HOUSING | Evolution of Hong Kong’s Housing Typology Pt.II (1953-1960)
In between 1935 and 1953, Hong Kong had underwent dramatic demographic changes with three major events: World War II in 1945 which after that led to a huge population explosion, Chinese Civil War that led to more refugees flooding into Hong Kong, and the squatter fire of Shek Kip Mei which made 53,000 people homeless overnight. By that time, the population had grown to over 2 million and housing again became a serious issue. Fortunately, after the plague as mentioned in the background presentation, British government began to pay more attention to the Chinese population to help accommodate their living standards. Therefore, starting from 1953, a new set of Building Ordinance was enacted and the Resettlement Department was also established to cooperate with the housing Authority with aims to help all families to gain access to adequate and affordable housing, which continues to be the aim until present day.
Incorporating modern technology into the changing needs of society, the H-shaped residential block (Mark I Residential Block) was developed in 1954 as the first mass public housing scheme which was a solely functional approach to accommodate the most efficient units with public shower areas and toilets on the bridge between the two slab blocks, as shown below.
The Mark I typology ranged from 5-7 storeys with no lift service at the time, residents had to access upper floors by staircases on the two sides. It provided units that ranged from 10-20 sqm. with openings towards the corridors, which wrapped around the units on the exterior, which also served to set back the inner facade to avoid solar heat gain as a sustainability measure. Another most important breakthrough of the Mark I was the incorporation of community facilities, which was a rooftop school, into the housing, implying the emphasis of creating a neighbourhood within the housing complex instead of simply residential functions.
Below are videos extracted from the Housing Authority which gives a brief background knowledge of the development of the Public Housing Scheme after the kick off in 1953.
Hong Kong Public Housing in 1953
Hong Kong Public Housing in 1973
Hong Kong Public Housing in 1993
Hong Kong Public Housing in 1993-onwards
Television Advertisements of Public Housing Schemes © 1993, Housing Authority
Since the development of the Mark I, the Housing Authority slowly began to take firm control of Hong Kong’s homeless and overcrowded-ness issues since the great fire of Shek Kip Mei, accommodating almost half the population of Hong Kong in their public housing schemes, which is very rare in any city in the world. Although there are still many issues such as caged homes and poor subdivided units in Hong Kong in existence, which will be elaborated in another entry, the conditions are much better than that of the 1895 in which the plague had put it to the test and killed over 100,000 people in two months.
In between Mark I and present-day residential blocks, the Hong Kong Public Housing Scheme had undergone dramatic changes with improvements made every few years creating a collage of public housing topological footprints all over the city. These include the ‘日’-shaped (Mark II, late 1950s), L-shaped (Mark III, early 1960s), E-shaped (Mark IV, early 1960s), slab-shaped (Mark V, late 1960s), T-shaped (Mark VI. late 1960s), 8-shaped Twin Tower (1970s), Linear Block (1980s), Trident (1980s), Harmony (1990s), and Concord (1990s), etc. Until now, the Hong Kong Housing Authority continues to search for the most innovative ways to develop the most efficient, environmentally-friendly, and quality-assured public housing scheme to tackle the huge population demands of this small city. However, these schemes are out of the scope of this study, for more information please refer to the sources listed below or to check out the Hong Kong Housing Authority website for more information.
1953, 1973, TODAY, FUTURE. (1993). [videos] Hong Kong Housing Authority
Minutes of Hong Kong LEGCO Meeting in 1959, issues of public health and safety were addressed in hopes to further improve housing sanitations and design
Hong Kong Legislative Council, (1959). Official Report of Proceedings – Meeting of 9th December. Hong Kong.
Video Transcript released by Housing Authority describing the aims of each emergent public housing types
Housing Authority, (2015). 60 Years of Public Housing Development in Hong Kong Transcript. Hong Kong.