Book Tree was a research project conceived by Associate Professor Peter W. Ferretto at School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong in collaboration with the Mei Foo District Counsellor Ambrose Cheung. The objective of the project was twofold: to inhabit a lost urban space and simultaneously to create a new type of reading experience for children within the Mei Foo neighbourhood.
Mei Foo selected as a site for the prototype due to its unique inhabitation of high concentration of residual spaces below the highway, which including a community centre, a clinic and wet market. In addition, some lost spaces became invisible to local people who usually dismiss them as mundane background places devoid of purpose.
Research started from the notion that through design, lost spaces could activate and transform into inhabitable places. Rather than design being a high-end service, the design acted as a tool to transform a neglected corner beneath a flyover into a real open community space.
The idea behind the “Book Tree” was to install a 25m2 structure where children could play while reading. The tree structure made of pre-fabricated timber components that assembled and dismantled by students in 1-2 days. The platform consisted of 50 (600×600 mm) timber boxes of different height; structure lined with waterproof fabric for sun and rain protection. Also, equipped with LED lighting for reading. The temporary installation composed of two elements, an open timber landscape for sitting and a tree structure bookshelf. The structure conceived as a tree where different branches each house books for different ages. The structure was built from untreated timber as to reconnect children to the warmth of natural materials contrasted to the mineral and hard materiality of the surrounding infrastructure.
“Book Tree” operation was unique in Hong Kong. Books were merely donated by the community for the community to take freely. There was no trading, no promise to return. The tree Concept rendering acted as a temporary book depository for Mei Foo households. Architecture got a fundamental role in helping society; project ambition this humble insertion could rekindle a sense of pride and joy for the children of the neighbourhood.
This project was part of a broader research project titled: “Urban Pause: Reclaiming Hong Kong’s Residual Urban Spaces” supported and funded by Research Grants Council of Hong Kong under the General Research Fund for 2016/17 (Ref No. T16133916).
Project Name: Book Tree
Location: Mei Foo Sun Chun, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Status of Construction: Completed
Completion Date: 15 August 2018
Site Area: 25 sqm
Gross Floor Area: 25 sqm
Client: Mei Foo District Council, Cheung Wing Sum Ambrose, Chairman
Architecture Firm: School of Architecture, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Principal Architect: Peter Winston Ferretto
Civil & Structural Engineer: SprenPlan Engineering, Portugal; Prof. Zhou Yun, Research; Center for Public Safety & Disaster Prevention and Reduction, Guangzhou University
Images: Peter Winston Ferretto, WANG Haoran