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ADS3: Refuse Trespassing Our Bodies – The Right to Breathe

Anyu Chan

Anyu is an architectural designer and illustrator from Hong Kong but currently based in East London. Her interest lies in connecting perception to reality. In particular, using spatial qualities as tools to define the relationship and tension between one’s mental assumption, and one’s relationships with the environment. Her focus is on how one's spatial action can affect, improve, and assist wildlife conservation. 

Anyu graduated from The Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2016 with both Outstanding Drawing Award and Selected Project for Exhibition of the Year for her final project. Upon graduation, Anyu has worked in both Hong Kong and Tokyo as an architectural assistant in Rocco Design Architects Associates, Shigeru Ban Architects (坂茂建築設計), and IDA, Tokyo with works ranging from small scale buildings to large scale master planning. She was also a teaching assistant at the Chinese University of Hong Kong for their architectural summer school. Within the 3 years of working experience, Anyu has entered international architectural competitions where her proposal for Hilma af. Klint was awarded first prize as well as other shortlisted entries. 

Since 2014, Anyu has been operating RealityCheques (@realitycheques) where she explores the combination of architecture and illustration.

The project is a response to the hidden process behind the making of modern-day youthfulness. It is to counter the disconnect between the source and the end product often exploited by the beauty industry. The obsessive desire and psychological need to retain the unattainable youth by putting the ocean in us have led to a mass destruction of an ecosystem all reliant on a type of oil called squalene. The harvesting of squalene has caused over 3 million deaths of deep-sea sharks each year, often reduced to a jar of smooth, spreadable, shear coloured moisturiser used and rubbed on human skin daily by many. Hong Kong accounts for over 50% of the global shark trade where its contemporary beauty industry wildly contributes to the barbaric extraction from the sea, yet its process is never shown to its users.

The architectural intervention is to create a new form of restoration, for both one’s wellness and the exhausted coastal habitat of a former shark-fishing village. It is to introduce a typology of “skin” to house individual bodies and the body of the site promoted as a public therapeutic strait. Situated in the waters of where sharks once dwelled, it aims to provide a transition in one’s mind from viewing squalene as the object of desire to the advocation in using salt treatment. This now transparent process of the same promises serves both the users of the beauty industry as well as the users of the sea. The project provides a place for restoration that roots itself back into the culture and origins of its users by disclosing the process of change visibly on one’s body.

Coastal Epidermis Axonometric
5-Zone Master Plan
Liver of Scoliodon Laticaudus (Spadenose Shark)

Cartilaginous fish have an oil-filled liver instead of a gas-filled bladder to control their buoyancy underwater in order to swim. In most cases, 20% of a shark body is its liver. Around 96% of that oil is squalene.

Squalene was first used throughout East Asia and is now being used worldwide. 2,200 tons of oil are annually harvested—one ton of oil being extracted from 3,000 sharks. This means, over 3million deep-sea sharks are killed each year to meet the squalene demand. And the demand is our skin. 90 percent of squalene harvested in sharks is used in insatiable amounts of skincare products, and the other 9% is in the supplement industry packaged in soft-shell capsules.

The search for a remedy to skin youthfulness dates back to the Han Dynasty in China. A woman's skin health was known to indicate social classes and significantly related to one’s frequent relationship with the sun, or lack of. It also ties itself to one’s involvement in labour.

The search, however, comes with a price, an unknown price to its user.

A shark caught at sea is immediately cut in half, their liver spilled out of their body due to its size. After the cut and spill, the shark is still alive and often thrown back into the ocean. Without its oil and usually also its fins, it is unable to swim and sinks to the bottom of the ocean to slowly die.

The aim of the project is to intervene in squalene users’ daily rituals, confronting the disconnect between the source and the end product exploited by the beauty industry in the Hong Kong contemporary market, where extraction from the ocean is wildly executed but never shown. The barbaric act related to squalene costs millions of deaths reduced to a jar of smooth, spreadable, shear coloured moisturiser used and rubbed daily by many.

Lack of Transparency

Due to its unethical origin, many brands do not specify the source on their labels. Squalene supplements from China labelled “shark liver oil”, as “tilapia”, a type of inexpensive freshwater fish on international export documents. In the world of cosmetics, the lack of transparency is heightened when squalene often hides behind the category of “Fragrance”, a loophole allowing fragrances to be exempt on the cosmetic ingredient’s list.

Hong Kong & Its International Shark Trade — Hong Kong is accounted for over 50% of the global shark trade, a total of 86 countries were reported in the year 2000 for shark importation and exportation.
Tai O & the Metropolis — Tai O is segregated from the main metropolis centre of Hong Kong. Therefore, it is a conscious act, juxtaposing daily mindlessness.
Tai O Site Plan — The body of water in Tai O is where sharks once heavily aggregated. Fish was the islands main source of income, but simultaneously, salt- production was also an important secondary local industry. At its peak in the 1930s, there were 70 acres of fields producing about 1,500 tons of salt per year.
Existing Site & Promenade Plan — The current existing bridge is called the Tai O promenade, A 500m linear non- stop bridge between the entry points Lantau Trail and Tai O Ferry Pier.

The project looks at Tai O, Hong Kong, a fishing port that flourished in the mid-1900s. Tai O is segregated from the main metropolis centre of Hong Kong. Therefore, the site is to be visited where a focused series of rituals will take place, juxtaposing the daily mindlessness of squalene usage. The body of water in Tai O is where sharks once heavily aggregated. Fish was the islands main source of income, simultaneously, salt production was also developed as an important secondary local industry. At its peak in the 1930s, there were 70 acres of fields producing about 1,500 tons of salt per year. Salt was and still is traditionally used locally for salting fish. Since locals have been so familiar with the use of salt in preservation, it also has a history of being used on one’s skin as a folk practice exfoliator.

Due to the decline of all original economies in Tai O, most of the current earnings for villagers come from Hong Kong metropolitan tourists who buy minimum local delicacies such as salted fish and salted shrimp paste. The lack of activity and the decrease in the local population has alarmed the government to actively propose a complete revitalisation of Tai O. Current villagers recognise the need for touristic income yet wish for a fair balance to keep their generational ways of living. The project’s ambition is to revitalise labour by re-activating these abandoned salt pans. Not only are villagers’ expertise valued, but steady income will also be generated from the retreat.


The architecture consists entirely of overlayed meshes where salt treatments for human skin are carried out. The meshes will accumulate salt deposits to create layers of the “coastal epidermis” – a new barrier for both human and on-site coastal ecologies. The level of overlaps suggests salty accumulation of spatial interactions, forming walkways, different enclosure heights, openness and enclosed spaces. It will also determine the lighting and intimacy to cater to each specific salt treatment it houses.

The architectural intervention is to create a new norm of restoration, for both one’s wellness and the Tai O exhausted coastal habitat moving away from the ways of oceanic extraction. It is to introduce a typology of “skin” to house individual human bodies and the body of the site as a public salt treatment strait.

Zone 1: DETOXIFICATION, Axonometric — As the salt aerosols glide onto the user’s skin in this first layer of detoxification - a crisp and humid- free salt-cave - micro-particles of salt increase the activity of skin cell ion channels and strengthens the user’s skin protective properties.
Zone 1: DETOXIFICATION, Zone Plan — Not only are the toxins from human skin absorbed by the salt, but seaspray salt aerosol from the ocean is also caught by these multi-layers at the same time increasing the saline level of the salt- cave.
Zone 2: EXFOLIATION, Axonometric — Users are then encouraged to exfoliate on these salt walls where over time, harsh salt crystals are smoothened and organic shapes are formed that create a perfect nesting place for Hong Kong’s migratory birds like the red-bill starling.
Zone 2: EXFOLIATION, Zone Plan — The increase of salt accumulation provides vital feeding grounds for them to breed over the summer where they often nest in roofs or wall of houses. This will also increase the biodiversity on site.
Zone 3: PURIFICATION, Axonometric — During non- harvesting months, the salt pans need to avoid being dried completely as the salt will accumulate and stick to the bottom which becomes extremely difficult to clear when the salt pans are needed once harvesting month comes.
Zone 3: PURIFICATION, Zone Plan — These resting salt pans will therefore be opened to the public during non- harvesting months as a foot exfoliating treatment where users’ organic movements can prevent salt accumulation and at the same time provide skin-care rejuvenation.
Zone 4: HYDRATION, Axonometric — A new ecology has emerged and settled in the existing mangrove since the salt pan abandonment and it needs to be protected from high levels of salinity. A pipeline will direct the saline water away into the salt- mist plaza as a wet treatment.
Zone 4: HYDRATION, Zone Plan — The saline mist provides pH normalisation and induces a reparative process in the human derma, allowing the skin to significantly smoothen as the exposed pores are tightened.
Zone 5: DETOXIFICATION, Axonometric — A final detoxification phase is carried out in this salt cave. Countering the false marketing of squalene absorption, dry salt in the treatment will absorb impurities from the user’s skin as a natural detox to get rid of dead skin.
Zone 5: DETOXIFICATION, Zone Plan — By the end of the treatment, the user’s skin will become firm and rejuvenated with stimulated growth, a product of transparent restoration where the process is visible on their own skin.

The current bridge is called the Tai O promenade, a 500m linear passage bridging between Lantau Trail Section 7 and Tai O Ferry Pier. The promenade cuts straight into the South China Sea – waters which sharks once dwelled in before a decline in the 2000s. It is also a barrier that segments abandoned salt pans from the 1970s, now turned into mangroves. The bridge currently acts as a line that separates the ocean and the salt pan, blocking any accessibility by humans onto both. The project uses this existing bridge platform as the basis of the strait. The bridge is however modified by first dismantling the existing 1.2m-high concrete balustrades. Not only were they a governmental product, but they are also a visual reminder for the people of Tai O of the ever-seeping governmental control over their habitat. To the government and its visitors, the promenade is to provide convenience in tourism, yet to the people of Tai O, it is a form of alienation, a subtle invasion to what they are familiar with, that they fear one day will have to give away. The project turns this into something the villagers can be proud of, an architecture where villagers are the key players for its realisation.

The modified bridge is broken down into 5 zones where the salt pans – the source of the treatment – are visible and accessible to all. The new modified bridge also refuses separation between where sharks once dwelled and where humans now linger, as well as demonstrating openness to the current ecology.

Mesh Variation Grid — There are 12 modules of meshes. The base mesh geometry takes the traditional Hong Kong windbreaker frames as a reference used to prevent typhoon damages and for security. These are remodified to cater to the project’s natural and man-made parameters. A graph is made to determine the spacing and thickness of salt crystalised on the meshes according to its desirable exposure to sun, wind, and rainfall. These modules are then assigned to the 5 zones of treatment corresponding to each need.
12 Mesh Modules (with salt accumulation) — The saline water from the South China Sea will flow down the meshes and be caught by the nook on the mesh design and be evaporating, leaving only the salt deposits behind.
Salt Deposit Accumulation
Salt Deposit Accumulation
Standard Mesh Increments — Meshes are assembled with different gap increments according to saline concentration. As the saline level increases, the gaps will in turn decrease. The 3 standard gaps are 80, 40, 20 and 10mm. allowing the saline level to increase by 15% at each increment.

Salt is not only the treatment; it is also the genetic make-up of the architecture. The salty Coastal Epidermis will be watered once a day, taking less time to evaporate compared to the salt pans. This also ensures that labour is actively generating income all year round unlike traditional salt production where labour on salt pans was typically halted from May to September in fear of consistent rain. The architecture will continue to grow as the salt accumulates over years, documenting seasonality and progress over time.

The skin-like infrastructure provides the enclosure to the treatments as well as housing the threatened biodiversity of the mangroves on site. The increase of salt accumulation will also start to provide vital feeding grounds for the decreasing ecology in Hong Kong.

Saline Water & Salt Pan Evaporation Process

The re-activated salt pans will provide salt for both the treatment and the accumulation of salt deposit on meshes. Seawater will flow through a channel and be collected in two separate reservoirs.

1st Reservoir

The first reservoir will lead water into warming pans before entering into the salt pans for evaporation. It is then evaporated under the intense Hong Kong sun for 5 days before harvest to provide for each treatment.

2nd Reservoir

The second reservoir will lead seawater into filtration ponds to increase salinity. The water will then be pumped onto the top of each mesh in its designated zone. The saline water will flow down the meshes and be caught by the nook on the mesh design. The water will rapidly evaporate due to the hot sun with average temperatures ranging from 18 - 38 degrees Celsius leaving only the salt behind, attached to the meshes.

Aiding in this evaporation are the prevailing on-shore northwest winds during the day and the offshore southeast winds during the night. When rain does arrive, they constructively aid in cleansing and washing away loose particles from the forming ‘salt skin.’

Project Seasonality Clock — On the right is the timeline for production, closed to the public. The fields were optimally farmed between September and March, after which they were disused during the summer rainy season, also meaning that the salt field workers would have had no income. This reinforces the proposal of the need for a revitalised line of labour. On left dictates the daily treatment open to the public timeline which is based on the traditional Chinese human body clock.
Chinese Human Body Clock (Qi 氣) — Throughout each 2 hours, the treatment will anchor itself to its corresponding element. For example, 1pm – 3pm is fire element which suggests dry treatment, 3pm-5pm is water element which suggests wet treatment and so on.

The treatment is accessible to the public. It still acts as a bridge if the public does not wish to engage in the treatment facilities. The treatment application is done by the public themselves but set out and maintained by the salt ambassadors. Each treatment area will have the provision of instructions for specific actions.

Each treatment lasts 2 hours according to the Chinese Human Body Clock. The clock exists as a baseline for our own seasonality of health. Our energy or Qi moves through the organ systems in two-hour intervals. Based on Chinese practices, the health of our skin has been long determined to be related to general organ health – to start from within. Whereas western influences have penetrated into this ancient system by suggesting the health of our skin is to start from the surface instead. Therefore, the treatment is not only to honour the site, its original line of labour and its landscape, it also roots itself back into the culture and origins of its users.

Squalene: the truth behind truth behind our skincare rejuvenation — Addressing the disconnect between the source and end product often exploited by the beauty industry.
From Squalene to Salt — Serving the same users as the beauty industry, the project aims to provide a transition in one’s mind, body and landscape from using squalene to salt, a now transparent process of the same promises.
Lack of Transparency

Due to our obsessive desire to stay young and the psychological needs and comfort to retain the unattainable, we have been influenced to take the ocean and spread it on our bodies costing millions of sharks a year. Now, through transparency, this idea of promises in a capsule will be altered, ultimately honouring the ocean and anchoring users to an open process as well as to their own origins of health.