“A preoccupation with cleanliness, health, hygiene, sunlight, fresh air and openness characterized modern architecture of the years between the two world wars.” – Paul Overy, British architectural critic and historian

Health Defined

Linkages between health and architecture derive from larger processes of industrial and colonial development taking place around the world over the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Overcrowding, cross-cultural interaction, pollution, and a sense of urban deterioration gave way to growing fears about public health and hygiene. Architects and urban planners subsequently began to think more carefully about notions like “openness” and space in relation to their own design work.

Health in Modern Architecture and Urbanism

Ideas about public cleanliness, health, and openness began to nfluence modern architectural and urban design in a number of important ways. Architects began to think about the relationship between air flow and ventilation, the height of rooms, and natural lighting in their work. Balconies, wide horizontal windows, terraces, and roof gardens increasingly began to be included in modern architectural designs. Building typologies from houses to hospitals began to incorporate new open spatial plans.

Health, Modern Architecture, and Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, architects and planners began to explore the relationship between health in architectural as well as urban space following outbreaks of the bubonic plague within the city between 1894 and 1923. Public Health and Buildings Ordinances were introduced in 1898 and 1903 that improved public health and building codes in Hong Kong while imposing greater governmental controls over how and where people lived. In this respect, modern architecture in Hong Kong became an important means by which people’s living conditions were both improved as well as controlled.


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