A study of the aesthetics of the Hong Kong built environment : architectural harmonisation versus urban incivility

  • Kwok Wah TUNG

Student thesis: PhD Thesis (Lingnan)


The aim of the study is to evaluate the aesthetic qualities of the Hong Kong built environment. To this end, it adopts the framework of the philosophy of architecture in the analytic tradition as proposed by Roger Scruton in his classic The Aesthetics of Architecture, which was first published in 1979. Central to this framework is our aesthetic sense of appropriateness, which leads to a distinctive reading of architecture as an art of the ensemble. From this perspective, the chief architectural task is to establish right visual relations among the parts of a whole. Aesthetically, this results in the desirable aesthetic quality of unity in variety. Morally, the task reflects our nature as social beings, who aim at living peacefully with others. By offering a commonly held compositional pattern established through the execution of details, traditional Western and Chinese styles used to provide architects with the necessary equipment to carry out the task, so that they can fit buildings not in an individualistic manner, but with regard for the tastes of others, resulting in a harmonious and civil built environment. Against this background, the study first examines, and criticises, the prevalent modern and post-modern styles of the local built environment, by showing that they generally lack sufficient consideration for architectural harmonisation, and hence contribute greatly to the incivility of the local built environment. The study then extends its scope from the local context to China in search of an architectural style that is suited to the aesthetic task of harmonisation. The study finds that the Lingnan style established from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century in the Canton region embodies aesthetically significant principles enabling architectural harmonisation, which are rooted in the aesthetic sense and capacity of the region (to which Hong Kong belongs). It thus concludes that the Lingnan style could provide valuable resources for reflection on the establishment of architectural harmony, and hence serve as an important reference for local practices that aim to improve the built environment.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Visual Studies
SupervisorRafael DE CLERCQ (Supervisor) & Anne Mette HJORT (Supervisor)

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