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Dr. ir. Gerhard Bruyns is an architect and urbanist. He is Associate Professor of Environment and Interior Design, School of Design at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong. His research deals with the aspects of spatial morphology ( and its impact on both the formal expression of the city and societal conditions that are compressed into an urban landscape of Asia. He has published on design strategies, geopolitical issues linked to spatial practices and urban morphology. He has taught in the Netherlands (TU Delft), Germany, South Africa and South America. He is currently operational editor of Cubic Design Journal

Research interests

A. Keywords:

| #morphology | #morphogenetic | #geo-morphic | #topological |

| #inverted-morphology | #cubic | #compression | #interiority | #territorialdesign | #spatialplanning.  

B. Domains of focus. 

1. (Designing) Morphologies of expansion critique focuses on the morphologies of territories and places. Considering both territory and topography, this critique investigates the shaping of a city as process and product. The investigation centres on the various forms of urban extremes and their processes, actors and consequential spatial laminations in specific geospatial or geopolitical contexts. In their embodiment, each condition represents a specific spatial relationship or spatial topology. Three subcomponents support morphologies of expansion: [1] territories, [2] topographies and [3] morphologies of inverted spatial settings. 

2. (Designing) Morphologies of spatial compression focuses on the ‘square foot society’ concept, which theoretically articulates domestic use within the geographic nexus of Hong Kong’s postcolonial and neoliberal landscape. The critique poses larger questions about the standardisation of all forms of ‘lived’ space. First, based on the understanding of how people tactically shape their dwelling spaces, the ‘square foot society’ concept questions domestic lifestyles, spatial engagement, human endeavour, religious practices, forms of public redress and cultural beliefs that are all compressed into a ‘square foot metric’ and set against financial value. Second, the ‘square foot society’ concept seeks to expose how the domestic interior, as a product of an ethnographic context [individual, group and family], reacts against the square-foot norm to ‘co-produce’ [cf. Bruyns & Low, 2011] new habitual types. It seeks to frame the impact of the domestic interior at several levels, especially in terms of social ‘commoning’ [Bruyns, Kosoulas, & Shon, 2015] and new forms of design. 

3. (Designing) Volumetric Morphologies represents the technical dimensions of morphological analysis. the translation of either compression or expansion finds it material expression in a variety of formats, bringing forward more question of how to assess morphologies of the 21st Century Urbanisation. This includes interior settings, architectural forms, city-regions and territories.

C. Bodies of Work generated  (RAE 2020)

Body of Work 1: Contested Territorialisation, Hong Kong Urbanisms of Ownership, Occupation and Spatial Tenure

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is a de facto territory of China. As a bipartisan product of both the east and west, the question of territory has remained a key concern from a variety of perspectives; as a geopolitical landscape part of the Chinese Mainland, a legislative state still operating under British derived law and, a territory formed by a populous that seeks an independent state. 

This BOW interrogates the various spatial claims made on the territory of Hong Kong, at a number of levels. Essentially the work reflects on the intricacies of what defines territory and how its meaning shifts within different perspectives/ domains. The concept of territory, drawn from urban geography, is used as a key anchor point. With this, the same concepts are then re-tested within the domains of urbanism, architecture, law and critical theory. In this framework the BOW wishes to contribute to a discourse that centres on ‘man’ and his relationship to ‘land’ in terms of ownership models and types of territories that emerge from these. 

This BOW’s interrogation commences with defining ownership within urban geography, and subsequently, adding the two additional concepts of ‘tenure’ and ‘occupation’ to the enquiry. Thereafter interrogation is extended into the domains of law, testing spatial legalities and forms of expression. As a follow-up the tests are conducted in the architectural domain, looking at numbers of ownership entities per floor and how spaces become fractured. Examining of social movements (contestation patterns) that aim to claim back territories, links the premise of territorial ownership within the urbanism fields. 

Finally, the ten products shown here not only range in type of output, but merges the concepts and theoretical implication into the field of design, testing the manner in which these ideas can be utilised as part of design thinking and territorial expression.

Body of Work 2: Volumetric-Economic-Morphologies, Reapplying two-dimensional morphological analysis into three-dimensional environments.

Urban morphology is the science that classifies urban spaces. In the larger sense this embodies the study of spatial types in the city-landscapes, to understand and define the anatomy of cities, through spaces and spatial types. 

Analysis of the city has for the most part remains an ‘straightforward’ prospect, with urban landscapes commonly viewed as single layered entity, or otherwise called, ‘flat’ settings. Prevalent to the Asian context, is the existence of multi-level landscapes, changing the nature of the city from ‘flat’ into three dimensional entities. Beyond the mere stacking of similar floor type-upon-floor type, new spatial forms emerge, thanks to the layering of different spatial functions, as well as the interlinking of such functions to one another in complex configurations that become rhizomatic in form. 

Volumetric Economic Morphologies (VEM) represents a follow-up to the first BOW, investigating the morphological propositions of the three-dimensional spatial structures. As a new research direction this BOW, using Hong Kong as ‘proof of case’, wishes to [a] clarify the new spatial types that emerge due to the three dimensional complexity, [b] question how spatial types and economies, planning and policies are interlinked to one another in this three dimensional form, and [c] harness the results to further expand the new research field that links the domains of urban morphology and planning into three dimensional research within geography and resilience studies. 

 Presented herein are the first four key findings, to date, and their disseminated formats. Each outcome outlines the testing of different domains of research (morphology, architectural design, geography and computational sciences) in the three dimensional settings in both conceptual and empirical formulations. As a new field, the intention is to complete the descriptive processes of such complex spatial types, before replicating the methods to seek out the spatial anatomy of other urban dense urban settings in South East and Central Asia.


Body of Work 3: Square Foot Societies; Interior Morphologies and Spatiality of Compression.

A follow-up to the morphological research (BOW 2) is a direction that questions the intensification of space. Normally the interior is viewed as the simple division between the public and the private. In the Asian context, due to the lack of land and the dependency on neoliberal developmental models, ‘spatial size’ and ‘value’ remains a driving force in how space is both planned and used. Not only does this challenge the concept of density, it also produces an environment where entire cities become interiorised.  The implications of this impacts a variety of fields, such as [a] vertical developmental models, [b] architectural design, [c] interior types of space, [d] building climate, [e] housing standards, [f] affordability of spaces and what is viewed as [g] social spaces and spaces only accessible to a few.  

This BOW completes the analysis of territories and morphologies by investigating spatial compression. Using the territorial (BOW 1) and morphological research (BOW 2) as a means to classify the anatomy of the city, this research extends the theoretical and empirical work from spatial planning and architecture into interior architecture by looking at the usability of interiors. Moreover, it concomitantly questions how interiors are tactically adapted, due to limited space and user needs. 

Six outputs fall under this BOW. Harnessing the Hong Kong SAR as testing bed, the work commences with delimiting dwelling size typologies to understand the characteristics and confinements of interior space. Herein a comparison of living typologies spanning 50 years forms the basis. Thereafter the research investigates developmental models, such as gated communities (spatial planning) as settings for dwellings. Further empirical surveying of interiors and interior usage provide evidence of how lives shape and reshape dwellings, linking interiors to tactical notions as redress for lack of space. In situ surveying was instrumental in formulating key social-technical concepts, such as ‘overlay’ and ‘integration’, before testing these concepts in the domain of design as interior products. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Education/Academic qualification

Urbanism, PhD, Urban Dispositif: An Atlas of Spatial Mechanisms and the Contemporary Urban Landscape: A reading of movement as an interpretive device and mechanism of urban form, Delft University of Technology

Award Date: 26 Sept 2011

Urbanism, MSc, Ubuntu: Post-Colonial Urban Tribe Space’, Faculty of Architecture Delft University of Technology


Award Date: 4 Jul 2002


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