Sum In Sarah Cheung

MArch I

Asignifications: Destabilizing the Colonial Imaginary

Advised by Sergio Lopez-Pineiro

In Hong Kong, a city caught between two colonialities, historical preservation has become a politics of the image: in which the excesses of capitalism are conflated with a deep-set desire for a unified cultural framework, and where the prosthetic seeing of singular fictive identities has become a tool for the severing of history and memory. Part kitsch, part simulacra, these images—static and monumental—collapse all critical distance between observer and observed, becoming representations that absorb themselves into a system of signification of the colonial imaginary.  

This thesis attempts to bring forth an asignification through the rewriting of the city’s oldest remaining colonial building and its immediate context. The ideological undoing of this building’s symbolism and the creation of interludes and digressions within its simulacra produces an urban ensemble that occupies and solidifies the space in between its two neighboring, and opposing, institutions: that of I.M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower and the High Court of Hong Kong. In considering the complex network of mutations and permutations of nationalism, colonialism, and capitalism so embedded in the city’s built environment, the resultant programmatic entanglement seeks to restore a multivalence in architecture that destabilizes the privileged perspectival space within, which the colonial gaze is cast in place. The constant appearance and disappearance of historical image, typology, and symbolism may perhaps begin to restore a critical distance—a gap, a void—within which a new postcolonial subject might be invented, subsequently encouraging an embracing of the in-between. 

Light gray urban exterior drawing