Being an architect, surveyor and civil servant, Michael Wright’s life and service reflect the Hong Kong Early Public Housing History. The design proposal conserved the essence of Hong Kong Public Housing and transformed it into a memorial for Wright, and at the same time, a museum that encapsulates this history.
The site, Wah Fu Estate, a public housing development built in the 60s, is scheduled to be demolished in the near future. The proposal integrates this public facility into a re-development opportunity, to conserve the first two floors of a typical housing block and to establish the conserved building as an exhibition space as well as an exhibit on its own. It will be the best exhibit alive.
In this sense it does not only preserving a piece of the Hong Kong housing history, but also inheriting Michael’s principles in architecture, which shall never be forgotten.
Although Wah Fu Estate wasn’t a direct work of Wright, nor was it done by his department at the time when it was built, it is a great example of public housing that embodies Wright’s principles and thoughts. A typical unit in the estate epitomizes the influence of Wright’s beliefs of ‘A self-contained flat, with kitchen and bathroom solely used by one family in the unit’.
Following Michael Wright’s spirit, it is important that the new architecture contributes to the surrounding community. The ground floor will be transformed into a wet market, while the first floor on another branch will be turned into temporary homes for the homeless.
These new functions will serve a big community in the future, when the surroundings are to be redeveloped into new residential blocks.
The façade on the ground floor will be demolished, expressing the shear wall structure of the typical old slab housing typology, freeing up the ground floor market space for people to walk freely and to visit.
On the first floor. internal corridor slab is demolished, creating a double-height corridor space on the ground floor, with skylights that bring in sunlight and natural ventilation.
The conserved part is to be painted and plastered in yellow, demarcating itself from the new extension. Traditional local bricks pattern will be embossed onto the plastered wall, reminiscing the once-commonly seen bricks in Hong Kong public housing.
Large parts of the internal flooring will be transparent that visitors can look at the conserved public housing from above, with interactive curation along the exhibition journeys. Internal stairs will be connecting the new memorial and conserved units, allowing visitors to walk down and reminisce about the spaces in person.
New extension is to be merging with the conserved structure to become a coherent architecture. Volumes are subtracted to create new spaces. New extension will be elevated above the old. New extension inherits the virtues of the conserved architecture, by adopting its elevation grid of 2.8 metres.
The memorial garden is located at the large terrace at the end of the Journey, two units will be turned into sunken ponds for meditation, with small Bauhinia trees planted, symbolising Michael’s root and connection with Hong Kong, the city that he loves.
Project Name: Michael Wright Memorial
Location: Wah Fu Estate, Wah Fu Rd, Waterfall Bay, Hong Kong
Status of Project: Concept Design
Building Height: 3 storey
Competition Organiser: Hong Kong Institute of Architects, Asian Cultural Council
Competition Name: Young Architects Award 2017
Architecture Firm: HIR Studio
Design Architect: Irene Cheng
Interior Design Firm: HIR Studio
Principal Designer: Irene Cheng
Images: Site Plan HIR Studio