A Coastal Intervention with 3D Terracotta Printing: Stools and Shelters for Aquatic Fauna

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A Coastal Intervention with 3D Terracotta Printing: Stools and Shelters for Aquatic Fauna

A Coastal Intervention with 3D Terracotta Printing: Stools and Shelters for Aquatic Fauna - Image 1 of 20
© Christian J. Lange

As humanity becomes aware of its impact on the environment, it has also sought ways to reverse some of the harm caused to fauna and flora, especially in cities. Our way of living, consumption and construction has caused severe damage to nature. In fact, according to a study from the Weizmann Institute of Science, we are at a point of inflection where the mass of all man-made materials is equal to the planet’s biomass, and it should double by 2040. But not necessarily everything we build should have a negative impact. “The Tidal Stool” project is an example of this – part of a comprehensive revitalization project in Kuk Po Village in Shau Tau Kok in Hong Kong, which brings together two different ecologies, the anthropocentric and natural environment.

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The coastal lines of Hong Kong have been redefined for decades. Many large land recovery processes reformulated the city’s coastal condition and destroyed the existing animal habitats. However, there are still many that remain intact. The shoreline of Kuk Po Village, Shau Tau Kok, is one of these remaining habitats and is exceptionally picturesque. According to the project description, “For many of us, the shoreline has a magical attraction. It is an interstitial space that invites us to dwell and contemplate. It offers views of the shore and the landscape and brings us closer to the natural forces surrounding us.”

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© Alyssa Williams Ng

Between the high and low tide lies the tidal zone. In Hong Kong, this area fluctuates by about 900 mm. The animals and plants that live there cope with different conditions throughout the day. They are submerged at high tide and exposed to the air at low tide. Every twelve hours, this ecology changes on the shoreline.     

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© Chen Zhaowei

The idea of the project is to join two different ecologies–the anthropocentric and the natural environment–, instead of separating them through artificial intervention. Both are the beneficiaries of its functional design approach. 

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© Chen Zhaowei
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Generative process via Grasshopper | Complexity versions. Image © Robotic Fabrication Lab, HKU

With its intricate spaces and cracks, the stool provides many hide-outs from predators for creatures and enhances the ecology of the shoreline. During high tide, these are partially submerged in water; during low tide, it invites residents and visitors to take a break and enjoy the beach.

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Digital Prototypes with complexity indicator. Image © Robotic Fabrication Lab, HKU

Three main ideas inspired stool’s design. On the one hand, it references classical ceramic stools, which have a rich history in China. They have existed for at least 1,000 years and were used mainly in landscape gardens and made of various materials such as stone, wood, glazed stoneware and porcelain. Secondly, the stool is inspired by mangrove roots, which are typical in this location and grow along the shoreline, supporting sustainable coastal and marine ecosystems. Lastly, the dark brownish earthen colors of the stool are a nod to the rocks on this specific shoreline, allowing it to integrate with the surrounding natural habitat.

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© Christian J. Lange

The project was coordinated by Christian J. Lange and Weijen Wang, and the team included Chen Zhaowei, Yin Fangyi and Chan Ching Yin, funded by the Country Conservation Office and printed in the Hong Kong University Robotic Fabrication Lab. In total, the team produced 30 unique stools with different heights for different users and varying degrees of surface complexity. The goal of producing this multiplicity of solutions was to understand which geometry would have the best performance for the natural environment. All were produced using a standard industrial robot and made using a unique mixture of terracotta clay, which is very suitable for natural habitats due to its pH level. Therefore, if they deteriorate over time, they return to nature without any damage.

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Cite: Souza, Eduardo. “A Coastal Intervention with 3D Terracotta Printing: Stools and Shelters for Aquatic Fauna” [Intervenção costeira com impressão de terracota 3D: Bancos ou abrigo para a fauna aquática] 14 Jun 2022. ArchDaily. Accessed .

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