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At Home with Density

Nuala Rooney

Publication Year: 2003

Through qualitative interviews with long-term residents of public housing, this book explores residents' experience of high-density space. It traces the development of Hong Kong housing forms and analyses how people's expectations of domestic space have been affected by social mobility and shifting cultural values of space, lifestyle, and design.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

Most past research on Hong Kong has been generally aimed to inform a diverse audience about the place and its people. Beginning in the 1950s, the aim of scholars and journalists who came to Hong Kong was to study China, which had not yet opened its doors to fieldwork by outsiders. Accordingly, the relevance of Hong Kong was limited...

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pp. xi-xiii

My long-standing fascination with the Hong Kong home stems from always being on the outside. Every day, on my way home, as the minibus wound its way through various public housing estates, I would catch a glimpse of people moving around densely packed and brightly lit homes. These were public rental homes, which, as an...

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pp. xv-xvi

As this text is a revised version of my Ph.D. I would especially like to thank my principal Ph.D. supervisor Professor Matthew Turner from Napier University, Edinburgh, whose marathon tutorial/chats inspired and encouraged me throughout. Special thanks also to Professor Nick...

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pp. 1-9

Just about every travel writer who has ever visited Hong Kong writes about the frenetic energy, buzz, unremitting pace and sheer density of city life. In Hong Kong, urban planning is ingrained in the verticality of the society and in the way of life. Density is experienced every...

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pp. 11-47

What little knowledge there is about the interior of the Hong Kong home tends to be lost by the dominant focus of home as housing. Typically, Hong Kong low-income families may not have considered they would have had very much in their homes to document, certainly...

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pp. 49-67

Since the 1960s Hong Kong has undergone rapid social mobility. A booming economy ensured there was steady work, which in turn provided the general population with a reliable income. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the values and experiences of this...

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pp. 69-82

Any attempt to narrate the Hong Kong domestic space presents the author with various problems. Who is narrating? Only household members would have inside knowledge and experience of their own home. But, there is also the obvious difference between how I, as a...

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pp. 83-115

For this grandmother the offer of an HKHA flat represented more than just a space to live; it meant security, and stability in a place that was self-contained, new, safe and affordable. Residents appeared to have a strong and lasting impression of the first time they saw...

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5. 'We Are Chinese'

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pp. 117-131

As a cultural outsider it is impossible for me to ignore the presence of Chinese elements within the Hong Kong home. There is nothing in any of the HKHA reports to suggest that these homes were designed to fit with specific, deep rooted, traditional practices of the inhabitants....

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pp. 133-144

The problem, as this daughter explained, was not just about fitting the furniture into the high-density space but rather how that space would be used when everyone was home. The main difficulty most people encountered was how to accommodate every family member...

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pp. 145-166

It is often said that Hong Kong people are great collectors and that they never throw things out. There is certainly some truth m this. Density in many households is often made worse by residents' predisposition to fill up the space with what some families referred...

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pp. 167-191

Artistic consumption, according to Bourdieu, demands a 'pure, pointless expenditure' of the most precious commodity of all: time. If the pursuit of distinction relies heavily on time invested in its cultivation, this might be one explanation why these residents seemed...

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pp. 193-199

I doubt if any of these families have ever taken as many photographs of their home in one day, in such detail, as I did in 1992. Just as I am sure they have never consciously spent so much time scrutinizing the layout of their homes or reflecting on the significance of clutter,...


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pp. 201-224


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pp. 225-239


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pp. 241-245

E-ISBN-13: 9789882200319
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622096011

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2003

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Spatial behavior -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Sociology, Urban -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Space (Architecture) -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Urban density -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Housing -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Low-income housing -- China -- Hong Kong.
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