As part of a user research exercise for the design of a digital detox cafe, I asked my architecture students to take up the challenge of not using their cellphones and be connected to the internet. They have to keep a small diary during this period of time. Below is a selection of some their observations and reflections.
The hillside informal shrine in So Uk Estate is connected to a larger network of elderly walkers and informal social spaces. The shrine is situated along a path that winds up the hillside, which is a favorite spot for the mostly elderly residents and housewives to engage in their morning walks and exercises. The shrine is often a stop over for the residents. They would offer incense or a simple prayer at the shrine on their way up or down the hill during their morning exercise routines. Besides exercising, the residents have also undertaken small, self-initiated actions along the various exercising spots; such as plant caring, building of small concrete steps to link disconnected parts of the hillside and allow a safer walk up the hill, introducing resting spots, setting up support facilities for the morning exercises, and repairing broken planters. Water for the plants is collected from the natural run-offs from the hill in small pails and buckets. The So Uk Estate shrine and the adjacent exercising spots are excellent examples of bottom-up initiatives in place-making. It makes a strong case for allowing urban dwellers to take control and have the opportunity to shape their immediate spaces in the city rather than top-down initiatives that often miss the point and cost much more than they should.
"My sleeping space is very simple. The most important thing for me is to protect my neck and chest from the cold at night. I use a cardboard box and slip my body inside when I sleep. It helps me to keep warm that way. The columns here are excellent for sleeping! I can rest my head on the inclined ground between the columns and they are wide enough to protect me from the cold wind at night."