Design Trust Seed Grant

Hong Kong Self-Built Communities

Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. Scarcity of buildable land and surging property prices form the backdrop for this publication in which Louise Wong, Sara Wong and Yanki Lee look at the spaces in-between, and the informal approaches to living that groups are taking across the territory of Hong Kong. It exemplifies the diverse patterns of living found in contemporary megacities. The background to this publication is based on two years of fieldwork with street sleepers. Engaging with vulnerable groups such as the homeless, as designers, requires a new approach; and it is essential to work with such groups without stigmatizing them. The book uses a design perspective to appreciate the ingenuity of the self-built communities of homeless people in Hong Kong.

Louise Wong is a Landscape Architecture Graduate from Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) and later Birmingham City University. Since 2013, from her final year project in Landscape Architecture, she started curious about the urban phenomena in homeless and immersed herself to the communities to develop innovative ideas. After her graduation, she was invited to join the HKDI DESIS Lab for Social Design Research to continue her investigation. From traditional problem-solving design methodology, Louise shifted the study from homeless issues to exploring self-built communities. She was inspired by the social design methodology where she has nurtured at HKDI DESIS Lab and developed a strong passion for becoming an urban designer/researcher and pursuing social design research. In 2017, Louise is joining Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), a leading architectural design practice in Copenhagen to carry on her exploration on how social design practice can be facilitated by landscape architecture and urban design. 

Hong Kong Self-Built Communities is the result of a collective project based on Louise Wong’s design study about self-built communities in Hong Kong. As a practicing artist and design educator, trained in Landscape Architecture, Sara Wong was the initial project tutor of Louise’s project since 2013 that had involved in context and conceptual development. Later, Dr Yanki Lee, founding director of HKDI DESIS Lab, invited Louise to join the research unit at Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) as a graduate trainee to continue the study. International exchanges through social design research and interdisciplinary collaborations were made through the DESIS (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) and other research networks which where gave a wider context to the study and formed the basis of the book and beyond.