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Architecture (MA)

Cheryl Wong

Cheryl is a sentimentalist with an attachment to the memories of objects and spaces through time.

Her first-year project in ADS12 focused on themes of obsolete expressions through preserving metal craftsmanship in Hong Kong. This year, her project titled “Gaze is the limit of seeing; Until it breaks…” explores inauthentic authenticities, the question of the Replica/Shanzhai and ephemeral realities through the British Chinese diasporic community.

Recently, Cheryl’s ‘Starry Night Sky’ artworks was selected by Buckingham Palace and the BBC to feature in the King’s Coronation Concert, which was projected onto the façade of Windsor Castle and LED screens. She was also interviewed by the BBC to represent the Royal College of Art for her contribution to the event, which was broadcasted live to 12 million audience members.

She previously completed her BSSc Architectural Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where her research focused on resisting gentrification and displaced communities, including visiting and documenting the Baseco slums of Manila, Philippines. She has since interned at Gagosian Gallery, worked as an architectural assistant for two years focusing on large to small-scale social architectural projects and was a HKIA (Hong Kong Institute of Architects) Covid-19 volunteer for the underprivileged in Hong Kong.

Returning to the UK after 5 years of studying and working in Hong Kong, she draws upon her interests in reinterpreting cultural heritage and traditions. At the RCA and beyond, Cheryl seeks to expand her expression of work as a multidisciplinary creative, with a fundamental interest in designing and executing unique experiences.

Amalgamation of Facades

In the fluctuating time of modern life and melee of information, we have become accustomed to the excessive, highly-stimulating depiction of picture-perfect, instagram-worthy views of “aesthetically pleasing" setups. Such as the default raw concrete hipster cafes filled with oak wood furniture that has become a standardized norm for Hong Kong youngsters that seek a European coffee break experience. A limitless curation of visuals. But what about those who seek the "real-deal"? In a world where advertisements brand themselves as "Authentic”, how can we truly experience the most “pure" forms of experience? In exposing the discrepancies between the Authentic and it's manipulated creation, the project seeks to offer a reexamination of our relationship to the reconstructed authenticity of memory and experience through the British Chinese Diaspora.

For most second to third generation British Chinese, their connection to home is no longer their homeland of ethnic origin unlike their first-generation counterparts, as they now adopt their host country (Britain) as home. This generational change of social mobility and self-views of national identity are strikingly different from their migrant parents, whereby BBC’s notion of home is no longer solely tied to issues of ethnically specific cultural and traditional spaces. The British Chinese Diaspora amongst millennials are now representing independent social and cultural transformations with the in-between-ness of identity between their country of origin and host country.

“Gaze is the limit of seeing ; Until it breaks...” explores the building as a space of hospitality – to host people and culture of the British Chinese diaspora - a space for an ever-evolving cultural depot. It seeks to uphold and acknowledge the different forces and tensions that come into play, through not just fluid layers of representation but also counter-representation. The strategy introduces new specific fusions of spaces at a site that contains a hyperreality of cultures and to explore identity and heritage. Now comes a time more than ever where the placemaking of identity are blurred, establishing an architecture that can introduce a maintaining the comfort with new fusions as reflected in the already fused identities of the British Chinese diaspora. Whilst there are serious notions at play regarding authenticity, the architecture also explores the potential comedy of errors or playfulness of some of the misunderstood cultural cues that reopens levity to cultural symbolism and diaspora.

Keywords: Diaspora, Identity, Fusion, Temporality, Realities, Authenticity, Ghostly Shells, Liminal, Replica, (Re)constructed Realities, Shanzhai, Artificial

Even with epoxy resin’s supposedly immortalizing abilities that freeze something in time, it is clear that not everything will look or feel the same way. By attempting to preserve food, the outcome is one of rot and a loss of colour – like a ghostly shell of its past self. The deteriorated internal quality juxtaposed with the clean resin that encapsulates the foods depicts a fusion of two materials; a spectre of the past, present, and future of Chinese British diaspora.


Resin, Tomato, Tangerine, Strawberry, Banana, Raspberry, Cucumber
Several replica ceramic spoons were collected in different supermarkets in Chinatown. Yet when closely inspected, these spoons aren’t quite the same. The replica is deconstructed through attempting to replicate the spoon. Yet for every attempt to copy To model To reproduce Something is lost in translation… It looks the same, but it is different.
In Camden, Hong Kong’s traditional plain egg waffles typically served in a paper bag have exploded in popularity throughout London, labelled and re-imagined as “bubble waffles”, garnished with a mountain of strawberry cream and fresh fruits in a variety of colours. In the British gardens of Chinese families, the fig leaf gourd becomes a substitution for the Chinese winter melon. Bubble tea shops have become a natural go-to takeaway drink for many as well.
The typology and phenomenon of the pop-up are deconstructed through experiencing the replicated version of a cha chaan teng at HOKO café, whilst simultaneously experiencing the true experience of Mido Café in Hong Kong, an actual authentic Cha Chaan Teng in it’ original context. The parallel realities expose and blur the experiential boundaries between authenticity / inauthenticity, artificiality, place, dislocation and home, closing the distance between the two realities whilst concurrently exposing what i
I experience another parallel reality where the shopping experiences of Hong Kong’s over-saturated harrods store are blurred with the computerized inventory of Britain’s Poundland. The overpopulation of products for sale at the harrods store contrasts with the orderly nature of the Poundland chain store. Identity is represented through both interior spaces.
PixPlant Facade Tile

The project is situated at the heart of Shoreditch –known as the Hipster heaven for contemporary youths. Brick Lane shares a common ground of sharing cultures through a variety of ethnically run businesses, forging a contemporary heritage of hipster culture and regeneration of identities. There is an artificial nature to the site, where shadows of pop-up spaces is represented through the visual material abundancy of stores, through interior spaces, food or materials.

The specific site is located along the popular Brick Lane street, where the Bubbleology tea shop recently opened. Yet - like so many other stores along this street – many of these places are temporary and a high tenancy turnover rate. The Bubbleology shop will be replaced with a space of hospitality for the British Chinese demographic.

The immediate surroundings of the site neighbours a variety of shops including a primary school, Bangladeshi restaurant, a Brick Lane coffeeshop, a bookstore, US-Based fast food chain Morley’s, wholesale fabric stores, Italian & Korean fusion restaurant, a British pub, an Asian-run barber shop, vintage stores etc. The site’s unique legacy of absorbing a mixture of various cultures makes it suitable for the project because of it’s diluted nature of identities as represented in the amalgamation of key symbolic Chinese and British façade tiles.

Hybridising symbolic features, references from Chinese iconography such as the window frames and tiles juxtaposes with more British features such Victorian style decor, window ornamentation and brick wall. A new language is created for the façade. The brick façade deconstructs and reconstructs familiar Chinese and British material symbolic features. 

Long Facade Line Drawing
Facade Renders

“Celestial Peach” hosted by Jenny is a platform that taps into the BBC’s shared heritage through Chinese food cultures, which has connected the community in pop up cooking workshops across London including potlucks, supper clubs and congee gatherings

From the ordinary Victorian windows, one peers in to see a different world inside of the building…

The ground floor plan is a centralised space facilitating the rituals of cooking, eating, dining and sharing between generations. Youngsters, mothers and grandparents gather around to share their fusion or traditional recipes with one another.

Celestial Peach’s regular potluck meetup and other cooking events is hosted in this space, as a means to share a personal knowledge of recipes through the communal architecture. A single surface undulates throughout the ground floor space, adapting to the various rituals that happen. The lower surfaces can be used for seating or storing equipment or a dining table becomes a food preparation area. 

The Karoake Room
The Karoake Room
The Archive Pawn Shop
The Archive Pawn Shop

The Archive Pawn Shop is a space that is ever evolving over time, where it is both the graveyard for remnants of former pop up shop elements, whilst also being a usable space.

Wooden screens becomes costume rooms where youth can dress up in costumes that was formerly the uniform of pop up shop staff, a staircase leads to a neon billboard sign often seen in the streets of Hong Kong. A table complete with a full set of mahjong is wedged between a pile of red plastic chairs. There is an uncanny nature to the space, as one cannot tell if something is authentic or not; the room feels both familiar yet unfamiliar. The Archive Pawn Shop takes stock of the pop-up shop’s remnants which becomes of re-usable value again within the building as well as for other future events for the wider ESEA community. It is a space that reclaims the diverse hidden past and future narratives through a collective means of distribution and cultural understanding, bringing about intrinsic value to the temporal nature of the objects and space.