Sustainable Public Housing In Hong Kong

Problem Statement and Project Idea

What is the Problem?

The biggest problem by far in my community, which is Hong Kong, is the lack of living space. Hong Kong has over 7.8 million people all jammed into an area of just over 2,700 square kilometers; giving it a population density of 6,644 people per square kilometer, the country with the fourth highest population density in the world. There is a lot of open mountain space on these islands, but the government does not let people build there and building on these mountains can be really expensive. As a result, many people are left stranded without a home and need to compete to even get subsidised government housing.

Is Hong Kong getting too expensive for its citizens?

Here is a video detailing the housing problem in Hong Kong and why prices are so high:

How will I solve it?

My catalyst conference project is to create a sustainable, affordable living space for the many people in Hong Kong who cannot afford public housing even when subsidised by the government. Since Hong Kong has no more space on the island, I will build the housing on a large floating barge on the water. I am essentially creating a ‘floating apartment complex’. These barges can serve as additional government housing units and will be placed in strategic areas on the island so as not to disrupt the shipping industry. This will help give the poorer people of Hong Kong a place to stay and lower the prices of homes on the island. I will take into consideration the many architectural elements and dualities we have learnt this semester. I will also apply the knowledge we have gained on different materials, and how to lay out my structure so that it flows well and there is ample circulation throughout the complex.

The Site and User Needs


The site I decided on is in Junk Bay, which is on the eastern side of Hong Kong right next to Tseung Kwan O. This site would be perfect because it is surrounded by a cemetery as well as many other public housing estates. Putting the water apartments here would not affect shipping in any way and the bay would shelter the homes reasonably well. Any other harbor or bay in Hong Kong is already taken up by trading ports and beaches.

Junk Bay/Tseung Kwan O area

Junk Bay location relative to Hong Kong


As you can see, the Tseung Kwan O area is relatively uninhabited and has a lot of potential for development. This bay is one of the only areas in Hong Kong that is sheltered from typhoons and the rough current of the South China sea, while not being occupied by trading ports or boats.

User Needs

My client for the project is the Hong Kong government and public housing residents that are going to be living there. The client would like a room that is similar if not better than the majority of public housing spaces in Hong Kong today. The size of public housing flats in Hong Kong are range from around 17 to 50m^2 for each apartment, so around 3500 square meters for the whole complex. The occupancy of my building will be around a couple hundred people. There needs to be a range of different sizes of apartments; larger ones for families and smaller ones for people living alone. Each room will contain a living and dining room area, a couple of bedrooms, a kitchen, and a small extra storage room. 


I took to pinterest boards for most of my inspiration. While talking with Mr. Spence, he actually showed me some water homes that people actually live in and use in Seattle, Washington as well as Holland. I researched these homes more to get a sense of what living on water is like and how people who live on water tackle basic problems.

The Citadel Floating Apartments in the Netherlands       Seattle Floating Homes

Architectural Elements

Other than looking on the internet and outside sources for inspiration, I also took to the concepts presented by GOA coursework to improve my design. I want to make full use of architecutral form elements as well as dualities to make my building as aesthetic and functional as possible. The first element I want to use is symmetry and axis. Symmetry not only makes the building aesthetically appealing and spatially balanced, it gives an impression of order and stablity and can organize the apartment blocks and make them easy to locate and access. The second element I will be including is datum, which is a form which ties together or anchors all other elements of the design. Datums can take form in a line, circle, or square. In my case, I will be centering my entire apartment complex around a road that goes down the center of it. This focal point will act as the a meeting point of the residents as well as circulation for residents to get to their homes. Hierarchy could also prove useful in my building because my apartment blocks will not all be uniform. There will be some apartments suite for families that will be larger than the ones suited for single occupants.

Drafting and Feedback

After defining the problem, interviewing my clients, and gathering inspiration and information, I finally started drafting out my building. I used several sketching methods that the GOA course introduced me to. The first method I used was ‘bubble diagramming’, where I take each user need and make them a ‘bubble’ or box. I can then take these bubbles and organize them into a birds eye view of the apartment. I also made a rough study model out of cardboard and paper that shows the basic form of what my building will look like.

Bubble Diagram and Study Model

Another method I implemented in drafting was ‘Thumbnail Sketching’, which is a drawing technique used in the preliminary stages of drafting. Thumbnail sketches act as ‘visual notes’ and are small, one to two inch sized drawings that capture simplified and abstract ideas. These sketches are usually organized in a board/grid composition and are meant to be displayed as a group of sketches instead of individually. Thumbnail sketches can also be used if you want to look at the same thing from different angles.

Thumbnail sketches

Final Solution

After collecting all the information, site data, and sketches, I came up with a final design on Google Sketchup. I used the architectural dualities of solid/void as well as architectural elements such as symmetry, hierarchy, and datum to organize my project. The result is a long, rectangular floating barge with a series of apartment blocks outlining it. There are two types of apartments, the larger ones that are 7 meters by 7 meters and are reserved for families and larger groups of people, and the smaller apartments on the 2nd floor that are smaller and are for single or couple residents. The apartments are centered around a central courtyard area, which is a line datum and serves as the main circulation and meeting point for residents. There are trees and benches in this area so that people can socialize and relax. Furthermore, courtyards are a great way to open up the space and give residents even more natural light. Each apartment has a space for a balcony that looks out onto the water where they can relax or hang their dirty clothes.


Share this project