Research Centre: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Initiative
Active Dates: January 2015 – July 2017
Project title: Speculative Urbanism: Modernist Planning and Housing Practices in Colonial Hong Kong, 1912-1939
Dr. Cecilia L. Chu, Division of Landscape Architecture
Funding body: Research Grants Council’s Early Career Scheme (ECS) Award
This research traces the history of modernist planning and speculative housing practices in colonial Hong Kong between 1912 and 1939. It aims to explore three central but under-examined aspects of colonial urban development in the period: the advent of modernist planning practices that were closely entwined with early segregation policies in Hong Kong and other British colonies; the adaptation of official narratives by local developers in large-scale housing projects; and the emergence of a distinct urban milieu in which a growing number of the propertied class sought to claim a stake in the evolving colonial society amidst ongoing modernization and economic growth.
The ultimate goal of this project is to identify the interwar years as a significant historical moment in which a particular mode of speculative development and urban “governmentality” became consolidated in Hong Kong. A careful study of the transnational flow of knowledge and its uneven translation into specific projects will offer critical insights on how conceptions of race, class and property ownership became key elements in the shaping of the urban milieu and emergent sense of Hong Kong identity. It will also show how discourses and policies established in the colonial past have remained powerful frameworks for urban change in the post-colonial present.