Master´s Thesis 2020 Material Turn

Ziyu Zhao


Spaces made for human activities lose their purpose when no one uses them. Only when people interacts with the space it starts to function. This interaction generates events, which makes the space complete. Architecture is a vessel that contains occurrence. It reflects its ability of narrating.

However, even though current urban spaces and architecture are mostly programmed, people’s actions, behaviors and movements are not limited by these programs. The events architecture facilitates can be diverse. This fact makes architecture consist complexity and rich possibility of narration. The 2019-20 Hong Kong protests is an extreme example. The urban spaces transformed completely when the movement took place.

The idea “Right to the city” proposed by Henri Lefebvre discussed the relationship between citizens and the urban spaces. The Hong Kong protests are uprisings against the authority, whose approach is using urban spaces to address the appeals, which can be seen as a claim of the “right to the city”.

Heterotopia is a concept elaborated by philosopher Michel Foucault to describe certain cultural, institutional and discursive spaces that are somehow ‘other’: disturbing, intense, incompatible, contradictory or transforming. When the protests take place, the spaces that protesters create can be seen as heterotopias. They are transitory and temporary spaces that isolated from the rest of the city.

This thesis is about narrative. It is represented by a semi-fictional story that showcases counter-factual scenarios of the movement when it became virtual and how the urban spaces could accommodate the situations. In those scenarios protesters claimed “the right to the city” by occupations that are performed in a different way. The space that contains it is virtual yet influences the physical environment, which is people’s heterotopias. The thesis also explores how people could be a factor of forming spaces under a semi-fictional setting.




The narrative is counterfactual. It is based on a Hong Kong that is under current time but with more advanced augmented reality technology that allows objects to be projected by hologram.

After seven months protesting, the movement paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under this circumstance when everyone has to stay home, the Internet has become the most important tool for building the connection between individuals and the rest of the world. People started to spend more time in social media, online games and video calls; Exhibitions and live performances went online. These have shown how the technology can change our ways of living. But under a usual circumstance, the virtual world is not just a replacement of the physical one but another layer of the reality.

What if the protests become virtual too? In this counterfact, protesters can execute their protests on Internet, which has the potential to create impact in the city,too. If the impact to the city is strong enough, it could mitigate the problem that the physical demonstrations interrupt the city from operating and may avoid the violences. As for the impact itself, from the other hand, can be achieved by projecting the virtual events on the physical environment, based on the counterfactual setting.

The virtual occupations values and records people’s power regardless one’s background, and are not traceable, which resonates a slogan of the protests -“Be water”.

Chronicle of development of the platform.


Structure of the platform.
Page example – Entry page.
Page example – Districts.
Page example – Art work archive.


1. New Town Plaza, Sha Tin

2. Hennessy Road, Hong Kong Island

3. MTR station (Yuen Long station)

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