapter 5.5 – The Marionette: 721 Yuen Long West Rail Station. Stairs of Terror scene re-enacting infamous pro-gov tug attack on passengers on the 21st July, 2019. Police on scene of attack filmed turning a blind eye to violence and walking away.

Collage of images and sketches showing a traveller with a backpack and suitcase navigating scenes of complex baggage conveyer belts moving many different household objects.
Chapter 2 – Down the Mechanical Belt: Video game scene allegorical of Memory/Trauma Depository. Player questions the end state of their deposited memories and exposes the censorship mechanism embedded by “infiltrating” the luggage belt system.

Four scenes showing a suitcase close up, and a person wearing a backpack inside the suitcase filled with objects.
Chapter 3 – Tunnel of Darkness Suitcase Scene: Player is downsized and placed in his suitcase. Player must escape the pursuit of the spotlight and avoid having “restricted” items getting illuminated. Books, banners, flags, respirators, have become restricted items under the new police state of Hong Kong.

A series of images of a person with a backpack and suitcase walking inside a large travel terminal.
Chapter 1 – Something Lurking in the Background: Airport Terminal 1 link entrance bridges spanning over a valley of memories. Arrival hall below bridge is flooded into a river that symbolizes the collective subconscious of traumatic historical events and the prevalent milieu of systemic violence. Flooding is indicative of a one-way departure journey.

Four scenes recreating different perspectives of an iconic image of a person facing off against a column of tanks on a boulevard in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Chapter 5.2 – From the Ashes: Chang’An Avenue 1989 June 4th. Recreation of Jeff Widener’s powerful historic image, where an anonymous Beijing resident single-handedly stopped a column of tanks in front of international press. Player explores the scene through both the tank operator’s perspective as well as through Jeff Widener’s Nikon FE2 camera fitted with a Nikkor 400mm 5.6 ED-IF lens.

Person wearing a backpack walking through a plaza with banners and a cluster of tents.
Chapter 5.3 – Dancing in the Rain: Player taken through a tour of the 2014 Occupy Central village/encampment at Harcourt road. She is introduced to various improvised street interventions of the protest village, such as first aid centres, outdoor classrooms, Lennon walls, the temporary public square. Player can converse with occupiers (Non Playable Character) in the scene to learn about the historic event.

Collage of images of interiors of airplane cabins interspersed with historical images of public unrest.
Chapter 7 – Exit and Rebirth: Take-off scene, where player clears the Hong Kong Borders and finally finds freedom from persecution, fear and systemic violence. Beginning of player’s diasporic journey to redefine their identity.