Inflatable Chapel device designed for domestic helpers in Hong Kong
November 4, 2022
Hong Kong is one of the world’s most densely populated regions. At the same time, it has one of the lowest birth rates worldwide (and all-time lowest recorded) at 0.774 per woman of child-bearing age as of 2021.
According to the designers behind this project, 10 per cent of Hong Kong’s workforce or around 400,000 people are domestic helpers, contributing some HKD12.6 billion to the economy or 3.6 per cent of the GDP.1 About 99 per cent of domestic helpers are women.2 “They are an indispensable part of our community, and their welfare deserves our attention,” wrote the designers.
The working conditions of live-in domestic helpers has been subject of much scrutiny and protests, including their lack of rest days.3 A key activity for domestic helpers in Hong Kong during their days off is attending church or social gatherings, taking place in religious facilities or publicly accessible spaces like city parks. But during the pandemic and continued social distancing measures, such spaces and mass gatherings faced restrictions.
The chapel is designed at a personal scale The inflatable material is suited for portability The design is inspired by makeshift structures that domestic helpers often use in parks
Borrowing from the creative and adaptable force of the Situationist art movement to question the context in unusual circumstances, the designers came up with Inflatable Chapel as a portable and reusable personal space bubble. This spatial device is envisioned to resonate with social distancing measures in public areas.
The temporary and spontaneous nature draws upon makeshift structures/furniture from corrugated cardboard that domestic helpers often use in parks, creating temporary cityscapes on the street. “Such adaptability is of the same essence of the resilience of Hong Kong in difficult times,” wrote the designers.
The installation is on display at North Point Pier during the 2022 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture, running till 26 November 2022.
Napp Studio & Architects
Aron Tsang; Frida Law; Wesley Ho