Self-Determination and Community: Strategies of the Real “Non-Standard” Public Housing


Public housings in Hong Kong are currently masked under the design regime of the Hong Kong Housing Authority. The adopted designs are encapsulated with the aim of quick construction with little consideration for grassroots residents’ quality of life due to their low social status. Design of living units and mass-produced communal facilities is often standardized and rigid, resulting in social regimentation reflected in controlled circulation and behaviours.

Situated in Ma Tau Wai, the site is rich with traditional old Hong Kong city elements such as Cha Can Teng (old Hong Kong restaurants) whilst profoundly affected by the newly developing Kai Tak Development, which will be established within 10 years. This site reflects a strong ever-changing atmosphere and societal preferences within the community.

On the other hand, the community transformation of the current top-down urban renewal approach is leading to the deprival of residents’ rights. Residents can no longer sustain their neighbourhoods and living. In the long term, the design proposal aims to achieve non-standardisation of residents’ lifestyles and an organic urban growth.


The aim of the design proposal is to achieve a balance of powers among the management authority and residents in the proposed public housing design. A top-down approach is hence adopted in the design of building massing, clusters, main circulation and programme arrangement, whereas a bottom-up approach is allowed for the allocation of living units and shared common space on each residential floor.


The project is arranged in 12 clusters of various heights with varied public programmes. Residents are free to choose their favourite cluster, living unit location and layout from mobile app to allow a self-determined design process. They can look for suggested living layouts according to the user design catalogue.

Public spaces act as meeting grounds for residents from different clusters and the general public. Footbridges, stairs and lifts are connected and weaved through the community, facilitating self-determined circulation. Overtime, residents can apply for a change in their unit layouts by four strategies: merging, separating, expanding and shrinking.

Facade plug-ins of 3 metres (width) x 3 metres (height) x 1.5 metres (depth) can also be added for various purposes according to the design catalogue such as study rooms and baby rooms. Such changes are made possible by flexible panels, some with windows and some without, that can be slid across on steel structures that follow the grid system. By doing so, an organic shared common area is formed on each floor in which furnitures can be shared and activities initiated by residents can be accommodated freely.

This bottom-up design approach is facilitated within a top-down management framework to implement a certain degree of control so as to prevent unwanted situations. For instance, on residential floors, living units are arranged on a grid system called ‘voxels’. Community authority will check if the spaces used are really needed but not wanted on a timely basis.

Project Name: Self-Determination and Community: Strategies of the Real “Non-Standard” Public Housing
Location: Ma Tau Chung Road Development Project, Shing Tak Street,  Ma Tau Wai, Kowloon City
Status: Conceptual design
Site Area: Approx. 4,500 square metres
Gross Floor Area: Approx. 70,000 square metres
Building Height: 100 metres
Student Name: Chiu Chung Yin Cyrus, Lau Yuk Fan Fenton, Lee Sin Yan Angel & Tsang Siu Kiu Charlotte
School: The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)
Programme: BSSc. Architectural Studies
Supervisor: Jeroen van Ameijde
Images: Chiu Chung Yin Cyrus, Lau Yuk Fan Fenton, Lee Sin Yan Angel & Tsang Siu Kiu Charlotte