Photogenic Hong Kong: Housing Estates

Photogenic Hong Kong is a series for all of the Instagrammers and Facebook users out there! Impress your friends around the world with pictures from these eye-catching spots of Hong Kong. This is a good looking city and we’re here to show you where to find these incredible sights.

Today, I’ll feature five surprisingly photogenic housing estates of Hong Kong. City planners went wild with housing designs in the 60s and 70s so this is a treat for all of those architecture and photography geeks out there.

Disclaimer: Please be respectful towards the residents. Even though public access is not much of a problem, these are people’s home. When in doubt, always ask for permission first!

1. Choi Hung Estate, Choi Hung

Choi Hung Estate

Built in 1962, Choi Hung Estates houses over 18,000 people. Rumor has it that the government chose a colorful theme as a way to raise the spirits of its people. As a results, the buildings are a spectacular palette of hues that is delightful to the eyes.

Choi Hung Estate

The most popular spot for photos are the volleyball/basketball courts on the roof of the car park.   

Choi Hung

Depending on the time of the day, there might be twenty or more playing full court basketball or a just a few kids doing things kids do.

Choi Hung

A family couldn’t resist taking photos with the colorful courts. The palm trees also add a nice tropical touch, reminiscent of Miami Beach.   

Photography tips:

For those with an interchangeable lens camera, I would suggest taking wider lens – anything above 35mm will be a little tight. For best color effect, I advise going when there’s no direct sunlight, so early morning, late afternoon, or cloudy days. Camera phones will work very nicely.     

Choi Hung
This is with a 35mm lens

Choi Hung

If you can’t shoot wide, try shooting panoramic! Take a few shots and then stitch them together with software afterwards. This photo is a combination of 5 images I took vertically.

Location

Choi Hung Estate

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2. Montane Mansion

Montane Mansion

In the 70’s, Hong Kong was on the brink of overpopulation. There were too many people and not enough housing. To alleviate that problem, the city developed large housing facilities in Quarry Bay. One of these estates is the Montane Mansion.

Montane Mansion

These are the iconic images people think of when they think about Hong Kong. The terms “matchbox units,” “concrete jungle,” and “density” comes to mind.

Montane Mansion

Walk inside to see units stacked upon units stacked upon other units.  

Photography Tips:

There’s a lot to take in, so wide angle lenses are a must! For those with camera phones, I suggest buying one of those clip-on wide angle lens converters that you can find in many places nowadays. There’s a lot to explore in the area. I suggest going in the late afternoon for day shots, have dinner in the area, and then come back for night shots. Don’t forget a tripod!

Montane Mansion  

Location

1028 King’s Rd, Quarry Bay

 

3. Oi Man Estate, Kowloon City

Oi Man Estate

Opened in 1975, Oi Man estate is the largest public housing estate in Kowloon City. It was such a big step forward in terms of modern housing planning that both Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher paid a visit in the 70’s.

Back in the 70’s, building restaurants, banks, supermarkets, etc. around residential housing was an innovative concept and the designers of Oi Man were one of the first subscribers to that philosophy.

Oi Man Estate

Inside is where the magic takes place. The Twin Towers designs are square shaped buildings that are 23 floors high.

Oi Man Estate

The hollowed out atrium offers an incredible vertical perspective. I felt a little dizzy when I looked down from one of the higher floors.

Oi Man Estate

The symmetry of it all was absolutely dazzling. Does this shot remind anyone else of the building from the movie Dredd? Minus all the crime and chaos, of course.

Oi Man Estate

This was a shot taken on the ground floor from the center of the atrium. Where else can you take a breathtaking shot like this?   

Photography Tips:

Bring a tripod. It is going to be dark so set a longer exposure if possible. A slightly wider angle lens with a fast aperture is ideal for capturing as much light and field of view as you can. For camera phones try to find something to help steady your hand.

Location

Hau Man St, No. 12 Hill

 

4. Lai Tak Tsuen

Lai Tak Tsuen

Credit: By OO1Roy – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5326224

When talking about Oi Man estate, I asked “where else can you take a photo like this?” Well, you could argue – Lai Tak Tsuen. And you would be right.

Lai Tak Estate

Lai Tak Tsuen is another award winning public housing estate in Hong Kong that was built in the 1970s. Except, instead of a square shaped design, Lai Tak Tsuen is built in the shape of a circle. With the square already taken, the designers probably thought, why not the circle?   

Lai Tak Estate

The shots from the inside is extraordinary – giving the audience a slightly haunting impression of entering into another dimension. I just can’t believe this is taken from a public housing estate.

Photography tips

See tips from Oi Man Estate.  

Location

Lai Tak Tsuen Rd, Tai Hang

5. Nam Shan Estate

Nam Shan Estate

Unlike other estates mentioned in this blog, Nam Shan estate is the result of a tragedy. There was a terrible fire in the 70’s that displaced a large amount of people in Kowloon. Afterwards, the government initiated the development of this estate to ensure that people have a new and safe place to stay.  

Nam Shan Estate

This estate, like the other mentioned before, were designed to be self sufficient. From wet markets and restaurants to playground… and this is where the photos get interesting.  

Nam Shan

Located on the roof of the wet market is an old-school playground. In it, you’ll find a play structure frozen in time. Lines are drawn on the ground for games forgotten long ago. It’s quite rare to find these 1970s type of playgrounds in Hong Kong.    

Nam Shan

Set against the backdrop of rustic apartments units, the image of the playground is quaint and reminds us of a simpler time.  

Nam Shan Estate

Photography Tips:

The ideal focal length for this is around 50mm, which has a good balance of width and compression. There is plenty of room to move back to get the apartment shot. Choose weekdays if you want some peace and quiet. There might be kids or other photographers there on the weekends. Camera phone users shouldn’t have any problems. Go during the day for best lighting. Puddles from the rain also affords the interesting opportunity for reflection shots as well.

Location

Nam Shan Chuen Rd, Shek Kip Mei

Thanks for reading. Stayed tuned for other Hong Kong related articles posted every week! 

Sam the Local connects people for customized Outings to explore Hong Kong. Our Locals build an itinerary based on your interests and then take you to see the things based on the itinerary. Pick a Local to book for your Outing, and please reach out if you have any questions.

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About the Author

Danny

I'm originally from Hong Kong and grew up in California. I am now back in Hong Kong, reminiscing about old Hong Kong, and seeing a new side of the city with my camera lens. I love biking, swimming, and anything salt and vinegar flavored.

 

8 thoughts on “Photogenic Hong Kong: Housing Estates

  1. Terence

    Important to note: Lai Tak Tsuen’s atrium is behind locked gates – and if you go in and even resemble a non-resident, they’re going to roust you pretty quickly. Photography isn’t allowed, so stow your SLR and try to be fast and use your cell.

    1. John

      Sneaked inside Lai Tak Tsuen with a resident today, with the SLR hiding in my backpack. Once inside, I quickly grabbed the SLR, shot a few photos and then got kicked out by security. 😉

    1. Hi Paola,

      All of our experiences are private and customized so they can definitely be arranged for November.

      For stories related to these areas,
      there is:
      http://www.samthelocal.com/locals/dellonm

      For photography-related locals, there are:
      http://www.samthelocal.com/locals/jordanc
      http://www.samthelocal.com/locals/jca
      http://www.samthelocal.com/locals/juliab

      If you have any questions, you may also contact us at explore@samthelocal.com and I would be happy to answer any questions you have.

      Cheers,
      Anita

  2. Mara

    Hello, I’d like to book a photo tour with Danny to some of these sites. Is this possible. Thanks!

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