At Home with Density by Nuala Rooney

By Nuala Rooney

Through qualitative interviews with long term citizens of public housing, this booklet explores citizens' adventure of high-density area. It strains the advance of Hong Kong housing types and analyses how people's expectancies of family house were laid low with social mobility and moving cultural values of house, way of life, and design.

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Domestic crowding generally occurs among members of the same family, which may account for a tolerance of a crowded space that would not normally accommodate strangers. In his study of Chinese living in Penang for example, Anderson concluded that Chinese have developed coping mechanisms within their cultural system to allay stress, that is well suited to a high-density situation. He found that much overcrowding was voluntary, and a small household was considered to be a sign of poverty or misfortune.

People left the doors of the flats open, to let in more light and air . . This meant interpersonal relationships were either very bad or very good, because people lived in such proximity. Generally speaking, neighbours mixed a lot better than they do now because they didn't lock themselves inside their flats. Everyone knew everybody else, and there was a feeling of being part of one large family because we all lived so closely together. 76 It was thus, by design default, rather than by design, that the residents of each floor, and each block, had greater opportunity to develop as a community.

In 1894, when bubonic plague broke out in Hong Kong, Governor Robinson had to act forcefully and quickly to control the spread of the epidemic. Despite measures of enforced sanitation, the plague reoccurred every year; it was clear that something more had to be done. In 1902 Chadwick was asked to update his report and found that the crowded conditions were worse than they were twenty years before. He recommended that these properties should be rebuilt and minimum space allocation standards introduced.

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