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Architecture students impress at GREAT Festival of Innovation


Students’ designs which could reshape entire cities and help us reconnect with the process of growing the food we eat have been praised by a packed audience at Hong Kong’s GREAT Festival of Innovation.

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De Montfort University’s Leicester School of Architecture MArch students Tom Cox and Khanh Nguyen described their visions for a sky farm and vertical villages which would emphasise creating communities and connections.

They could not have chosen a better place to discuss vertical living than Hong Kong, which has more than 7,800 high-rise blocks. Its Wan Chai area is one of the most densely-populated places in the world.

Dr Yuri Hadi, senior lecturer in Architecture, said that with ever-increasing populations, the challenge of managing and planning urban areas that worked for all was “the most important challenge of the 21st century.”

He said: “The answer lies in discovering how we live, work and play, what we enjoy and what we need for wellbeing. The challenge in design is how we shape that environment that effectively or positively affects social life.”

“What we have been doing for the past 100 years is that we stack up flats like layer cake. What we are trying to propose is, what if you can look at it as a series of communities. We look at it as a structure from the outside but we rarely think about how it feels living inside.”

ARCH panel standing

Instead of corridors of flats or apartments with no central community spaces, Khanh’s 60-storey vertical village could house 1,000 people, all living in spaces designed to be social such as parks every sixth floor, and 10 ‘sky farms’ which would be areas designated for allotments and wildlife spaces to encourage biodiversity.

Tom’s sky farm showed how crops could be grown vertically, using nitrogen filtered from car or factory emissions to provide an organic plant food. Using vertical farming methods leads to higher yields and could provide jobs and homes as part of the development.

The students’ presentation was given centre stage in the GREAT festival’s Lippo Amphitheatre, one of just three stages offered for people to share ideas, entrepreneurial stories or debate key issues facing the creative, technology and digital industries. It was attended by some of the biggest names in design.

Simon Bee of international design firm Benoy – which has designed Manchester’s Media City, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and has designed the new Hong Kong Waterfront - was full of praise for their work. He said: “This is completely relevant in Hong Kong. I think these are both wonderful examples of where we should be headed. This is right on the money in the sort of things that young people should be looking at in this part of the world.”

Tim Bowder-Ridger CEO and senior partner of major London design practice Conran and Partners, which recently opened an office in Hong Kong, also praised Tom and Khanh’s work, telling them: “Fantastic ideas and really excellent presentations.”

Khanh said: “I was very nervous before but very happy now. The audience asked a lot of questions and I think they liked our ideas.

Tom said he was “a bit stunned” by the reception to their work. He said: “I cannot believe how well received our ideas were. To hear from people that they thought we were onto something, and to have such great feedback from people from such big firms and to have them coming up to us afterwards and giving us business cards, what an opportunity!”

Find out about studying Architecture at our next open day
WATCH video of Khanh's vertical village here
Design firm experts to mentor DMU Architecture students

DMU is the sole higher education partner for GREAT, the UK Government’s key platform for creating trade deals and growing UK businesses. The four-day festival looks at innovation in the areas of work, live, play and learn.

Tomorrow students and graduates from DMU’s renowned Fashion Design course will be running pop-up salon shows. Across all four days of the festival DMU is showcasing international experience programme #DMUglobal and #DMUworks, our new way for students to get skills and businesses to get access to talent that could create the next innovation.

Posted on Thursday 22nd March 2018

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