Choi Hung Estate

Hong Kong, Hong Kong | C.1964

Photo Credit: Ludwig Favre

Choi Hung means “rainbow” in Cantonese, a fitting name for this bright, immense public housing complex that was built to house nearly 43,000 people.

In the lead-up to World War II, Hong Kong welcomed a huge influx of refugees, driven primarily by the Japanese invasion of China and ensuing civil war. With little room to accommodate the flood of people, hundreds of thousands were forced to live in sprawling, overcrowded shantytowns and squatter huts.

After a devastating fire destroyed one of these refugee areas, the Hong Kong Housing Authority erected massive residential blocks on the property, beginning with Choi Hung Estate. Opening in 1963, it was the largest public housing estate in the world.

Public housing in Hong Kong does not carry the same judgmental connotations it holds elsewhere. This is partially because so many people depend on it, and partially because its success has played such a crucial role in Hong Kong’s urban and economic development. Since the Choi Hung Estate was built, housing policy has been pursued aggressively by the government, which is acknowledged to be the “single largest landlord, developer, and operator of housing within the territory.”

Beyond the estates’ impressive functionality— creating affordable homes for almost half the population of such an expensive city—they’re featured in marketing and media campaigns of all stripes. The clean, striking layers of colors yield such aesthetic satisfaction that, much to the dismay of many residents, these recreational areas are very often filled with more photographers than basketball players, and more selfie-sticks than baseball bats.

📖 Full Story Page 270

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