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Research Students - Material Culture  

Year of start: 2010
Subject: Material & Visual Culture

Research Topic/ Provisional Dissertation Title

Designing Hong Kong: building on a ‘barren island”, dwelling in a ‘good-place land’.


Chris Tilley


This research, through a select series of personal biographies and visual documentation sets out to investigates the agency and culture that Hong Kongers apply to their built environment and the parameters that govern the financing, planning, design and construction of its materiality and spatial organization. The built assemblage of Hong Kong facilitates a specific being-in-the-world that determines the rhythm, structure and practices of everyday life, and this too is the focus of my research.

I have elected to study a thin cross-section of Hong Kong along the Mid-level escalator that runs from Victoria Harbour to the Mid-level area. This narrow means of transport connects low and high-rises, commercial and residential properties, a wet market (fresh food) and shops, large and small enterprises, traverses a variety of other means of transport, and links the sea to the mountain. The dihn tai (Cantonese), or electric ladder, provides a time-geographical context for gathering rich narratives, and the material and visual culture of Hong Kong.

Research interests

  • Built environment as material and visual culture
  • Walking as everyday practise
  • Landscape as historical and anthropological archive
  • Dwelling in cities and countryside, especially Hong Kong
  • Cognition & perception in and of urban environment
  • Time, rhythm and space in the city
  • Big things, tall things

Academic Background/Education

MA in Cultural Heritage Studies Institute of Archaeology, UCL (Distinction)
MA in Fine Art UNISA, RSA
BA in Applied Art (Graphic Design & Printmaking) University of Stellenbosch, RSA


Heritage interpretation plans for Grime’s Graves, Framlingham Castle, Castle Acre Priory & Lyddington Bede House amongst others for English Heritage.

Exhibitions and audio tours at Grime’s Graves, Framlingham Castle, Tilbury Fort & Castle Acre Priory amongst others for English Heritage.