Background to the project

The provision of healthy modern housing 'for all' was one of the first and foremost ideals of the Modern Movement, and inspired a vast wave of planning and building across the world during the 20th century. Initially confined, between the wars, to avant garde projects in Europe and America, after 1945 mass housing underwent a dramatic expansion in pace and scale, as countries east and west sought to build for, and mobilise, their 'people'.

In the last quarter of the century, even as these programmes fell into disrepute and decline in their heartlands, the baton was passed on to other countries, such as Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea, where the narrative of Modern mass housing was reinvigorated for the next century. In sharp contrast to the commodification and debasement of much Modernist 'form' by contemporary 'iconic signature architecture', this is a unique example of a key Modernist project that actually continues and thrives today, with very little compromise of its original ideals.

As heritage, the built legacies of this diverse and multi-generational adventure are almost always too controversial to qualify for conservation strategies. Instead, therefore, recording and inventorisation must almost entirely represent the heritage interest in this field. In the recognition of that fact, the Scottish Centre for Conservation studies and DOCOMOMO-International (Specialist Committee on Urbanism + Landscape) have launched a partnership project focused on documentation of mass housing, including research in key centres of activity, and pilot database initiatives.

Working in association with a Heritage Lottery-funded project to establish a database covering postwar multi-storey public housing in the UK, the International Mass Housing Database represents a first stage in that strategy. It is intended to provide an openly-licensed library of images of significant housing projects within individual DOCOMOMO working-group countries or territories, each arranged in a searchable database. In recognition of its uniquely bold contribution to the global mass housing movement, Hong Kong has been selected as the first territory to be inventorised in this way.

More about the International Mass Housing Archive, and other cities

Hong Kong Public Housing Database Project website

Items in this Collection

  • Hong Kong Public Housing Database 

    Glendinning, Miles; Forsyth, Louise; Maxwell, Gavin; Wood, Michael
    These images form part of the Hong Kong Public Housing Database, which contains data on all current public housing developments in the HKSAR (including Home Ownership Scheme and private sector participation developments). ...