There are 769 public bathrooms in Hong Kong currently, however they are seldom utilized nowadays and are seen as excessive.1 However, before the plague, natives do not own private bathrooms and was not able to cleanse themselves everyday. The appearance of public bathrooms drastically changes not just their sanitary condition, their lifestyles but as well as the built environment and the location of their communal spaces. According to one of the interviewees I have came over, Mrs. Li, aged 86 years old, described her experiences in using the Pak Hoi Street Bath House, one of the most crowded one in 1939. 2 “During the old times everyone would queue up for the public bath house during night times. I was living in one of the hubs in Kowloon, which is Yau Ma Tei. In such a crowded area without another public bath house nearby I seldom bath everyday. Although I have to wait for a long time during the queue, I enjoyed it because I can see my friends and the neighbours and chat with them.” 3

Furthermore, the first public bath house in Pound Lane were to accommodate 28 males and 10 females. 4 However, in 1939, after the establishment of 6 other public bath houses, the Pound Lane Bath House was still the one of the most crowded one in the entire Hong Kong, serving 279,302 people. 2 The over crowding and the lack of public bath houses soon gave rise to the new Public Housing typology and Building Ordinance in Hong Kong to include private bathrooms with specific requirements.


1 V. Lau, (2015). Examination of Estimates of Expenditure 2014-15. Hong Kong: The Government of Hong Kong, FHB(FE)072.

2 W. J. Carrie, (1939). Report of the Chairman, Urban Council. Hong Kong: The Government of Hong Kong, M(1). p.16. Table V.

3 Lee, K. (2015). Pak Hoi Street Public Bath House.

4 F.H. May, (1905). Report on the Health and Sanitary Condition of the Colony of Hong Kong, for the Year 1904. Hong Kong: The Government of Hong Kong, p.269.

4 Comments on “HONG KONG (1904 – 2015) / IMPACTS OF THE PUBLIC BATHROOMS

  1. How did the government planned the public bathrooms? Is there any difference in the public bathroom density planned in different districts? It would be interesting to see the mapping of public bathrooms. On the other hand, It is interesting to see how public bathrooms exceed its original function. Does the bathrooms changed the nearby urban fabric? As you mentioned, the public bathrooms changed the lifestyles, built environment and communal spaces. It would be nice to see any detailed case study or historical photographs.

  2. As you mentioned, there are myriad number of unused bathroom nowadays, but why don’t the government demolish it? Or are these public bathrooms do have some importance towards specific group of people? I am curious in seeing an actual visual or mapping out of the city’s urban planning towards these public bathroom during that time. Like the comparison between the past and the current about how public bathroom are getting more and more. Also, what is the rationale behind for the government in the 1900s who decided to create more public bathroom?

  3. An interesting evaluation of public toilets and its impact on hygiene! However as you mentioned the interviewee talking about the conditions of where she experienced the public bath environment, was the atmosphere actually as good as he/she says it is? Would it be bias if you only based your argument on one persons point of view? Did you experience other interviewees with differentiating opinions about the public bath area?

  4. I echo Ryan and Wendy’s curiosity about seeking out methods behind the planning of these public bathrooms. What were the constraints from a physical standpoint? The stigma was adequately documented, but how did physical planning reconcile that, or how did it fail to address it? Your earlier post about the lack of ornamentation gives a strong hint in this regard, but it’s important to stitch it together with a strong argument. As the city’s infrastructure improved over time, the justification for public bathrooms was probably already difficult very early on. Your research should reveal when that first emerged. There’s probably no need to draw this study to 2015, because 2015 is not the critical date in respect to this debate about the relevance of this system.

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