Picture: History of Estates

Historical Background of So Uk Estate

So Uk Estate was the third public housing estate, after North Point Estate and Sai Wan Estate, developed by the then Housing Authority, the predecessor of the Hong Kong Housing Authority. It was built under the early low cost housing programme which aimed to provide affordable accommodation to lower income families who wished to improve their living environment. When compared with those living in resettlement estates, low cost housing tenants were subject to higher income limits and had to pay higher rents.

Picture: So Uk Estate

The construction works of So Uk Estate commenced in 1955, with the first housing block completed for intake in 1960. The whole project, spanning about eight years, was accomplished in 1963. There were altogether 16 housing blocks of 8 to 18 storeys, providing more than 5 000 rental flats. While the Chinese name of the estate suggests a kind of herb, the housing blocks were all named after flowers. Ample facilities were provided on the estate, including recreational facilities, shops, banks, clinics, schools, a post office, etc. With a construction cost of over HK$50 million, it was considered the largest comprehensive residential development project in Asia in those days.

Because of the magnitude of the project, So Uk Estate was developed as a joint venture of five major architectural consultant firms with the overall design undertaken by Eric Cumine Associates. A mixed mode of various designs was adopted. One could find in So Uk Estate Linear blocks as well as the first batch of Trident Design in five of the housing blocks. As the site stretched from south to north on the hillside, the architects put all the housing blocks on platforms at different heights so that most of the flats could face south and enjoy a sea view. Efforts were also made to let in more daylight and allow better ventilation. The estate was famous for its lavish green landscape, with trees growing on the slopes linking the podiums and greenery covering the whole estate.

So Uk Estate is often regarded a cradle for Hong Kong's middle class. Quite a number of local notables have lived and grown up there. The tranquil environment gestated many local music and showbiz talents including Sam Hui and his brothers and the Wong brothers of the band Beyond.

Weather-beaten for over 40 years, the estate has inevitably become dilapidated. A comprehensive structural investigation indicated that extensive and costly repair works would have to be done if the estate was to be preserved. Concerned about cost effectiveness, the Housing Authority decided in 2006 to clear the estate. The clearance of So Uk Estate is being carried out in two phases. The first phase involving the demolition of ten housing blocks commenced in late 2009 while the remaining six blocks will be demolished in 2012. To preserve the estate's heritage, the Housing Authority plans to retain a number of unique architectural structures for re-installation within the new development site. These include the estate's entrance portico, the triangular white house which used to be a kerosene station, and the pavilion with a giant mural painted on its arch-shaped ceiling.