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Architecture (MA)

Ling Tiffany Lee 李翎

Tiffany is an architectural designer based in London and Hong Kong who enjoys working through research and writing, as well as making. Being informed by her upbringing in post-colonial Hong Kong, and her bilingual fluency in opposing cultures, Tiffany is interested in the mitigation and conflict of diasporic conditions in the post-colonial society today. Through valuing and recentering alternative epistemologies and cultural practices, Tiffany creates poetic and whimsical ways of resistance and coexistence.

In 2021-2022, Tiffany was part of ADS2, Black Horizons: Worlding within the Ruins of Racial Capitalism, developing an augmented reality landscape hijacking the financial capital of Canary Wharf through the lens of Chinese mythology and superstition. In the past year, as part of ADS8, Tiffany continues to explore ways to bring light to, and reckon with, the consequences of colonialism within a British-Chinese context.

Prior to MA Architecture at the Royal College of Art, Tiffany graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in Architecture in 2020. She has worked in practice in both Hong Kong and London with Zaha Hadid Architects on commercial and infrastructural projects.

Collage plan of different ways of archiving


'Return to Roots’, from the Chinese idiom 落葉歸根 ‘Falling leaves return to their roots’, which often refers to diaspora and migrants returning to their home, their origin, their family.

This is in conjunction with another Chinese idiom, 落地生根 ‘Reach the ground and take root’, the act to settling down, sometimes in a foreign land.


‘Pear Blossom Port’, an old Cantonese transliteration for Liverpool.

The project, Returning Roots to Pear Blossom Port 歸根梨花埠, interprets spiritual rituals as a method of archiving for deported Chinese merchant seamen and their descendants in the context of Liverpool. 

A historically significant building in Liverpool Chinatown is transformed into an ancestral temple and trans-familial archive to restore and repair this rupture in British Chinese history, honouring Chinese Liverpuldians - the oldest Chinese immigrant community in Europe - as a common ancestor for Chinese diaspora nationwide.

The archive is the centre of a larger urban scale intervention to reactivate the Chinese diasporic landscape in Liverpool, creating a route of procession for worshipping rituals.

How do we repair and reimagine in the face of loss?

For the descendants of the thousands of Chinese seamen forcibly deported from Liverpool docks 75 years ago, it is difficult, and near impossible, to trace their lost family through official means, after being severed from their Chinese familial ties and heritage. As a result of this violent cultural extraction, and the draining of the Chinese population in the city, Liverpool Chinatown suffers from urban decline. More than half of the Chinese businesses did not survive until today, leaving behind traces and ghosts of the Chinese seamen who once inhabited this city.

Carousel of archival document pages
Home Office 213/926 'Compulsory repatriation of undesirable Chinese seamen'A secret archival document - Home Office 213/926, officially titled ‘Compulsory repatriation of undesirable Chinese seamen’, was recently unearthed in 2002 - when descendants of the deported Chinese seamen finally found out the truth more than 50 years after the event of deportation.
Testimonies of the descendants of the deported.Featuring Peter Foo, Judy Kinnin, John Sze, Joeseph Phillip Sze, Kellie-Ann Flower, Ann Pearson. Audio sourced from CGTN, Liverpool TV, The Sound Agents.
Carousel of archival photos
Archival photos of Chinese Liverpuldians - the first Chinese immigrant community in Europe.
Collage drawing of archival dock plans.
The tension between infrastructure and industrialisation exacerbated decline and labour surplus.
Collage drawing of archival ship plans.
In a final act of violence, the ships that the deported seamen once worked on became the vessel to remove them, modified to move bodies instead of cargo.
Collage 'map' at multiple scales.
Anatomies of Empire(s)The apparatus of colonisation - from the legal frameworks set out by the British colonial power designed to extract, to capitalist logistical infrastructures, directly played a part in the displacement of colonised and racialised bodies. Colonisation of strategic port destinations activated a shipping line between Liverpool and China, enabling the movement of a Chinese seafaring workforce.
Diagrammatic map of Liverpool Chinatown
Locating the ghosts of the disappeared community.Liverpool Chinatown, the oldest Chinese enclave in Europe, is now in economic and urban decline, following the draining of the Chinese population from Liverpool. As the old Chinatown in Pitt Street is destroyed in the war and Chinatown moves to Nelson Street, more than half of the Chinese businesses do not survive till today, leaving traces of political and cultural ties to the Chinese Seamen behind.
A non-conclusive chrono-cartography tracing Chinese seamen in Liverpool against the backdrop of empire(s)

What are the archival practices to retrieve and maintain lost narratives against a systemic erasure that continues today?

We turn to ritualistic practices to preserve lost identities, which offers healing in reconnecting with ancestors spiritually. 

Temporary structures in strategic locations - where one might approach the city of Liverpool, where the Chinese community lived and still lives at today, to the deported seamen’s port of departure at the Liverpool pierhead - are informed by festivals celebrating death and ancestry in the Chinese calendar.

The project employs an architectural strategy of parasitic bamboo lattices infiltrating the existing built fabric of Liverpool to create rooms for inhabitation, reminiscent of vernacular construction strategies in Hong Kong, in particular building typologies for seasonal worship. The pop up interventions, as well as the performative nature of constructing them, create routes of intrigue and pilgrimage that lead to the heart of the project and the heart of Chinatown, the metaphorical ancestral temple.

Liverpool map with intervention sites
Urban scale restoration of British-Chinese life in Liverpool.
Collage of bamboo hut at Liverpool pierhead
Seasonal dragon boat racing as part of festivities.
Collage of bamboo theatre in Liverpool
A temporary ‘ghost theatre’ guiding lost spirits during the month of ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’.

What is the role and value of the practice of memorialisation through spatial gestures of monuments in reparation and healing?

The ancestral temple occupies a formerly abandoned pub in Chinatown, Nelson street. The Nook has been identified through oral histories and texts as a significant place of gathering for the Chinese seamen in Liverpool. Located next to what was the shipping office, this was where Chinese seamen met and socialised, and the pub produced a hybrid culture of British-Chineseness.

Therefore, the existing facade is preserved to commemorate the historical and cultural significance embodied by the space previously inhabited by the ancestors. New openings reveal and make visible the new life that inhabits within. The original brickwork is exposed to remember its past life, with new masonry filling in the existing openings.

The metaphorical temple is not only an opportunity for community building and a living counter-archive, but also to inspire a wider consciousness transformation in both the coloniser and the colonised, through making this history visible to inspire curiosity. 

Interior collage of historical pub
Reconstructed interior of The Nook.Reimagining and speculating the life that once populated Liverpool Chinatown through forensic archival research into photos, oral accounts, and footage.
Video excerpt
Archival footage of The Nook from 1995
Photogrammetry of The Nook
Photogrammetry of The Nook
Model photo of street facing facade
Street facing facade of proposed works to The Nook.

How can an archive provide reparative justice for the diaspora and the globally displaced?

Chinese ancestral worship is a form of archiving that historically chronologises lineage and ancestry, outside of, and reaches far back beyond the legal and official canon, when official records are lost, mistranslated, and intentionally withheld by authorities. 

The existences of lost ancestors are memorialised through active ancestral worship. By caring for our dead, through preserving objects and ephemera that hold their spirits at an altar, cleaning and maintaining a worship space for them, we resist the systemic devaluing and discarding of these past lives and identities. 

The act of offering is an exercise in forensic speculation - imagining the lives they might have led, through objects, photographs, and the official archive betraying itself - in order to restore what was lost in colonial archives. 

The architectural drawings of the project mirror paper effigies offerings - the imaginary ancestral temple presented to our ancestors as an offering of care and respect, and an attempt to reconnect through the afterlife.

Colourful perspective drawing
Ground Floor Plan.The formal worship space is not visually accessible to the public, but enticing through sound and scent. Flexible partitions allow the intimate space to be completely closed off, or permeable during large gatherings and festivals, spilling out into the semi-private outdoor space, becoming an educational display of stories and objects. Worship extends to a dining space to share a meal with your ancestors - the living and the departed gathering together.
Colourful perspective plan drawing
Basement Floor Plan.The community currently congregates online, and the physical building offers a spiritual portal that could bridge the gap between old and young, the present and the departed. This archive also houses more practical activities in building a decentralised archive, with study spaces, storage, and digital production spaces, to provide the community with the tools to seize their own narrative, to gather, record, and preserve first-hand evidence, and reclaim a historically villanised representation.
Colourful perspective plan drawing
First Floor Plan.Knowledge transfer and recovery can also include cultural practices, which also contribute to the ritualistic worshipping of ancestors that will reactivate Liverpool Chinatown. Community members can reconnect with their ancestral heritage through a large double height space dedicated for sharing practices such as martial arts or lion dancing. This large space is both visible and audible to the street, interacting with and drawing attention from the immediate streetscape.
Colourful Perspective Plan
Mezzanine Floor Plan.
Interior model photo
Interlocking rooms created by bamboo lattices.
Interior model photo
Worship and exhibition space.
Interior model photo
Dining area engaging with the street.
Interior model photo
Double height martial arts studio.
Interior model photo
Community owned archive of objects and ephemera.
Internal model photo
Communal study to share skills and cultural knowledge.
Planometric drawing of Liverpool Chinatown.
Liverpool Chinatown.Rituals reactivate the streetscape, inviting intrigue and participation into Chinese-British life.
Short section drawing of proposal
Section of procession.The organisation of programmes follow two axes to support the route of procession and a gradient of privacy. Horizontally, visitors travel from the street, through the worship space, and into an intimate garden to end the worship with offering burning. Vertically, worship, education and cultural production that invite the public are accessible to the streetscape, whilst community members have a safe space above and below to engage with their culture.