Grace Chee

MArch I

The Uncanny City 

Advised by Mack Scogin

The Uncanny—a state defined by Freud to be “that class of the terrifying which leads back to something long known to us”—has long been a wellspring for artists, writers, and philosophers. It captures a particular sensibility of anxiety and alienation inherent in the human condition, and is now more than ever a precise distillation of the isolation and hopelessness felt in our modern age. 

Unheimlich, the German form of “uncanny,” can also be taken to mean homelessness. Amid recent social-political turmoil and perpetually unattainable property prices in my hometown of Hong Kong, the aching lack of a place to call home is a social malaise that is erupting from beneath the polished commercial logic of the city’s architecture and urban plan. 

This thesis translates the Uncanny from a philosophical and literary state into an architectural form and physical experience that reflects the human condition, lying in a state of delicate oscillation between the foreign and the familiar, the real and the imaginary, the rational and the irrational. The project distills and magnifies the relentless disquiet of Hong Kong’s urban experience even as it endeavors to reconceptualize public space as an escape, providing a guise of relief as the city endures on.

Birds-eye view of a person standing in a small courtyard surrounded by tall buildings.

Looking down into a rectangular courtyard surrounded by tall buildings.
A bird’s eye view into the urban void.

View of a courtyard plaza with rectangular water features and a rock garden.
A heavy mass of earth elevated above the ground.

Facade of a tall building with spherical windows in different stages of opening and closing.
Windows as eyes, blinking open and shut.

Image of a person entering a dark reflective hallway from outside, next to the mirror image of the same hallway.
The mirrored self.