Lai Chi Wo: Restorative Reuse

Showcase / 2nd Quarter 2023

Lai Chi Wo: Restorative Reuse

by Thomas Chung

June 19, 2023

Lai Chi Wo is the largest and best-preserved of the seven-village cluster of Hing Chun Alliance in Sha Tau Kok. Backed by mountains and facing the sea, its nine-row, three-column walled village layout has ancestral halls within, a temple and school overlooking an open plaza without.

Once an affluent education and trading hub, the village depopulated drastically from the 1960s. Since 2013, rural conservation efforts have combined agricultural revival with biodiversity protection and villagers’ engagement. In 2016, the Hong Kong Countryside Foundation rented ancestral homes from villagers to launch the Hakka Life Experience Village @ Lai Chi Wo project, which planned to restore 25 out of over 200 mostly-abandoned traditional dwellings, converting them into guesthouse accommodation for conservation programme participants, contributing to the village’s broader rejuvenation.2

Executed in phases, the careful conservation works preserved the original flavour of the vernacular architecture, rediscovering its simple material beauty while making appropriate functional upgrades to comply with current regulations and fire safety.

Features such as the grey-tiled double-pitched roofs, blue-brick façades, locally-made mud brick and well-insulated rubble walls were meticulously restored, highlighting traditional Hakka wisdom in creating an environmentally friendly energy-efficient design. Larger new openings improve the natural lighting and ventilation of these protective dwellings, while split-type air-conditioning has been sparingly introduced and respectfully installed out of visitors’ sight.

Instead of slavish reinstatement, interviews with house owners inspired the “one house, one story” approach, which integrated conservation techniques with interpretive storytelling.

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Thomas Chung is Associate Professor at the School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is an international award-winning architect who graduated from the University of Cambridge. Chung has been active in curating, exhibiting and steering the HK-SZ Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture UABB since 2008. His award-wining projects Value Farm (2013) and Floating Fields (2015) fuse ecological design with socially innovative public space. Chung’s current research interests include countryside conservation projects, co-creative rural place-making and learning for well-being. He leads a multidisciplinary team with expertise in architecture, anthropology, geography and life sciences, and is consolidating a research hub on countryside-city regeneration.

Related stories:

Architectural Restorations for Remote Countryside Regeneration in Hong Kong

Mui Tsz Lam: Radical Renewal

Kuk Po: Resilient Regeneration

Read more stories from FuturArc 2Q 2023: Old is Gold!


2 The Hong Kong Countryside Foundation. (n.d.). Hakka Life Experience Village @ Lai Chi Wo. Retrieved 20 April 2023, from

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