Storm-Speed City

Location: Shenzhen, China / Hong Kong S.A.R.
Client: Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture
Scope: Research & Exhibition
Progress/Year: 2019

Throughout the 20th century, in addition to observation and collection, the Hong Kong Observatory was responsible for communicating information about impending storms—namely tropical cyclones, or typhoons—to the port city’s residents and shipping community. Initially, the signal systems were beacons hoisted at high points around Hong Kong. Over time, the Observatory produced a series of distinct signaling methods: local residents, for example, would await a second gunshot sound in anticipation of an approaching typhoon, while shippers looked out for red symbols turning to black to gauge their next steps. These signaling systems represented a responsive way of living with dynamic weather, in contrast to today’s engagement with unpredictable conditions characterized by risk management and control.

How can the Bay Area Region’s historic adaptability to diverse climates, emerging from its distinct geographic conditions, become a model for a transformative new form of urbanism and urban life? Storm-Speed City is a vision for a future city which moves at the speed of radar, from the scale of the picnic to the stock exchange. Storm-Speed City proposes a Hong Kong-Shenzen region where weather sensing and signaling become dramatically more distributed: from singular stations to a network of devices. Instead of observing time marked by a bell in the clock tower or the nine-to-five schedule, Storm-Speed City’s activities fluctuate around the temporality of shifting local weather and micro-climates.

This speculation is exhibited through a large-scale model and three short films. The topographic model, spanning from harbor-depth to stratosphere, illustrates the changing metabolism of urban activities as weather conditions pass through. The films explore three time-scales: the history of typhoon-signaling (100 years); vignettes from daily life (1 hour); and new temporal and sensorial experiences (1 second). Examples from these films include: a walk to the office which is diverted when a group notice umbrella lights glowing green on the side street indicating a warmer micro-climate; a drone delivery route actively calculates to avoid impending clouds; and a small shop closes early to hedge against rising A/C costs on a hot afternoon.

Today, local observatories in the Bay Area Region have assembled diverse forms of meteorological data for public use. Contextualized by the increasing turbulence of climate change, Storm-Speed City explores a future city where new ways of living with unpredictable weather has transformed both the built environment and lived experience in the Bay Area Region. Climate change stresses the importance of exploring new forms of urban life: Storm-Speed City explores a way of life in tempo with the weather’s impending volatility.

Project Credits
Future Firm: Ann Lui 雷樂 and Craig Reschke
Lead Animator & 3D Artist (Film 2 & 3): Olive Ouyang 欧阳琦
Research & Concept (Project): Chloe Munkenbeck
3D Artist (Film 2 & 3): Nathaniel Gillette
Character Rigging and Animation (Film 3): Sara Shoshana Roth
Contributors: Paul Jasper and Jingyu Jwa
Film Characters: Suzie Shang, Yangmei Cai, Kevin Qin, and Kaiyue Zhou