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Tiffany Leong architecture thesis project Chinatown
Tiffany Leong's thesis project worked with the Vancouver Chinatown.

Today I happened across (yet another) thesis project about the Chinatown. I've found each thesis I've seen has a different take on the subject and this one is no different. This time it was about Vancouver's Winnipeg Chinatown, one of the largest in North America.
The project came from a 5th generation Chinese Canadian, honouring the memory of the iconic Shanghai Restaurant that her great-grandfather had championed. None of the younger generation wanted to take on the restaurant - there are many cases that I know of here in New Zealand.

Tiffany Leong creates a small scale intervention on the site to the former restaurant. It rises two stories, with a roof inspired by Chinese paper art. It is at the street level that this scheme shows the momentum of the Chinatown condition - a transparency and porosity with the help of pocket doors, louvres and folding partitions. What this does is create human-scale connections that blur the line between public and private. It also draws inspiration from the hidden passages and spaces typical of Chinatowns around the world.

It can be said that Chinatowns were created by the circumstances of the time of formation - Chinatowns are now used very differently from the past. They are less ethnic enclaves (a response to racial discrimination and abuse) and more 'vibrant' communities with a mix of interesting eateries. It can be argued that this typology is not relevant in today's day and age, too. Without a formal Chinatown, Auckland now has pockets of predominantly Chinese areas ('predominantly' because there are many other cultures alongside - Thai, Japanese, Indian, Middle Eastern) and any intervention would have to be inclusive. This may or may not have a role for Chinatown spatial typologies which is why I am not looking only at 'Chinatowns' and their countless examples, but further back drawing inspiration upon the roots of Chinese culture.

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