Wah Fu Estate was constructed in the 1960s to satisfy the increasing demand for public housing. It is Hong Kong’s first public housing estate that was designed with a self-sustaining community and a model for later public housing projects. Old public housing estates like Wah Fu Estate are taken as nostalgic icons of post-colonial Hong Kong. The Estate aged over time. The need for redevelopment has become pressing. The 2014 Policy Address of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying announced the proposal of redeveloping Wah Fu Estate. A detailed plan confirmed that the new Wah Fu Estate will be relocated to several separate sites nearby. The demolition of the housing estate will begin soon with the first batch of residents moving into a new estate by 2026.
The residents’ collective memory and Wah Fu Estate’s good practice of spatial design will go into history in just a few years. This project aims to record the daily life of Wah Fu Estate residents and explore how the current use of space can influence the future planning and redevelopment of the estate with specific objectives as follow:
(1) To record and analyze the daily life of residents in Wah Fu Estate before its future redevelopment;
(2) To explore how the current use of space can be taken into account for the planning of Wah Fu Estate’s future redevelopment;
(3) To empower the residents of Wah Fu Estate in liaising with policy makers over the redevelopment plan in the future;
(4) To raise public awareness on the changing needs of public housing in Hong Kong; and
(5) To develop a research and teaching kit for carrying out similar projects in the future for other public housing estates.
This project includes three components:
(1) Recording Everyday Life: This component recorded the everyday life of Wah Fu Estate residents from a sociological perspective. Data was collected through participant observation at Wah Fu Estate, oral history interviews and recording of residents’ personal records (e.g., photographs, personal items).
(2) Examining the Use of Space: This component examined how the residents interacted with spaces within the estate. Residents were asked to draw up their own mental maps of their estate. This helped identify the most important communal spaces in Wah Fu Estate from the perspective of residents.
(3) Recording Memory and Envisioning Future: This component traced the history of Wah Fu Estate. Oral history interviews were carried out with residents to delineate the Estate’s changes. Maps, outline zoning plans and other relevant documents of the Estate’s architectural design were collected and examined. Finally, residents were asked to envision the future planning of the redeveloped Wah Fu Estate, by sketching out their ideal living spaces.
This interdisciplinary project originated as a collaboration between the Department of Sociology and Division of Landscape Architecture at the University of Hong Kong, with the support of the Knowledge Exchange Office of the University of Hong Kong (Interdisciplinary Knowledge Exchange Fund, 2016-2018). The project team established Wah Fu Research Working Group to work on various initiatives about Wah Fu Estate and public housing in general. It is not affiliated to the Built Heritage Research Collaborative, Faculty of Architecture of the University of Hong Kong.
This project applied innovative methods from both disciplines to engage with residents of Wah Fu Estate. Through an interdisciplinary lens, everyday life stories were collected and mapped alongside with sketches and technical drawings of built spaces. Spatial stories were collected and told not only through lived experiences but also through one’s engagement with the natural and built environment. Our team carried out fieldwork at Wah Fu Estate, including two rounds of focus groups, interviews with local residents (including home visit and sketches of the units’ floor plans), site visits, observation. Besides this website and a book, we organized a public engagement exhibition at Wah Fu Estate, produced a short film, and art installations to disseminate our research findings to the residents at Wah Fu Estate and the general public.