Prof Peter Ferretto
Living heritage: Transforming Hong Kong’s abandoned villages into cultural destinations
Local villages in Hong Kong are disappearing – before the regrettable reality comes to be, the Condition_Lab plans to engage people through design, injecting life back into these villages with social architecture.
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Living heritage: Transforming Hong Kong’s abandoned villages into cultural destinations

The issue

Historically, villages have played an essential role in the development of Hong Kong, where people made a living via farming, fishing and salt making. Over time, our city’s focus has shifted towards urban development, in the process marginalising the role of traditional villages. The majority are left vacant, undeveloped and disconnected from the rest of the city – both physically and culturally. As the urban areas become saturated, Hong Kong faces a future where most of its remaining villages may not escape the ill fate of being torn down for commercial development or housing provision. By then, village traditions, both tangible and intangible, might altogether disappear, meaning the generations to come would only awake to this rich heritage via oral narratives, or even mere written accounts.

The solution

With their experience in Hunan villages, the team now reactivates abandoned traditional villages in Hong Kong by working closely with an existing site, to keep its cultural heritage alive. Through creative workshops and participatory activities, universities students work within the village, document its architectural and cultural aspects, on top of listening to villagers’ stories as a first step to understanding the village and building mutual trust. They then work with the villagers on an architectural prototype geared towards resolving issues identified during the workshops. Establishing a sense of space, the prototype will become a focal point where community activities (e.g. learning local craftsmanship) are organised – a magnet attracting a variety of people to explore Hong Kong village culture in novel ways.


Since 2016, the team has organised annual summer workshops at ethnic minority villages in mainland China. Like its precedents, this project not only connects students with villagers, but also the community at large with village culture, enticing them to explore a different lifestyle and learn new cultural aspects in a fresh manner. Villagers, a minor local population which is often forgotten, are also given a platform to air their stories. Through two-way social engagement, a better and more meaningful cultural environment would be created for the community-at-large.

The experience is expected to inform the development of campus-wide programmes for student engagement in community building, as well as future policymaking.


– 20 university students
– 50 villagers
– 1,000 public members to take part in community events in the village

Project Team

Prof Peter Ferretto
School of Architecture, Faculty of Social Science
Prof Peter Ferretto
School of Architecture, Faculty of Social Science

Peter is passionate about residual urban spaces, rural village regeneration and understanding territories through design prototypes. With a strong belief to engage the community with empathy, he currently leads the Condition_Lab to design “social architecture” that improves people’s lives via how space is utilised. His reactivation strategies for Chinese traditional villages are well-acclaimed – his Gaobu Book House project in a Dong minority village is a category winner of the World Architecture Festival 2019.