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ADS0: Umwelt – The Environment as a Pictorial Stage in Constant States of Change

Ginny, Chin Ching Siu

Ginny's work critically engages with architecture and spatial experiences that allow the audience to negotiate between their own senses of belonging, identity, and collective memory. Exploring the interactions and relationships between one's sense of space and place, enabling spaces that are personal and personalized to each individual, subverting the existing preconditioned spaces of inhabitation.

Autobiograph­ical ethnographic material, coupled with theoretical research and exploration on collectivity is a common thread in her projects. These research topics are derived from her ongoing experience of migration from Hong Kong to London, during her time at the RCA. Hence, as an extension to her dissertation "Rebuilding the home and self-identity, displaced in the 21st Century." Now at ADS 0, her project "Embroidering Belonging, Homing the Borrowed Space." Looks at facilitating these moments, offering ways of engagement for the diasporic community to renegotiate with their new places of belonging.

"Embroidering Belonging, Homing the Borrowed Space."

This project looks into how individuals re-engage with their new places of living and establish a sense of belonging and place, from a migrant’s perspective from Hong Kong to London, in the 21st Century. Investigating how Hong Kong people in London are coming together as a diaspora to adapt, create and combine their new Hong Kong, their own "alternative living rooms"- their homing practices

Through the embroidering of flexible, portable, and scalable structures, these structures allow the community to appropriate the preconditioned spaces, enabling an ongoing engagement with enclosures and space. Looking between the freedom and limitations of adapting in the domestic and the city, for new non-hierarchical spaces of collectivity to be created. 

This project aims to construct or rather embroider, scalable and portable spaces of both my introspective world, and the diasporic community’s, collective mobile spaces of security. Enabling portable living rooms that are temporary and migratory, but through their architecture creates spaces between the domestic and the city for a sense of ownership, cohesion, togetherness and belonging, forming their homing practice. Of Places to dwell, for the re-creation of the memories of daily life. Where gatherings, debating, playing, living, rituals, ceremonies, and more can occur. Rebuilding new senses of belonging facilitated by the temporary structures, whilst allowing them to leave imprints of inhabitation and life onto the city of London.

Creating umweltens, For social rituals to be shared. new, alternative living rooms. Embroidering belonging

Embroidering Belonging, homing the borrowed spaceAnimated moments of inhabitation, where the designed structures are reconfigured to reside in different potential sites within London, United Kingdom

On a Sunday morning, the routine of the Hong Kong diasporic family in London, starts in the bedroom, with turning on YouTube and catching up with news and life back in Hong Kong. We then gather in the living room, one that we have transformed from the typical Victorian townhouse into new spatial organisations and dimensional relationships that suits our own patterns and activities of living.

With family members that span from a few generations this includes multiple spatial requirements needed for playing mahjong, for hot pot, for the child to play in, for expanding into bigger festive gatherings, and more. These are enabled by structures from this project, modular structures specifically designed so that they can be used together and apart, in different configurations. With screens for example that allow us to weave our new enclosures. And structures that allow us to reconfigure into furniture, catering to our own dimensions, for specific activities and uses such as mahjong, tea ceremonies, dining areas, chairs, sun shading, screens, and more. 

In this instance, the site is located within the backstreets of a residential area just off Chinatown. Here, we are using the structures in a scaffolding-like arrangement, attaching them to and between residential buildings, and extending living from the windows and balconies.

With the temporary structure license from the council, allowing us to temporarily inhabit the streets of London for two years or more. It gives us the opportunity to negotiate with the streets of London by looking at new ways of engaging the city, possibly elevating the streets and domesticating the backstreets. Activities such as eating together, hanging clothes, embroidering on the frames, having a pint of beer, discussing politics, and more begin to happen.

With these structures being privately owned by members of the diasporic community, they can be reorganized and shared in larger group activities or gatherings,

Such that in festivals and events, the community can bring out their structure - build, reconfigure, embroider and inhabit spaces together. In this instance located within Chinatown, for street markets and popup stalls during special festive occasions, their structures are reconfigured to create shelter and street market-like dimensions.

These structures can also act as beacons of protest or a billboard. Something that the diasporic community is Innately passionate about. In this instance, the structure is enlarged at the RIBA building.

It is designed or disguised as a pavilion and a temporary façade of Hong Kong culture and people, as it is latched onto the RIBA building facing the Chinese embassy, Through the materiality embroidered onto the structure, scaffolding materials commonly seen in Hong Kong and colours of protest, it acts as a subtle method of protesting.

The Model : Weaving belonging Interview: A casual conversation with my mother on belonging as a migrant, as we were embroidering together in our London Home, 2021.
Memories of Living : entry, Hong Kong
Memories of Living : dining area, Hong Kong
Memories of Living : tea ceremony, Hong Kong
Memories of Living : tea ceremony, Hong Kong
Memories of Living : coffee table, Hong Kong
Memories of Living : heaters and leftover furniture, London

This project began from the investigation of my own migrating process reconstructing my living rooms in and between Hong Kong and London.Embroidery was a personal method in which I used to story tell and reengage with the new context, transcribing my stories and memories of home and living. 

Therefore, embroidery is defined in this project as a way of transcribing our stories into the ‘fabric’.

The act of homing for a migrant, is in many ways similar to the act of embroidering as it is constructed of the slow process of picking, placing, removing, intertwining, reconnecting, reconstructing an image and a memory, and reengaging with the context. Furthermore, the spatiality of weaving and embroidering allows for an interactive process of re-engaging and of representation of the readings into the diasporic community’s expectations of belonging, memories of living and its spatial dimensions.

The slow form of making: techniques in embroidery as a way of negotiating between the migrants ‘homes’, on belonging, homing and engaging for the migrant. 

Starting with self-ethnographic methods of photography, film, interviews and model-making through the slow process of making, weaving and embroidering as a method spatializing ontological and epistemological dimensions. The negotiations when reconstructing my living rooms in and between Hong Kong and London, will act as a starting point to investigate the notion of ‘the sense of place and belonging’. In the process, the concept of how place influences the formation of identity and a sense of belonging is utilised and revealed, portraying the memories and intergenerational umwelten of life.


Model — Weaved and embroidered Model, and Videography on Turntable

Due to the high population density and lack of space in Hong Kong, especially in living, we are used to how a lot of the common domestic activities and rituals expand from the confinements of the home or the preconditioned notion of living rooms, into semi-private, semi-public and even public spaces.

As we settle into London, we try to recreate the experience and the collective memories of living, as a way of creating more exchange and connection with the diasporic community and the environment. 

The spatial qualities stemmed from research on spaces in Hong Kong’s alternative living rooms, or the ways we domesticate and adapt urban space. Where these alternative living rooms are often created by layers of banal objects and materials associated with Hong Kong Culture, such as scaffolding structures, construction canvases, and vernacular bamboo structures. Creating alternative dynamics of inhabitation and ownership

Waves of Mass Migration is a reoccurring phenomena in Hong Kong, both to and from. This occurrence can be seen from the Hakkans into Hong Kong in the 1680s, the Cultural revolution, June Fourth Movement, the hand over in 1997, and now, fuelled by implementations of the National Security law in 2020. 

As of 2021 The UK Home office is expecting 322,000 applications for a visa that grants them the right to live, work and stay in the UK under the Hong Kong BNO Passport, over the next five years. as a result, It incentivises migration, extending the displacement of Hong Kong people. Currently, the dispersed community is rebuilding its grounds, bringing their ideologies with them to inhabit big cities in the UK such as London, Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham.

In interviews and conversations with the diasporic community, I found out that they have been bringing over similar ways of expanding and inhabiting space. From banal items such as the rice cooker to protesting acts such as the sticky note on Lennon walls, ribbons, and the vernacular materiality such as scaffolding frames, construction canvases and newspapers, we already see the beginnings of the community trying to create, nonhierarchical temporary spaces for collectivity

Materiality test
Prototyping and testing making methods through woodwork and CNC
Printed Copies of the Catalouge and Making Manual Also attached in PDF format

This project uses embroidery as a way of reengaging, where the community is open to embroider, with ritualistic materiality, onto the structures, together and apart, transcribing their own stories into the new ‘fabric’, as a way of engaging.

Through a provision of a catalogue of instructions on simple self-built means through CNC, and jig building instructions in woodwork, this project allows the community to participate in the making, customising, and assembling of these portable alternative living rooms. Where the instructions and CNC files could be sent off to masons and workshops, around London, or to members of the Hong Kong diasporic community who are willing to learn or are already skilled with these forms of making. 

The modular structures themselves are derived from the characteristic of openness, porousness, and flexibility in the enclosures of vernacular Cantonese Ning Nam architecture and its furniture, influencing the design of the joinery. The attachment methods were also influenced by Hong Kong’s banal ways of attaching through roping.

And through a provision of a catalogue of instructions on simple self-built means through CNC, and jig building instructions in woodwork, this project allows the community to participate in the making, customising, and assembling of these portable alternative living rooms. Where the instructions and CNC files could be sent off to masons and workshops, around London, or to members of the Hong Kong diasporic community who are willing to learn or are already skilled with these forms of making.