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Architecture (MA)

Chunzhen Zhu 朱春臻

Chunzhen Zhu is a second year student who graduated from Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts in 2018 and she has had the privilege of working in Shanghai, where she contributed to multiple projects built across different scales.

Her interest lies in how spatial design can be implemented to confront sociopolitical frontiers, as well as how it serves as a tool to address ongoing challenges.

Her current work manifested within ‘Asymmetrical Gaze and Docile Architecture’ explores the power of architecture in relation to bio-politics, how it shapes the way people experience a certain environment, responding to the public anxiety brought about by what she defines as ‘the asymmetrical gaze’ within spaces of surveillance.

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The Asymmetrical Gaze and Docile Architecture

from a surveillance architecture to a civic architecture in King’s Cross station

1. how can architecture add opacity in the context of pervasive surveillance?

2. how can architecture facilitate spontaneous civic acts?

Architecture often plays an active role in coercion; it engages in the spatialisation of the gaze, inviting, operating, and incorporating new systems of discipline and control. It can serve as an archive of evolving surveillance and a government tool to manipulate society’s anxieties.

The project starts by questioning the definition of the public interest in General Data Protection Regulation and ‘Citizen’s Arrest’ under UK law.

The definition of ‘public interest’ in the General Data Protection Regulation function in the context of the need for authorities to control the public, rather than in the exercise of the public interest. While the GDPR is one of the fundamental grounds of the physical and digital surveillance system, the public is not involved in the ‘public interest’.

The jurisdiction of a security guard is confined to the property they have been employed to protect. They have the same authority and rights as any other citizen. But now, ‘Citizen’s Arrest’ arguably provides the fundamental grounds through which security guards assume their legitimacy to enforce it.

Consequently, the existence of surveillance cameras and the absent authorities can be called into question; do they act in the interest of the public to prevent crime and protect individuals, or are they exploited for the purposes of coercion?

This project tries to bring the public and authority together, aiming to regain the trust from both sides through a newly established civic architecture in King’s Cross Station.


1.        King’s Cross Station - existing circulation

The investigation at King’s Cross Station started by experiencing and mapping the most obvious route, by mapping out every visible CCTV and patrol route of security guards inside the station, the level of opacity is revealed, and it shows how the public and the authorities are currently separated from each other.

2.        Barely legal route

Having experienced the existing conditions, I tried to find an alternative route to escape or minimise the system. The contractors dealing with the surveillance system and the exact type, features and price of each CCTV camera have also been catalogued, as a way of disrupting the opacity created by the distant asymmetry of the gaze.

The map and the route have been printed in a pamphlet format, as an object of disobedience and a pedagogical tool.

3.        Existing circulation & opacity

Five scenes were identified based on circulation and level of opacity. They are The Entrance, The Hall, Staff Office, The Ticket Gate and The Train Platform. The overall mapping of the existing condition shows a distinct spatial feature that divides the public from the authorities, indicating a distinct difference in opacity.

The spatial experiments aim to create chaos in a well-controlled train station by subverting the existing power structure. To regain the trust of both sides by establishing a more symmetrical and transparent model of surveillance, an absurd relationship is put to test.
A series of spatial experiments is looking to answer whether architecture can add opacity in the context of pervasive surveillance and seek potentials in the existing building. Imagining extreme scenarios by overlaying civic spaces which are less controlled and activities that act in the public interest.
After reviewing the potential of the five scenarios, I combined these experimental scenes together into one system that corresponds to each other, and adapted the proposed spatial qualities to the existing building. Attempts are made to form a more organic working environment for the staff and a more engaging space for the public; blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor, public and authorities; making it possible for both sides of the party to work together and act within public’s interest.
The formation of civic spaces at King’s Cross Station serves not only as a mean to add and counter authoritative control but also to regain trust by encouraging both sides to work together towards a sincerely civic architecture. The project redefines the train station as architecture truly for the public, shows how it can bring different people together and facilitate different patterns of civic behaviours.