ADS3: Metabolising the Built Environment

Timothy Chan

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Timothy is an architectural designer and a Master of Arts in Architecture graduate from the Royal College of Art.

From the two years of individual research experience in London, Timothy questioned what is the future of practice in architecture and collectives, and what is the agency of architecture in the metabolic environment we live in. The dynamic styles and dedicated tutors in the school provides him a radical reflection on architecture in sustainability, humanity and creativity.

First year he worked on the subsistence economy of the fishing cooking community in Barceloneta. The project involves multiple site visits and interviews on local collectives to propose a network of interventions across the neighborhood where fishing and cooking could act as a new collective equipment among tourists and fishermen. The port facilities and food market is redesigned with recycled materials to rejuvenate fishing culture and resist the threat of being forgotten due to commercialisation, tourism and gentrification.

In his thesis project, he has researched the world of post-industrial metabolism. In the eyes of the substance, the environment, and the body are not mutually exclusive. The concept of the boundary is non-existent. Under the guidance of Cooking Sections, Timothy explores how countless synthetic substances become the interscalar vehicle by which we can understand the shift from matter moving through our bodies, to our bodies moving through matter.

Timothy’s professional experience in Hong Kong has shaped the way he approaches architecture and urbanism. Working as an architectural assistant, he took part in the process of creating functional spaces and developing ideas from concept to a full realisation of residential and mixed use projects. During his Part 1 study at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, he acquired skills and knowledge in architectural design.


Instagram @timothytcc

Tears Topography

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Degree Details

School of Architecture

July 1, 2020 marks the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China under the glare of a new national security law imposed by Beijing, with protests banned and the city’s cherished freedoms looking increasingly fragile.

Police fired tear gas, pepper balls and used water cannon to disperse activists in Causeway Bay, the traditional venue for large demonstrations, and Wan Chai. More than 370 people have been arrested for offences including unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct in public and obstructing police.

Tears Topography is a project gathering evidence on violation of human rights about tear gas dispersal in Hong Kong through mapping areas of tear gas fired in Hong Kong since June 12, 2019 to show the fact every citizen witnessed could not be denied and misinterpreted.

The methodologies are to examine how new architecture could emerge by creating a platform for civic engagement of resistance, learning from tear gas attacks to reimagine the city: Which are the places where people can protest without suffering; How could we design city without tear gas violence; How we protect our homes from attack even if we are not protesting. 

The developed intervention is a proposal in which the project could implement a new understanding of architecture, in the level of the city, the level of home and the level of urban protest worldwide.

June 12, 2019 Harcourt Road

June 12, 2019 Harcourt Road

June 12, 2019 Harcourt Road

July 1, 2019 Legislative Council

July 1, 2019 Legislative Council

July 1, 2019 Legislative Council

Tears are our emotional terrains which bear visual resemblance to the physical world. Tears are places where language strains to express grief, pride, frustration, joy, the confrontation with pollutants, the confrontation with tyranny.

Hong Kong has become a stage of disobedience flooded with massive protests since June 2019. There were two million people protesting against the legislation of a controversial plan to allow extraditions to mainland China on 16 June 2019.

The government had argued the proposed amendments would “plug the loopholes” so that the city would not be a safe haven for criminals. But critics said those in the former British colony would be exposed to China’s deeply flawed justice system, and it would lead to further erosion of the city’s judicial independence.

After months of protests which often developed into violence, the bill was officially withdrawn, but that has failed to stop the unrest.


Civic Participation
Hong Kong
Launch Project

Topography of Tears in the Urban Landscape of Hong Kong — After the Kowloon Riots on October 10, 1956, the British Colonial Government of Hong Kong Governor Sir Alexander Grantham carried out an independent inquiry on the use of crowd control weapons. However, the current Hong Kong government has refused to set up an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, which is one of the five demands wanted by protesters in Hong Kong. As a result, the contaminated zone map acts as a map reflecting police brutality in the city, same as the report in 1956, to reveal the truth of an accident, not covered with lies.

Grantham Report on the 1954 Riots Map — The report described the 54 incidents that happened between 10 to 12 October, documented every tear gas canister and live bullets fired in the riot scenes and presented the cruelty of weapons which led to 44 deaths in the accident.

Since June 12, 2019, 88% of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million residents have been tear gassed. The political brutality from the government and the physical violence from the police create a city of tears where people are forced to cry. Tear gas does not distinguish the difference between protesters and uninvolved civilians. Tear gas penetrates into every corner of the city which citizens could not escape from. Therefore, the project opens a potential for a possibility to resist the impact of tear gas in households in Hong Kong. A device that would ease the lethality of a chemical weapon.

The project is an interactive tool mapping the effects of tear gas attacks in the built environment in Hong Kong, looking at the microscopic chemistry of tears as well as the spatial account of events in regards to wind direction and ways in which different material surfaces register the chemical over time. The project is published on to show and gather spatial evidence of police brutality. Spatial evidence was provided to the ongoing All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong Inquiry into violations of human rights and humanitarian principles by the Hong Kong Police Force.



Tear Gas Map for citizens to monitor pollution levels in neighbourhood:
The map is an architecture intervention as information is gathered from citizens and activists who fight for democracy of Hong Kong. It acts as a tool for Hongkongers to reference what happened near our home by simply taking a quick search by typing our own home address to check whether there were tear gas canisters fired in the past months. If your home is within 250meters radius from a tear gas emitted site, do not eat the fresh fruit and food in wet markets which are exposed in outdoor environments, women should be aware of side effects from tear gas if they are pregnant. One highly risky place is the Yau Ma Tei Gwo Laan supplying fresh fruits all over Hong Kong.

SIEGE OF POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY — November 13 - 29, 2019 4823 Tear Gas at Polytechnic University, Hung Hom On November 18 & 19, 2019, Hong Kong police fired 4823 tear gas canisters in the Polytechnic University, accounting for one third of the total ammunition used over the 12 months protest. This is one of the visual evidences submitted to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong Inquiry to show the actions of the Hong Kong police DID NOT make a distinction between those they considered ‘combatants’ and of a threat to public order and humanitarian aid workers; WERE NOT proportional to the threat posed by medical workers; WERE breaching international human rights law and Sino-British Joint Declaration.

CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG — November 12, 2019 1567 Tear Gas in University Campus The Chinese University of Hong Kong Protesters engaged in fiery battles with police outside Chinese University campus. 1567 Tear Gas were fired. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned it was “wishful thinking” that the government would yield to protesters’ demands in the face of escalating violence.

KWAI FONG METRO STATION — August 11, 2019 Using Tear Gas Indoors At 9pm, Police fire tear gas canisters indoor at Kwai Fong Metro Railway station. In indoor area tear gas is difficult to dispersed as it got not enough ventilation and sunlight to degrade. The residue will be attached to interior surface of the station, the food of the restaurant in station is contaminated. Tear gas is a nonlethal chemical, when used appropriately. It spreads quickly over a wide area, limiting exposure to individuals. Experts and tear gas manufacturers warn against using it indoors, where higher concentrations of the chemical can become trapped, and people may not be able to escape.

In January 2020, the APPG in Hong Kong decided to undertake a full international inquiry into possible violations of human rights and humanitarian principles by the police, specifically in regards to its treatment of medical workers. It invites individuals from Hong Kong and international organisations to submit evidence as well as a group of international lawyers and human rights experts, led by the APPG, to curate, analyse, and evaluate the evidence of the inquiry.

The scope of the inquiry is as follows: “Policing the protests in Hong Kong: have the actions of the Hong Kong Police in relation to providers of a.humanitarian aid and associated with the provision of aid, breached international human rights law?”

This platform is set up to archive every single tear gas fired in Hong Kong since June 12, 2019. There are links to videos showing police firing tear gas at citizens, news reporters, and medical workers on the map as the evidence of police brutality. This is an ongoing process as the map keeps updating when more tear gas is fired in the future.


3D Drawings

Contested Boundaries of Dissident Tears Scenario Reconstruction

RESISTING TEAR GAS VIA URBAN DESIGN STRATEGY — An urban dome effect based on ventilation studies is in the absence of winds, convective heat from individual buildings rose and formed a dome-shaped accumulation of warm air and pollutants above the city. Based on the findings and scientific research of the urban climate map study, categories of urban climatic improvement measures have been proposed, including the optimisation of greening, improving building permeability, reducing ground coverage, improving proximity and connectivity to openness, and regulation of building volumes and building heights.

RESISTING TEAR GAS THROUGH PROTEST POSITION — Although a compact city is efficient in transportation and maximises the occupancy of an area of land, it is super dangerous and alarming that a high density living city is vulnerable to tear gas. Therefore, form position is crucial in protest as street level improvement. For a preferred protest position to resist the effect of tear gas in the city, aligning the long frontage of protester with prevailing wind directions could avoid tear gas blow towards protesters.

RESISTING TEAR GAS IN DOMESTIC SPACE — The influence of tear gas is involved not only on the street but also in our homes. Even if residents choose to stay away from the protest and remain at home, tear gas is still effective. On 13 October 2019, Sha Tin Bamboo Court in Yuen Wo Road was being hit by riot police’s tear gas directly. The canisters fired into the bedroom of a young couple flat and started burning the furniture inside. They need to move out from the flat for two weeks to wait till the residue saturates and lose its irritating power in the human body.

Tear Gas Residue in Indoor Space — Nano housing makes people have no space to hide from tear gas. A group of 40 chemical engineers warned in a press conference that they have found potentially harmful tear gas residue lingering on various surfaces up to three weeks after it was fired by police officers during clashes with protesters. The residual effects of tear gas are as dangerous as the initial use. If tear gas residue is not cleaned properly, tear gas can cause upper respiratory problems, skin irritation and sinus issues. Therefore, the flat must be cleaned up properly before the space is again safe for habitation.

With a proposal reimagining Hong Kong with lower site coverage, ventilated design and wider street levels, the city could be evolved into a new model of domesticity behaviour acting as the key to endure the effect from tear gas as well as urban dome impact, for a foreseeable future of a automated civic society which is well equipped with quality to withstands pressures from state control and climatic change impact.



Proposal on Resisting the Effect of Tear Gas in the City ​:
There are architectures that would resist the tear gas infiltration, on various scales: From Urban Morphology to An Apartment Unit.
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