If you’ve googled ‘interiors’ lately, you’d know that the images that fill the page are spacious rooms made up of a palette of neutrals and browns, fairly minimal in design, with fancy furniture and clean surfaces. Then google ‘slum interiors’ and see how vastly different it is. Cluttered and dirty, crowded and small, colourful and well lived in, it presents a very different picture.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy perusing through Houzz as much as anyone, but I am also really intrigued and moved by the way that most of the world actually live, and the reasons why. Generally speaking, here in Australia, we are a fairly privileged society, where there is an economy and legislation that supports the provision of safe and habitable housing for all, although there are a number of people still without that, even here.
Hong Kong has a bit of a different story. There is a large influx of refugees into Hong Kong, mainly from Bangladesh. Many are victims of torture and kidnapping. When they escape their country, they can receive minimal support from the government if they register themselves as a refugee. They are allowed $1200 a month for rent, which although to some may seem generous, it goes directly to landlords. When you see the images of the homes they rent, you will realise this is not generous. (I could be wrong, but it looks to me like landlords are welcoming the government funding, and squashing as many people as they can into unmaintained buildings.) Refugees also get given a bag of food every 10 days, but they are not allowed to work. This has forced people with next to nothing into communities to try and survive together.
The Hong Kong government is not under any obligation to process refugee claims for visa, so people can be living for years, with no money, or ability to work, living in places that are not maintained to a habitable standard. Next time you think your house is too small, remember some of these images. There is no deliberate design here, although I am certain there are some tricks to using space well. They are intriguing and sad and beautiful all at once. Photo reference links are at the bottom of the post.
Rooftop Shanty Towns – dornob.com
Hong Kong’s Refugee Shame – timeout.co.uk
Exhibit on Hong Kong Micro Apartments Exposes Human Rights Issues – inhabitat.com
Aerial views of Hong Kong micro apartments – inhabitat.com