Donald Liao Poon-huai
Waterfall Bay, Pokfulam
The construction of Wah Fu Estate signifies many firsts for Hong Kong’s public housing estates. Donald Liao Poon-huai, or the “father of public housings” in Hong Kong, was the architect behind the project. A new home for more than 50,000 residents, Wah Fu Estate was the first public housing estate built with a township concept that included infrastructure for schools, supermarkets, and a library. It means that the project would include infrastructures from schools to grocery stores to restaurants. By taking care of different basic needs, the project hopes to draw people to move to the then remote location. Wah Fu Estate is home to Hong Kong’s first public library in a housing estate – the second public library in Hong Kong after the one at the City Hall. It also has the first car park and the first elderly home inside a public housing estate.
Architecture wise, a total of 18 blocks of buildings were built on the hilly landscape directly overlooking Kellett Bay (Kai Lung Wan). Each individual building was designed to adapt to the landscape, to maximize the number of sea-viewing flats and to allow more space in between the blocks. It was the first “Twin Tower Blocks”, a type of public housing design. The design retains the natural topography by building two connecting housing blocks on platforms of different heights without the need to level the hilly slope. Looking from above, the two buildings look like two hollow squares adjoined at one corner. The design allows residents’ doors to face each other in the deep, well-like atrium in the center of the structure. It also makes residents less likely to be staring into each others’ flats through their windows. Several other public housing projects have adopted the Twin Tower Blocks design since Wah Fu Estate throughout the 1970s. However, the design was phased out in the late 1980s since the blueprint required a significant plot of land while yielding smaller flats. Some also deemed the well-like structure a less safe design compared to an enclosed corridor design.