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Architecture (MA)

Ysabel Moulders

Ysabel's work engages with architecture and spatial experiences in order to evoke memory, belonging, and identity. By èxploring the convivial interactions between common social activities, and one's sense of space, it enables the design of spaces that are personal, to challenge pre-existing spaces of daily inhabitation.

The research topics of collectivity is a commonality in her projects. These research topics are derived from her ongoing personal and familial experience, from Hong Kong to the UK. Now at ADS7 her interest in Chinese Disaspra through language has led her to her current research project "Cantonese Migration: From Keyboards to Supermarkets". It looks at language migration and inhibition within spaces of familiarity, offering different ways of engagement for the Cantonese Diaspora within the North London Chinese community.

Ysabel was Born in the UK, raised in Hong Kong, and has had experiences working in architectural design practices in Hong Kong. She completed her Part 1 at the University of Brighton with a BA in Architecture. Now as a part 2 graduate, she hopes to expand her experience and knowledge in London through cross-disciplinary practices in other fields such as game design and set design.

Drawing of how the Chinese Typewriter works

Through the hobby of building keyboards, the research focuses on the aspect of how language might be used as a tool to preserve the Chinese diaspora of Cantonese through the Chinese supermarket.

The site is is located in Wing Yip, the largest Chinese Supermarket in London. My proposal aims to aims to place five separate interventions in order to create a unconventional “Cantonese language school.” The project looks to how a community can re-engage and establish a sense of belonging through Cantonese.It aims to revive and preserve language from a Migrant's perspective from Hong Kong to London, in order to re-invent and combine their "New Hong Kong" By investigating the Chinese Supermarket "Wing Yip", as a site. It seeks to use cultural activities, such as The Chinese hair and Nail Salon, Tea culture, the Wet market, and the tile game Mah-jong, to integrate it with the Supermarket.

The project wants to enable these social programs in order to create new places of convivalism, as well as create an "unconventional language school", in which the speaking and learning of Cantonese is encouraged. By combining the existing supermarket as well as the listed programmes, and new structures, It aims to create spaces of belonging, comfort, and togetherness. Where people gather, inhabit, gather, live, and continue rituals, allowing migrants and local residents to leave traces of Cantonese in London.

Most importantly, these spaces provide a space where new immigrants, those who have settled, and others within the community a space in which Cantonese can be learnt & preserved as well as keeping Hong Kong’s heritage. 

“For millions of Chinese-Immigrants, these supermarkets constitute, and intimately important aspect of life, a conspicuously visible maker of the community.”- Shopping at Giant Foods: Chinese American Supermarkets in Northern California by Alfred Yee

Map drawing of the Supermarkets in London.

British and Hong Kong Realtions

Hong Kong a population of 8 million people, is the only city with 90% of its population, that still speak Cantonese as its first language and mother tongue in the world. It is comparable to the 933 million Mandarin speakers. This means that Cantonese is a dying language. Cantonese is a sonic language and is not written. It borrows Chinese characters, to be written.

Due to political uncertainty in Hong Kong, the city has seen 600,000 emigrations before and after the handover from Hong Kong to China in 1997. As a former colony of the UK, the British government has granted over 110,000 BNO Visas in 2021, allowing Hong Kong residents a British National Overseas passport, causing mass migration. With over 393,141 Ethnic Chinese people in the UK, 33% of those reside in London. Meaning Cantonese speakers have migrated overseas. 

Wing Yip Map
WingYip in the Chinese Community
Wingyip Walk Through

The Supermarket, located in Colindale, is part of a small Borough called Barnet in North London, also known as Little Hong Kong, with the highest population of Cantonese speakers within the Community.  Due to the migration, a shopping mall called “Oriental City”, now known as Bang Bang Oriental, was created in order to fulfil the social needs of the Chinese and Asian community in the area, but due to financial reasons, the mall shut down. This was a place where many families of the Chinese community congregated.

Especiallyfor the first-generation Cantonese speaking immigrants, they Had lost their“Community Centre. Interestingly as third generational British Hong Kongers, have started to lose their language, the new wave of Hong Kongers, have started to help revive Cantonese within London.

This forced Wing Yip, to become the new Cantonese hub, familiar with the sound of Cantonese being spoken, translating to a place of conviviality. Hostingfamiliar spaces like a “Cha Chaan Teng” a Cantonese tea house and a “Zau lau”, a Chinese restaurant. It became a place where new and old immigrants can feel at home. 


Drawing of Snacks in the Supermarket
Have you eaten yet? "Lei yau mo sik faan"?

The Chinese supermarket offers products familiar to migrants. The snacks and the foods sold there are makers of how it helps them feel comfortable. These food items are foods that would be sold in their home countries. For the existing British Chinese migrants, they serve as a place of familiarity as well, due to the fact that many of the foods are what first and second-generation migrants have grown up with.

The overall redesign of the Supermarket is to integrate traditional programmes within the Cantonese community in order to create a space for Hong Kongers. 


Entrance to the Cha Chaan Teng.
Cha Chaan Teng
A look into the Cha Chaan Teng.
Mix use of the Cha Chaan Teng and the supermarket.
Another angle of the supermarket and the Chaa Chan Teng.
The checkout counters opposite the Supermarket interventions.

Intervention 1: The Redesign of the Cha Chaan Teng

The first intervention, mixing the old Cha Chaan Teng, a common tea house in Hong Kong, with open shelving, is to propose and redefine a space in which shoppers and people who have come to visit the restaurant have a place to commune. The Cha Chaan teng is traditionally a very chaotic space, in which meals are served within minutes of sitting down. By bringing these two spaces together, the aim is to allow old and new Cantonese speakers to mingle. The lamps are reminiscent of the old-style Hong Kong Wet markets, being an unintentional marker of Hong Kong. This also allows the introduction of Chinese and Asian snacks found within the supermarket.

Wet Market- Meat
The meat section at the wet market.
Wet Market- Fish
The Fish section at the Wet marke.

Intervention 2: The Wet Market

The Second space is a Wet Market, to propose bringing traditional activities into the supermarket In order get cuts of meat and fish that are unavailable in the UK. The style of how food is exchanged. This is a space aimed at the elderly or those new to the UK to feel a familiarity the traditional programmes in Hong Kong. 

Barbie Salon
Nail, Hair and Tea SpaceHair Salon, Tea Area and the Supermarket
Barbie Salon
Nail Salon and the Supermarket

Intervention 3: Tea Space with a Nail and Hair Salon

The third space mimics a Chinese nail and hair salon, a place where music, speaking Cantonese and English are combined. It also includes a Tea Space and a Shopping area, in which customers can order tea, go shopping and get their hair and nails done at the same time. Choosing Pink, it becomes marks a more modern space. I wanted to reinvent this space that is generally has a get your nails done and go culture, to a place where customers can mingle and talk. 

Tea and Supermarket SPace
Tea and Supermarket Space Space to play Go and drink tea.
Mahjong and Tea Space
Mahjong Space
Supermarket and Mahjong
Mahjong and Supermarket space.

Intervention 4: Go and Mahjong Space

The fourth space, is a wooden structure designed based on the movements of Chinese Tactical game “Go”, forms different sized wooden squares on top. Underneath players are encouraged to play Goas well as Mahjong, a tile-based board game. Aimed at the elderly, these Go is generally played by elderly, and played in a local park. Usually, residents will gather around a Go game in order to observe. The This space brings an outdoor activity usually outside on the inside. Mah-jong is a game that is played in all occasions, with family and friends. By bringing Mahjong into the space, it opens up an opportunity for those who have never played, a place to learn Cantonese and Mahjong. 

Herbal Tea and Mahjong Space
Herbal Tea and Mahjong Space

Intervention 5: Herbal Tea and Mahjong Space

The Fifth Space, is a Herbal Tea and Mahjong Space. The Herbal Tea culture generally is quite fast paced, by drinking the tea and leaving. Using the traditional way of storing tea, and serving tea, it can give a sense of comfort to the new immigrants. But by providing a place where you can sit down and drink tea and playing Mah-jong together, it becomes another space to learn the game.