Pervasive housing problems such as unaffordability, overcrowding and substandard services exit in the wealthy city of Hong Kong. Due to the disproportionately high cost of private real estate, many low-income groups that do not qualify for public housing turn to the informal supply of squatter settlements on village lands, rooftop houses, cage cubicles and subdivided units. This has created invisible financial, social and spatial networks that are outside of Hong Kong’s formal frameworks of public and market rental housing. The relevant issues are complex and range from public policy, planning and design, substandard construction, to poverty and social inequality. Stringent building control over existing village squatters, limited supply of rooftop houses and the extremely poor environments of cage cubicles have made one particular type of dwelling the most prevalent–Sub-Divided Units (SDU), this is often the housing of last resort for hundreds of thousands residents in the city. Project Home Improvement was launched in 2014 to engage with the residents and generate creative design solutions that could improve the quality of living, as well as gather in-depth knowledge to improve Hong Kong’s housing policy. By way of small scale architectural interventions, the project is a collaborative process between researchers and students led by the Hong Kong University Urban Ecologies Design Lab, the WAY Project, social workers at the local NGO Caritas, as well as families living in the SDUs. To avoid phenomena like rental increase and gentrification-led displacement the interventions must be light, mobile, and not altering existing structures. A key intention, as well as challenge, of the project is working with renters of the units, rather than the owners, to ensure direct engagement with the user group. The challenges and constraint focused the design of scaled solutions that would often challenge preconceived notions of environment, space, material, construction and the very definition of housing.
“Project Home Improvement”, a public exhibition related to the lecture topic, is currently on show at the Hong Kong University Main Library 2F, The Atrium, January 13th -30th, 2018.
Juan Du is Associate Professor and Associate Dean (International), and Director of Urban Ecologies Design Lab, at University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Architecture. She also leads the Hong Kong based research and design office IDU architecture. Her academic research and design works have been published and exhibited in China, Europe and the United States. Juan Du’s research and design focus is on the often overlooked relationships between formal planning and policies with the informal spontaneous growth of architecture and urbanism, specifically on the “urban villages” of Shenzhen, and the “subdivided flats” of Hong Kong. Through the research activities and community design projects, she regularly collaborates with various stakeholders within the urbanization process of China Mainland and Hong Kong, including governmental institutions, community organizations, NGOs, and individual residents. She has previously taught at the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lectured internationally at various universities and institutions.
“In order for nothing to change, all has to be changed”
il Gattopardo (The Leopard)
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa interpreted by Luchino Visconti
The Department of Architecture launches its 2017-2018 Public Lecture Series, on the work of its faculty. The “In-Progress” series will critically examine the relevance of a vast number of issues in relationship to architecture. The Teaching staff will share their most recent work/ research/ publications in a 60 minute talk which, will be followed by a discussion chaired by a person of the speaker’s choice. The respondent will preferably be from other faculties at HKU or outside of the university. We look forward to your active presence and participation.
****No registration is required. All interested are welcome****