3 NOV 2017
After a fire in the squatter village of Shek Kip Mei left 53,000 homeless, Hong Kong’s social housing faced a crisis of overcrowding. In his role in the Hong Kong Public Works department, Michael Wright FRICS created building standards to meet resettlement needs, as well as resolve the sanitary problems common in post-war social housing.
Sheung Li Uk was a public rental housing scheme designed by Wright in 1952. It saw the first manifestation of what was to become known as the ‘Wright Principle’; a housing standard in which privacy and human dignity are incorporated into the design.
As such, Sheung Li Uk was the first public resettlement housing unit in Hong Kong to provide an individual bathroom and kitchen in all units. This signalled a move away from those designed by his predecessors, where residents had to share bathrooms and cook outside their own home.
Michael later took on a far wider role in ensuring standards across many areas of Hong Kong infrastructure were observed and put to use. His pioneering work includes the Plover Cove Reservoir, whose construction he supervised in the 1960s.
This reservoir, the largest at the time in Hong Kong, facilitated such an increase in water consumption that Michael instructed the construction of the even larger High Island Reservoir, which is still the largest volume reservoir in Hong Kong to date.
As a member of the Legislative and Urban Councils, Michael also provided a voice of insight to Hong Kong’s development programme. He proposed a mass transport network, which has become the MTR system that carries four million passengers every day.
Michael Wright is now 105 years old and lives in London. With a public housing estate named in his honour, a mass transport system conceived from his surveying expertise, and a major role in the planning and construction of vital water reservoirs, Michael’s outstanding contribution to the development of the built environment in Hong Kong and the surveying profession is clear.