M.S. architecture student Tshui Mum Ha (Summer), originally from Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia, has recently been select to present her thesis entitled "Reuse, Recycling, and Reintroduction of History with Contemporary Eyes through Adaptive Reuse" at the International Conference on East Asian Architectural Culture, to be held in Gwangju, Korea this November.
This conference attracts attendees from all over the world and is held biennially in different Asian host cities. For EAAC's first conference in 2002, they reported over 300 registrants during their inaugural conference. The EAAC conference committee consists of members from the following organizations: Korean Association of Architectural Historians (KAAH), Society of Architectural Historians Japan (SAHJ), Southeast University of China, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Society of Architectural Historians Taiwan and National University of Singapore (NUS).
The premise of Ha's thesis is to evaluate the "internal connection and communication" between historic buildings and the public users. Her thesis articulates how architecture, as a mute object, possesses the capacity to communicate visually with the public users through the design languages of architects and designers.
"Rather than solving an existing problem, my research sets out to be a reminder that history is not in the past but a reflection of our human existence in historic buildings. This research also offers a platform for the architects, designers, historic preservationists and urban planners to ruminate on their roles with the historical interpretations when they go about their designs for historic buildings through adaptive reuse."
Ha strongly believes that it is only through learning about history and historic buildings that we will truly understand our roots and existences. Some of her peers do not seem to find much need for older buildings or history. The desire to change that point of view and her belief that understanding the past helps us understand the present and our future was one of the driving forces of her thesis. "It is crucial for every one of us to learn about our past. As Marcus Tullius Cicero (106BC-¬‐43BC), an orator and statesman of Ancient Rome, puts it, 'Not to know what happened before you were born is to remain forever a child.'"
Ha recalls being completely surprised by the acceptance of her thesis by EAAC. It is easy to see why Ha was felt overwhelmed by her competition. Ha's submitted abstract was one of over 200 entries. "When I was reading the acceptance notice, it actually took me a while to believe that I had been accepted to present my thesis at the international conference. I kept refreshing my inbox, as I thought I might have overlooked the word 'not.' Words just cannot describe how excited I am for having such a great opportunity bestowed upon me." Ha is undoubtedly excited about attending the conference and looks forward to the experience. She anticipates the visit will be a great growth opportunity for her personally and professionally with all the people she will encounter from various backgrounds and architectural insights.
Ha wanted to extend a special thanks to the staff from the Mill City Museum for permission to conduct her survey research, the Friends of the High Line for providing her their survey data for the thesis analysis, UNL architecture faculty for all their guidance and especially her advisor Professor Rumiko Handa.
"She (Handa) has been a caring and a wise mentor to me, guiding me throughout my research effort, assisting me in both my academic and career endeavors and helping me to think through the complicated thoughts and hurdles I encountered throughout the process. Her illuminating views never fail to spark my inspiration, as well as change and broaden my perspectives in shaping my thesis."