The Making of Wah Fu
Clearing of Existing Site
In 1948, the Hong Kong government commissioned British town planner Sir Patrick Abercrombie to review the problem of housing shortage and to propose principles for Hong Kong’s post-war urban planning. Abercrombie considered Pokfulam – the district where Wah Fu Estate is now located – unsuitable for residential housing projects. Kai Lung Wan Cemetery was officially closed in 1959. However, Kellett Bay remained as the home to many refugees. In 1963, the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HKHA) announced the plan to build Wah Fu Estate on the original site of Kai Lung Wan Cemetery. There were 54 farmer families living at Kellett Bay at that time. They were ordered to leave by November 1963 and allowed to move to Pao Toi Tsai, a small hillock nearby.
A series of images describing the site formation of the Wah Fu terrain
The resumption of the farmland by the side of Victoria Road unconditionally by the Public Works Department in February 1954 had threatened the livelihood of vegetable farmers of Kai Lung Wan area. Before the resumption, they appealed several times to that Department requesting that other suitable farmland be allotted to them to carry on their farming and that the loss incurred in the removal be made good in order that they could earn a living.
The clearance of the remaining graves at Kellett Bay began in July 1963. The site formation began in December in the same year. Since then, Kellett Bay and Waterfall Bay have changed almost completely. The stream leading to Kellett Bay was intercepted. The cove of Kellett Bay disappeared while the cascade at Waterfall Bay was reduced in volume and no longer used as a fresh water source. This southwestern end of Hong Kong Island is no longer rural and scarcely populated. It became the home of many people.
Moderate modification of the existing topography, avoiding massive excavation and excessively high retaining walls, allows for a network of terraces with modest slopes, steps and retaining structures.
While the site’s previous use of cemetery and farmland must have altered the natural topography to a certain extent, the topographic alternation continued further when the site formation work commenced for the construction of Wah Fu Estate. It is estimated that approximately 917,000 cubic metres of soil was removed during the cut & fill process to create the current topography of the Estate.
Dr. Donald Liao, the Chief Architect of the project, mentioned in an interview, that the approach he applied to Wah Fu’s site formation was like “creating a sculpture”. Liao remembers the site had “series of hills one behind another” before it was developed to the current Wah Fu Estate, and he “wanted to retain the beautiful scenery”.
The terracing method allows moderate modification of the existing topography, without large-scale blasting that drastically alternates the existing characters and quality of the landscape. This method also saved cost, and gave way for Liao to invent the Twin Tower Blocks – a typology that the blocks could sit on different levels of the topography.
The staggered building blocks that correspond to the topographic change also helped to optimize views to the South China Sea that Liao adores, yet he was also sensitive that some buildings would be facing the hillside so measures “to retain the natural topography” was also important to the chief architect.
Liao’s sensitivity and appreciation to the surrounding landscape makes Wah Fu Estate one of those iconic housing projects that blends natural environment well with the architecture.
Section showing the cut & fill operation when forming the Wah Fu terrain
A Later Phase Reclamation
In 1985, for the construction of Wah Kwai Estate and Ka Lung Court, the landscape at Kellett Bay had gone through more transformation. Land reclamation started in October that year and completed in 1987. The filling for the formation of the site was obtained mainly from a borrow area located to the west of Wah Fu Estate forming the eastern edge of Telegraph Bay. An addition of 5,700 units was built on top of this newly reclaimed land and provided homes for approximately 22,000 persons in 1990 and 1991.
 Hong Kong Housing Authority (2019), The Birth of Wah Fu Estate – An Interview with Dr Donald Liao, the Chief Designer of Wah Fu Estate. [Video]. Available at: https://www.housingauthority.gov.hk/en/about-us/photos-and-videos/videos/converging-paths/index.html