[Webinar] Infrastructure Imagination: Charting Hong Kong’s Futures through Construction Photography

[Updated 29 May 2021: For those who might have missed this presentation by Dr. Cecilia Chu and Dorothy Tang, here are the webcast and the photo album.]

Friday, 21 May 2021, 19:00–20:30 PDT
Infrastructure Imagination: Charting Hong Kong’s Futures through Construction Photography
Cecilia L. Chu (HKU) and Dorothy Tang (MIT)
via Zoom

A City Archived event
Registration required

Construction photography differs from familiar urban images by offering alternative perspectives of the inner worlds of infrastructure systems. The photographs also provide rare, behind-the-scene glimpses of construction processes, thus making them a unique type of documentation of cities in the making. In this talk, Cecilia Chu and Dorothy Tang will discuss their curatorial work on a public exhibition that showcased a collection of construction photographs by a British photographer, Heather Coulson, who was commissioned to document a number of major infrastructure projects completed in Hong Kong between 1972 and 1988. The collection, which includes highways, railways, power stations and water works, captured the unprecedented scale and complexity of infrastructure expansion during the so-called “golden age of construction.” Collectively, the photographs convey a strong sense of optimism associated with economic and social progress of Hong Kong in this period. The talk will end with a reflection on the divergent audience responses to the exhibition, where nostalgic sentiments about the past intersect with anxieties and hopes for building a better urban future.

Cecilia L. Chu is an associate professor in the Division of Landscape Architecture at the University of Hong Kong. Trained as an urban historian with a background in design and conservation, her research focuses on the social and cultural processes that shape the forms and meanings of built environments and their impacts on local communities. Informing her work is an interest in the design and representation of spaces (as buildings, landscapes, and infrastructures) and the production of their social meanings and values. She is the author of Colonial Urban Development in Hong Kong: Speculative Housing and Segregation in the City (Routledge, 2021). She is a co-founder and current president of Docomomo Hong Kong and an editorial board member of Journal of Urban History and Journal for the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong.

Dorothy Tang is a landscape architect and PhD candidate in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her work is concerned with the intersections of infrastructure and everyday life, especially in communities confronting large-scale environmental change. Her current research explores the landscape and urban impacts of Chinese overseas investments in the Mekong Region and Southern Africa. Professionally, she has worked on a range of landscape infrastructure projects in China and in Southeast Asia. She was formerly an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Hong Kong where she also directed the undergraduate program. Her design work and research has been exhibited internationally.

About the exhibition: “Infrastructure Imagination: Hong Kong City Futures 1972–1988″ (基建與想像: 香港未來之都 1972–1988) is a public exhibition held at Hong Kong’s City Gallery in 2018. Photographs of the exhibition were drawn from the Heather Coulson Photograph Collection, which was generously donated to University of Hong Kong Libraries by Heather Coulson. For more information about the exhibition and the collection, visit https://infrastructureimagination.splashthat.com.

Interview with Heather Coulson:

Interview with Colin Coulson:

Video highlights of the exhibition:

Heather Coulson Collection at the University of Hong Kong Libraries

This webinar is organized by the UBC Hong Kong Studies Initiative and is co-sponsored by: Department of Asian StudiesDepartment of HistoryCentre for Chinese ResearchAsian Library, and the Interdisciplinary Histories Research Cluster.

Registration for: “Infrastructure Imagination”

Registration for this event is now closed.