Hong Kong Hawker Stalls-Normalization, Control, and Maintenance Aesthetics in Participatory Design

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic researchpeer-review


How does preparation or lack of preparation for maintenance, repair, and alteration in the design of an object distributed from the top down reflect spatial politics, normative aesthetics, and exertion of control? Lorentz and Shiqiao (2015) propose that Hong Kong’s prevalent street vendors – termed “hawkers”- signal self-sufficiency and individual agency in a globalization center increasingly marked by top-down development and spatial control. In the past, these street vendors occupied space with varying permanence from a blanket laid on the pavement to corrugated metal enclosures. However, after a 2011 fire on Fa Yuen Street, designers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University created a new, standardized hawker stall that they deployed in parts of the city to reduce risk of fire and improve the utility of hawkers in certain locations. This normalization evidences consequences of agency in hawkers’ efforts to repair, alter and maintain their new stalls since the transition. Tectonic decisions such as using powder coating, positioning of enclosure, and electrical layout reflect contests between top-down and bottom-up design as the new hawker stalls develop the patina of modification and repair. This research presents a photo essay on this process and suggests that, while no normative design process can anticipate all change, the relationships between aesthetic norms, repair, and consumer agency should be part of any consumer-oriented, top-down design process. Thereby, this research probes the boundaries designers provide between the need for aesthetic normalization and the inevitabilities of repair, modification, and maintenance.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusNot published / presented only - Feb 2018
EventCollege Art Association 2018 106th Annual Conference - Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, United States
Duration: 18 Feb 201822 Feb 2018


ConferenceCollege Art Association 2018 106th Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleCAA 2018 Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLos Angeles


  • Participatory design
  • Maintenance
  • Hawker Markets
  • Hong Kong

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture


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