Wei-Hsiang Chao


Curative Space: Re-Sensualize the Healing Role of Urban Design in Kaohsiung City

Advised by Rahul Mehrotra

Beyond the legibility of the image of the city in terms of its physical form, there is a sensual and spiritual character—which is where the power of healing lies.

Urban design tends to respond to the rationality of functional and technological needs to address the different domains, such as those of the program, organization, economic production, and so on. However, the layers of the emotional and metaphysical characters of the environment flattened when detached from the human senses. We encounter the city with our own bodies of haptic, tactile, and embodiment. Urban design shall be liberated from the role of functionalism and ought to also embrace design for the senses to reclaim the healing role of environmental design, to re-sensualize the site through a strengthened sense of time, fragrance, acoustics, temperature, materiality, and other often intangible parameters.

This thesis uses the decommissioned Kaohsiung Oil Refinery as an experimental ground to explore its environmental design’s potential role in healing, made more meaningful given its complex emotional and political history. A city with a close relationship with heavy industry benefits from the development of industrialization but also suffers a commensurate misfortune. The legacy of heavy industry, however, remains a significant collective memory of a city that needs to be remembered and reappreciated. The refinery is currently in a critical situation, as the large-scale demolition and erasure across the site is already underway. The thesis aims to explore and demonstrate the curative capacity of environmental design to address the mental, ecological, and spatial aspects.

Wei-Hsiang Chao, MAUD. Three images overlaid on top of each other: two maps, and a photograph of the Kaohsiung Oil Refinery.
Wei-Hsiang Chao, MAUD.
Healing of the Ecosystem.
Wei-Hsiang Chao, MAUD.
Master plan.
Wei-Hsiang Chao, MAUD.
Wei-Hsiang Chao, MAUD.
Phyto Park and Remodel the Industrial Heritage.
Wei-Hsiang Chao, MAUD.
Aerial View from Green Energy.