Saturday, April 18, 2009

HK Resettlement Areas 徙置屋邨


20 years ago when I was still in Hong Kong, there were lots of resettlement areas around. At that time I didn’t pay much attention to these areas until now I regret not having too much memory of it. I only recall I’ve been to Wang Tau Hom Estate when I visited my grandparents at the age of four or five. Fortunately I’m able to obtain handy and helpful information about resettlement blocks through the internet, thanks for the technology (without internet I don’t think I can get the resources easily and share that with others)!

Beginning of Resettlement Areas

The population in Hong Kong was about 600,000 after WWII. Between 1945 and 1950 its population increased to 2 million since large number of people coming from mainland China as a consequence of the Civil War. At that time the housing stock of Hong Kong was completely inadequate so many immigrants settled in wooden shanties in squatter areas. On Christmas Eve in 1953, more than 50,000 people were homeless after a fire swept through Shek Kip Mei squatter area. Due to the crisis, government started constructing the resettlement blocks for the homeless people and other squatters.

Types of Resettlement Blocks

There are six types of resettlement blocks – Mark I to VI. A place with a few to a few dozens of resettlement blocks is called resettlement area (RA). Mark I and II were 7-stories blocks with no bathroom and kitchen in each unit. In the 60s more advanced housing has developed – Mark IV and V, 16 stories building with washroom and kitchen in each unit. In today’s living standard, the design of Mark I to III blocks may be considered as inhuman and intolerable; but back then people were happy and satisfied with their homes since living in a concrete building was safer and more reliable than in squatter huts.

Mark I Block – H shape:

The earliest type of resettlement blocks in Hong Kong. These H-shaped 6 to 7 story houses contained back-to-back rooms on the long arms. Each unit was about 120 square feet with no kitchen and washroom. Only the cross bar of the H contained public washroom, showers and running water. Cooking was done on the access corridor outside each unit. Rooftop was used as school and community centre (天台小學).



Mark I Resettlement Block Floor Plan


Chai Wan Estate 柴灣邨



Shek Kip Mei Estate 石硤尾邨


Mark II Block -日shape:

It was first appeared in the East Village (東頭邨) around 1959. The design was very similar to Mark I blocks except a larger separate unit with its own washroom and kitchen was built at both ends of each story.




Mark II Resettlement Block Floor Plan




Tai Wo Hau Estate 大窩口邨 1961


Mark III Block – I or L shape:

Nothing much different from Mark I and II only each unit had a private balcony.

Mark IV Block:

In mid 60’s there was a big improvement in the construction and design of resettlement blocks. Mark IV became high rise buildings – 13 to 20 stories. Each unit finally not only had its own balcony but also washroom and kitchen. Normally two elevators could be found in each block – but the elevator only stopped at ground and one particular floor.
Of course the size of each unit was bigger than those in Mark I to III – probably around 250 - 350 square feet. The shape of Mark IV building could be I or E or T.
No more schools and community centers on the rooftops instead they were built separately within the resettlement area.



Tai Wo Hau Estate Block 20 in 1966 - the only Mark IV block in its resettlement area

Mark V Block:

Very similar compared to Mark IV – I or T shape (the T built significantly shorter than in Mark IV). Some blocks were connected together to create a wide or extra long corridor. The unit area had more choices.


Mark V Resettlement Block Floor Plan



Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate Block 13 牛頭角下邨第13座 in 1969



Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate Block 13 牛頭角下邨第13座 in 2008


Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate Block 8 牛頭角下邨第8座 in 2009

Mark VI Block:

Not too much info I could find for VI blocks – they were built in the early 70’s, should be pretty much the same as IV and V but the unit areas were larger than in the previous block types.

Summary:

As the demolition of Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate II (Mark V blocks) will start this month, the period of Hong Kong resettlement areas is completely ended. The buildings have valuable history but unfortunately none of them can be kept. Even though the living standard in today’s society is much better than decades ago, the mutual support between neighbours (守望相助) or people with warm hearts and sincere smile (人情味) during resettlement block era is not easily found in the modern dwellings.

3 comments:

  1. The picture you posted which stated Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate Block 8 牛頭角下邨第8座 in 1969. I am sure it should be Block 13 not Block 8.Your main photo of this blog is Block 13 with Block 14. I was living in Block 14 when they have establish and I was looking they started to build Block 11 and 12. At that time I also feel strange why they build Block 13 and 14 before Block 11 and 12 and Block 9 and 8. If you look at your picture of Block 8 in 2009 at the end of the colume of building in green color is the building of the staircase. But the other of the picture of which state that Block 8 in 1969. The end of that column is all of the 4 unit of the small room same as your main picture of Block 13 in the current. Please correct and clarify your information.

    Person who miss Ngau Tau Kok Lower Estate very much. If you want more history of Ngau Tau Kok. Please email me at OT@HOTMAIL.COM

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  2. ot thanks for telling me the error in the photo description and I've already made the correction. It's interesting to know that blocks 13 and 14 were constructed before blocks 8-9 and 11-12. I guess the blocks were not numbered until early 70's. I miss Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate very much too since I lived at Amoy Gardens Block J (across the Lower Estate) and studied at 柏德學校 during mid and late 80's. Thanks again for your comment and wish you all the best in your life!

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  3. Hi Andrea you are welcome. Actually I was living in Block 14 is around 1969. It was because I was studied the Year 1 in St. Matthew Lutheran Primary School (路德會聖馬太學校)near Block 9 in 1969. I still remember the shop downs there in Block 14 still is empty and waiting for business when we move into our unit. There is a few people in there just like your picture in 1969. It just like the explorer feeling for me. I also remember I always like to watch outside from our unit. At that time I was quite interesting to saw the construction worker to lift the assemble materials or parts by the crane in the ground to every floor in Block 11 and 12 to assemble every unit in there. For the Amoy Garden Block, I remember before it is used to be the Amoy Manufactory Building and one big 3 storey Chinese Restaurant for Yum Cha named “ Kwok Hing Restaurant”. For the Amoy Manufactory which use to produce their Amoy’s soya sauce. They always put all the soya bean on their top of the building ( the 4 floor ) for the sun shine to dry them up. I still remember that smell of yellow soya bean to flow into our unit all the time. At the 5pm the bell of Amoy Manufactory will be rung sharply. And then all the worker will come out from that building to catch the bus of 2A or 6D or walk to their home. Funny is not much overtime working from that manufactory at that time ( not like now always overtime ). I still remember after 4:45pm. All the hawkers will come out to prepare their business because it is the safe time from catching by civil servant or police “Running Ghost”. It is also my “High Tea time” or “afternoon tea in the street”. From there I can eat a lot of cheaper and delicious foods with my friends or my classmates. After that we would play around in the garden outside the Blk 14 or Blk 8. Sometimes we will go further Blk 1’s garden to play even the Upper Ngau Tau Kok Estate. And sometimes the group of child between Upper and Lower Estate will fight together to protect their right of district. At the night time most of the neighbor will go down to the garden for chatting especially in summer time because hot in the unit. And also a lot people will lead their dog to the garden for poo. In Chinese New Year is the most exciting time in the estate because it is legal at that time to play the fire work. All the corridor and street is covered by the red colour scrap paper of the fire work and the paper of red pocket money even the flame of rest of firework, it is smoke and smell everywhere from the firework or fire cricket. At that time we don’t feel dirty of the street. Reversely, we feel that all red colour scrap paper covered the street just push the atmosphere of Chinese New Year in the peak point. For us it is the very happy time because it is very easy to got the red pocket money from just step out the unit. Most of the neighbor are good relationship and recognized. When you are in corridor or waiting for the lift, you should met some neighbor you know and they should be given you the red pocket money straightaway ( no exception ). If you miss, no worry, most of them will bring the gift to visit your unit. I think at that time most of the people is very good and closer relationship in there. They like look after and help each other. ( Most of them are simple and innocent and not complicate as now) All of the above is my valuable childhood memory. Is it mostly same as you childhood memory?
    I wish all the best to you and your family
    From OT

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