Next Project - Affordable Housing in Hong Kong
Now that the NYC Net Zero Public Housing project and my materials for the second round of the Amsterdam Light Festival have been submitted, it’s time to start developing the next project! Continuing with the theme of affordable housing, I’ve decided to continue researching this issue on a global scale. In fact, I’ve decided to start researching affordable housing in another dense population, Hong Kong.
Remembering Kowloon Walled City
As many architects know, there was once a city in Hong Kong that was known as the Kowloon Walled City, which was demolished in 1994. This city was considered the densest settlement on earth with approximately 33,000 people living on a city block. As the population continued to grow, so too did the walled city where residents built new structures on the rooftops of existing structures.
Most of all, Kowloon Walled City had no regulations, was unplanned, and was generated by the people who lived there. This means that there weren’t any health or safety laws that the citizens had to abide by. Within the city walls, there was a lack of access to natural light and fresh air. However, this didn’t stop the citizens from starting their own small businesses.
Eventually, Kowloon Walled City was demolished and the occupants were forced to find new places to live.
Rooftop Slums in worker cities
Today, the price of living in Hong Kong has skyrocketed similar to other major cities around the world where the population density is exponentially growing. As the cost of living rises, many people are unable to afford their rent and are forced to look for housing elsewhere. What if their pay from their current occupation is unable to keep up with the rising cost of living?
Many people who migrate to Hong Kong in search of opportunities or refuge will be faced with this question. Although Kowloon Walled City no longer exists, a new type of slum has emerged all over Hong Kong; the rooftop slums. There are so many rooftop slums throughout Hong Kong and the government has attempted to evict as many of those occupants as possible by offering resettlement plans.
However, these resettlement plans propose relocating the occupants to an apartment elsewhere in the city, but they will have to pay the current cost of rent. A majority of the people living in the rooftop slums have decided not to take the resettlement proposal because they know that they’ll be unable to afford the cost of living after a few months.
What if we can create affordable micro housing using a locally abundant material?
Currently, the occupants of the rooftop slums are living in very small shacks constructed out of concrete and corrugated metal sheets. These shacks are between 72 and 300 square feet and are cluttered with personal belongings. In the larger areas of the rooftops between the shacks, the occupants have created communal areas for hanging clothes to dry and gathering together to socialize.
If the people have grown used to living in small confines of space and communities have developed, can’t we provide architecture that provides spaces for this to occur using local shipping containers?
One of the largest shipping container ports in the world is located in Hong Kong where there’s approximately 3.3 million square meters of land dedicated to stacking shipping containers to deliver overseas. With this much dedicated area for shipping containers, there must be an abundance of one way shipping containers that have made their delivery and are rusting away.
If we can utilize a large building on the shipping container yard site as a workshop, hire carpenters to efficiently renovate a shipping container into a simple micro dwelling, design a foundation and structural system to support a skyscraper of shipping containers, and transport these micro dwellings to the site, we would be able to recycle an abundant wasted material while providing safe housing to rooftop dwellers.
As I continue my research for the Hong Kong Affordable Housing project, I’ll focus on learning more about these rooftop dwellings and searching for a small project site. I’ll also be coming up with ideas on the different types of shipping containers to provide in this community based housing project and develop a short list of the most important programs. Stay tuned for more!