Home Modification for Urban Slums in Hong Kong
Hong Kong
image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Location:
Hong Kong
Category:
housing
Phase:
in use
Updated:
10 August 2021
In Hong Kong, the high cost of living gives rise to Subdivided Units with 10-20sqm. Using modular furniture as a spatial tool, we focus on improving spatial conditions for 300+ families with children by providing better study environment to improve their long-term prospects. The modular furniture provides sense of orders to home and allows the families to be direct beneficiaries, rather than modifying the unit for the benefit of landlord.
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Introduction
This project brings together architects and social workers to tackle the issue of wealth disparity in Hong Kong. We work with low-income families living in inadequate housing called ‘subdivided units’ where the landlord divides an existing house into small self-contained flats to earn higher rent. The conditions are usually cramped and unpleasant. In this project, we focus on homes for families with children, aiming to enhance their study environment at home to improve the long-term prospects of the family. 

The design strategy provides modular furniture as a spatial tool to organise the home. As the main project idea, furniture allows the families to be direct beneficiaries, rather than modifying the architectural space to the landlord’s advantage. When move to a new house, the family can take the furniture with them. The furniture design focuses on simplicity, durability, and adaptability, with modular sizes that fit the scale of smaller homes, allowing for personalisation with different options and combinations.  When stacked, the furniture maximizes the high area and frees up space at the level of daily life.  At the same time, modularization can provide basic visual alignment, to make for a tidier interior environment. The materials used are locally available plywood with clear finish, which is simple for the owner to modify by themselves. 

To date, we have worked with 300 families and are working with NGOs and volunteers to share our knowledge for bigger impact. 
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Impact
Since 2013, the project has been supported through 3 phases. In the first phase and second phase, the project has been modifying homes of more than 250 families, providing designers and volunteers support to individual families through the NGO, the Society for Community Organization. 

 

The current 3rd phase of the project is a further scale up with partnership of existing Government scheme which provide hardware furniture support to the families, when Domat provide design and knowledge transfer service to the 50 NGOs working in the Government scheme, providing support and spatial modification knowledge to NGOs and volunteers, as well as providing training support on house tidying to families. The 3rd phase of the project aims to work with numerous NGOs to provide training through handholding on 100 cases, as well as outreaching to 1700 households. 

 

Over the years, Domat has worked with over 100 volunteers with design background to provide opportunity to work with underprivileged community. 

 

The data of the subdivided units collected through the project also allow us to analyse the internal environment, to provide understanding of the internal habitation. We are working towards generating design guidelines for small dwellings using the data collected, to provide insight to the design of transitional social housing for greater needs.
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Core team
The project brings together NGOs, designers , volunteers and families to work towards improvement of subdivided units living environment. 

Credits:

Team: Maggie Ma, Mark Kingsley, Jonas Tang, Rosa Chan, Justin Chan, Anson Wan, Michael Chan, Bobby Lam, James Palmer, Luka Ng, Echo Xiang, Tanya Tsui, Hector Chan, Sophia Zhang, Mandy Mui, Alex Loo, Jo Shen, Vincent Tse, Adeline Chan, Jenny Tang, Calvin Liang, Rosalia Leung, Hannah Yim, Edward Fung, Julie Wang, Henry Hao, Pearl Chan, Krystal Lung, Dada Wu, Johnny Lau, Juliette Sung, Flora Wong, Marco Tai, Jay Ng, Adeline Chan, Vicky Lee, Stefano Caglioni, Karmen Luk, Angus Chan, Sunny Wu, Justin Yip, Perrie Chung, Gianfranco Galagar, George Lau, Captain Li, Bertha Leung, Shuk Wun Li, Dennis Ho, Celia Tam, Ernest Ng, Doris Lau, Colin Hui, Stephine Tam, Kam Wong, Kelvin Yuen, Phoebe Tong, Perry Cho, Adabelle Poon

Initiating Organization:            Society for Community Organization (SoCO) 

Supporting Organization:        Hong Kong Council of Social Services (HKCSS)
NGO Contractor:  New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association
Donors:   Kadoorie Foundation, The Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund (SIE Fund), South China Morning Post
Volunteer designer presenting to a family at their home

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Image gallery
Inverstigation in family

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Existing condition

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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A home with study space after modificaiton

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Modular Furniture

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Furniture awaiting to be installed by New Life Psychiatric Rehabiiltation Association

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Children study desk with private drawer design

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Create a sense of home in inadequate housing

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Modular furniture could be stacked and rearranged

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Technical drawings
Before subdividtion

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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After develop

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Elevation drawing of internal condition

image: Jimmy and Barrie | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Extreme long case

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Furniture idea

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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Modular Furniture

image: Domat | CC-BY-NC-SA_black.png some rights reserved
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External links
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Where are we now

We have been supported by funding from Kadoorie Foundation, The Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund (SIE Fund), South China Morning Post. The current 3rd phase will end in mid of 2022.
We have a strong volunteer base to support our works and NGO collaborators. Marketing support is also an area that we would like to have expertise as this could bring more attention to spatial importance to more families and NGOs.

An indication of our team’s capacity:
70% funding already raised
80% expertise already found
50% materials / equipment already found
100% builders already found
Finance: € 205,000

The funding will support the continuation for supporting the families, to advocate the importance of spatial welliness. More crowded living environment could be changed, and would be able to help setting up design guidelines for modify home by the users themselves. We are seeking funding for design development of the furniture modules. We would like to carry out detail design workshops and testing through implementation to improve the design of the modular furniture, including introducing more variations to serve different needs, improving modular connections, exploring cheaper pricing to benefit more families, also design for possibility to be produced or installed more easily by the families themselves. 

  • Hand holding NGOs in modifying homes
50,000
  • furniture budget for 50 homes
100,000
  • Design development on new modular furniture
50,000
  • Marketing
5,000
Skills: PR & Marketing, Technique
We are looking to reaching more families to understand the importance of spatial change to their homes. For instance, the current Governement scheme includes buying electrical appliances, families are often choose those appliances because of the ease. However, upgrading electrical appliances could not improve the living condition and is not a sustainable method. We would like to advocate on the importance of quality of space for families living in small dwellings.
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