MIT Hacking Kowloon East

Technologies for Activating Urban Life
2021 IAP and Spring workshop, MIT SA+P and Hong Kong Node

About “Hacking Kowloon East”

Technology for Activating Urban Life

Even before the pandemic, digital technologies were changing patterns of social and economic life in cities. With the growth of e-commerce and other digital platforms, urban experiences are increasingly mediated through virtual platforms.

While lockdowns have led to a diminishing of urban social life, this crisis also presents an opportunity to reimagine how citizens relate to each other. Can technology play a positive role in bringing citizens together and helping more urban dwellers access social and economic opportunities? Planners and designers can help cities reimagine what is possible in this “new normal”.

MIT SA+P, in partnership with the MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node, offered a ‘virtual design course” in IAP and Spring 2021 bringing students from Hong Kong and MIT together to address some of the challenges cities are facing now. Students  participated in a January (IAP) charrette held virtually and synchronously between Hong Kong and Boston. Throughout the Spring of 2021, the workshop met weekly. Students organized into groups, each focused on developing a masterplan for activating a particular part of Hong Kong’s Kowloon East district, using both architectural as well as digital strategies.

Kowloon East was once a primary industrial district in Hong Kong. Today, many old industrial buildings remain vibrant commercial spaces for a variety of small businesses. The Hong Kong government has plans to transform the area into a “smart city” and an additional CBD to supplement Central. This studio sought to imagine possibilities for a “smart Kowloon East” that places people at the center, maintains the character and culture of the district, and remedies economic and social inequalities in a district that has one of Hong Kong’s highest concentrations of public housing.

Download the booklet for the final review of Hacking Kowloon East, May 19 and 20, 2021

More About Kowloon East

Under its current rapid development, Hong Kong faces increasing economic challenges and new opportunities to transform. As the traditional Central Business District (CBD) saturates, the Hong Kong Government identified the need to develop another kind of CBD, in Kowloon East.

The larger Kowloon East area also includes Kwun Town, Hong Kong’s poorest and most densely populated district.

There are a set of socio-economic challenges faced by the underprivileged individuals during this urban regeneration process. Many elderly residents of Kwun Tong live in public housing estates, some of which are in upper elevation areas that have less accessibility to the main urban district below.

Aviation and Industrial Heritage

The center of the Kowloon East CBD is located on the site of former Kai Tak Airport, once Hong Kong’s main international gateway. Famed for its dramatic airplane landings, the airport closed in 1998 to make way for the new Chek Lap Lok Airport on Lantau Island. 

Kwun Tong, located southeast of the airport site, was an important industrial district in the 1950s, home to many so-called “flatted factories”, or multilevel industrial complexes. Today, many of these structures still remain and house a variety of small businesses, restaurants, and industrial spaces. This modern heritage of Hong Kong is under threat from the influx of new commercial development, but there are plans to preserve this industrial heritage as part of the new Kowloon East. There are also co-working spaces, galleries, and other cultural amenities that have brought new life to the area and could be retained in future development plans.

Kowloon East Master Plan (Energizing Kowloon East)

The general master plan for Kowloon East includes Kai Tak,  Kowloon Bay Action Area, and Kwun Tong Action Area. Ongoing initiatives have brought new open spaces such as along waterfront Hoi Bun Road.

For additional information, visit Energizing Kowloon East

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Brent D. Ryan 

Associate Professor of Urban Design and Public Policy
Head of City Design and Development Group Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Brent D. Ryan is Head of the City Design and Development Group and Associate Professor of Urban Design and Public Policy in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. His research focuses on the aesthetics and policies of contemporary urban design, particularly with respect to pressing issues like deindustrialization and climate change. Professor Ryan’s first book Design After Decline: How America rebuilds shrinking cities , was one of Planetizen ’s ten best urban planning books of 2012, and his second book The Largest Art: A measured manifesto for plural urbanism , was published by MIT Press in 2017.

Professor Ryan has published research in the Journal of Urbanism, Journal of Urban Design, Journal of Planning History, Urban Design International, Urban Morphology , and the Journal of the American Planning Association , which awarded his article “Reading Through A Plan” its best article of 2011. Professor Ryan has contributed chapters to The Companion to Urban Design, The City After Abandonment, The Oxford Handbook of Urban Planning , and others.

Professor Ryan conducts urban design research and practice around the world, including China, Ukraine, Russia, Japan, and the United States. Current research includes a study of sustainability in Siberian cities, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and a study of new town design conducted in collaboration with MIT China Future City Lab. Professor Ryan has consulted for the World Bank, Google, and the Armenian Tumo Foundation relating to cities, urban design, economic and demographic shifts.

Prior to joining MIT, Professor Ryan taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was also Co-Director of the City Design Center. Professor Ryan holds a B.S. in biology from Yale University, a M. Arch. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in urban design and planning from MIT.

Sing Yueng (Sunnie) Lau
Director of Smart City Research and Industry Collaboration
MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node

Sunnie believes that human-centric design promotes inclusive communities with innovative sustainable design strategies and urban designers & architects play important roles within the built environment. As an international associate member of AIA, UK Chartered Member and Hong Kong Registered Architect, she has been a regular design critic and instructor at architecture and urban design programmes at various schools. Taking up the roles of both practitioner and educator, she has been promoting architecture by designing, exhibiting, writing as outreach, and engaging communities. The endeavors included publicizing ongoing research topic on Kowloon East Inclusive Innovation & Growth, urban research-oriented design seminar on “Urban Mobility and Smart Infrastructure”, “Urban Resilience by Design – Adaptive Landscapes for PRD” , and facilitating dialogue between professionals, academia and young members at various cross disciplinary platforms and institutions. She was Co-Curator & Exhibitor of the Hong Kong Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale Of UrbanismArchitecture (Hong Kong) 2017, 2019, Venice Biennale (HK) 2020-2021.

Sunnie graduated with a B.A in Architecture from University of California, Berkeley; and later on, obtained her Master of Architecture, and Certificate in Urban Design from M.I.T. Her international experiences began with renowned architectural practices prior to postgraduate study at the M.I.T.; she worked with Morphosis Architects L.A., MVRDV Rotterdam, on international competitions, cultural projects and large-scale urban developments.  Her academic research focuses on smart city – Inclusive innovation for communities, urban design and technology, urban mobility and smart infrastructure, architectural and urban typologies with an interest in creative and innovative sustainable design strategies (SDGs).

Andrew Stokols
PhD Candidate Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Andrew is an urban planner/designer and researcher. He is currently a Phd student at MIT in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning in the City Design and Development group. His work explores the relationships between national economic development policy and urban megaprojects amidst the rise of platform urbanism and climate change.

He graduated with a masters in urban planning at Harvard Graduate School of Design. His thesis explored the potential of urban network analysis to improve walkability and community in China's super block neighborhoods. Andrew has also been involved in research projects investigating various facets of global urbanization, particularly in China and Asia. As part of Neil Brenner's urban theory lab at Harvard GSD, Andrew investigated the confluence of the global logistics industry and China's "One Belt One Road" program in furthering urbanization in central Asia and western China.

Andrew has worked across Asia and the U.S. on a wide range of projects involving sustainable development and cities. After graduating from U.C Berkeley, he worked for a nonprofit in Beijing managing heritage preservation and rural development projects and was a 2012-13  Fulbright Research Fellow based in Xi’an,China where he investigated the forced relocation of millions of farmers into apartment housing throughout rural China.


Tiange Wang
Master of Architecture, Third Year
Harvard University GSD
Joel Austin Cunningham
Master of Science in Architecture Studies(Design), First Year
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Kwan Queenie Li
Master of Science in Art, Culture and Technology First Year
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Geunhee LeeMaster of Science in City Planning, First Yea. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Yoonjae Oh
Master of Architecture, First Year
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ava Hoffman
Master of City Planning, Second Year
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Chi Chiu (David) Cheng
Master of Science in Urban Planning, Second Year
University of Hong Kong

Moon Mengqi He
Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) in Architecture and Urbanism ‘20

Ellena O.L. Wong
Master of Landscape Architecture Candidate Graduate School of Design
Harvard University


MIT Department of Urban Studies
& Planning

77 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02142


MIT HK Innovation Node
1st Floor, 78 Tat Chee Ave
Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong