Our short film project works around the premise that Wah Fu Estate—one of the still surviving modernist public housing estates built in the 1960s in Hong Kong—has started demolition for redevelopment in phases (in 2021; expected to be fully demolished by 2036). While the modernist architectural style was foreign to Hong Kong, residents adapted their ways of living and created unique everyday practices in Wah Fu Estate. Non-residents living outside of Wah Fu Estate also grew their interest and enthusiasm to this place because of its unique characters. The phenomenon of how the very universal and international style of modern architecture has been provincialised by local everyday users, has become insightful to many people. It also shifts the predominant focus on studying the modernist architectural building blocks in Wah Fu Estate to the interest in the social and community building of the place.
“Our Wah Fu Estate: Kaifong K x Enthusiast Q” is the first short film of a series that we plan to do in Wah Fu Estate. Knowing that the everyday life in Wah Fu Estate are not only confined to the architectural building blocks, but the landscape, the streets, and the communal open spaces also constitute to a holistic living experience, we use the concept of landscape transect as a means to document the everyday journeys in the Estate.
To make the film, we invited one kaifong (it means “residents” or “neighbours” in Cantonese) and a Wah Fu enthusiast to show us their everyday journeys in the Estate. Kaifong K took us around a typical journey he takes in the Estate. Enthusiast Q, a bus-spotter, to show us his typical journey when visiting Wah Fu Estate to see and photograph his favourite buses driven along the routes around the Estate.
To strengthen the understanding between Wah Fu residents and enthusiasts, in the second half of the exercise we asked Kaifong K and Enthusiast Q to swap their routes, so that they get a chance to view and experience Wah Fu Estate from another person’s perspective. A reflection session was also organised for them to exchange experience about the journeys and their ideas about Wah Fu Estate.
We hope our film (and the upcoming film series) will help document the disappearing landscapes of Wah Fu Estate, and such documentation will become a means for residents and enthusiasts to conserve collective memories and build up community identity, amid Wah Fu Estate’s redevelopment.
Wah Fu Estate is a much-loved public housing in Hong Kong, not just by the residents, but also enthusiasts that are passionate about its architecture, history, heritage, and many other things. One of the most important aspects of our project is how we harness such passion towards this place not just from the within the resident group but also from the enthusiasts living outside the Estate. By expanding the target groups and extending the definition of community, we are able to build a more inclusive community and collect a richer and more diverse perspectives and point of views towards Wah Fu Estate. The cross-over between the resident and the enthusiast also allows participants to reflect their own understandings of the Estate and learn what others are enthusiastic with. Such exchange and sharing of interests build up common grounds among them, strengthening their sense of belonging and ownership to the community.
Top view of the twin-tower block in Wah Fu Estate
Kaifong K taking photos of his daily routine at Wah Fu Estate
Enthusiast Q taking photos at his point of interest at Wah Fu Estate
Kaifong K and Enthusiast Q exchanging their understandings of Wah Fu Estate
The routes of the everyday journeys of Kaifong K and Enthusiast Q
Vincci Mak is a Senior Lecturer in Division of Landscape Architecture at the University of Hong Kong, where she is the Program Director of the Bachelor of Arts in Landscape Studies Program. Her research interests are land art, cultural landscape and village revitalisation.
Michelle Chan Wan Chee is a visual storyteller. Her background in Computer Science and Behavioural Psychology shaped her approach to artistic practice as research and community engagement with photography. She founded Photobook Club HK to facilitate discussions, editing sessions and workshops.
Gary Wong is a Lecturer in Department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong. His research interests are cultural history of Hong Kong, public housing, radio drama and social mobility. He is the author of several books and a newspaper column contributor on cityscape and cultural issues.
(The team's research assistants: Nadia Chu, Joyce Fong, Anson Leung, Yongki Sunarta, Alyssa Ng, Ivan Santoso and Jeffrey Wong)