MDes Talks: What Is Home for Hong Kong Millennials

Capstone Research

Capstone project is the final project we do before graduating. It allows us to explore our personal interests as well as giving us the possibility to show our capacities for our future career. How do we want to be perceived by the world, by future employers? Do we want to profile as more engineer- or social-oriented, problem solver or researcher? In each field of design there are a lot of ways we can work, and it is us to make a choice.

With that in mind, I have chosen to explore a particular question which has been running in my mind since I arrived in Hong Kong (and even before that, to be honest): What is my home? What or Where, as you want.

I no longer have a sense of belonging in Paris, yet I haven’t felt like a local in Hong Kong. So I was looking for answers since last spring.

After setting out to look for answers, the topic came when talking with friends. It turned out that I was not alone questioning the notion of home in my life. Both foreigners and local appeared to have a blur vision.

MDes Talks: What Is Home for Hong Kong Millennials

To allow the investigation fit for the urban environment design capstone project, I opened the question to a broader population: all the millennials of Hong Kong. The millennials are the people currently between 18 and 34 years old but this age/ year defined boundaries is not clear. My view is that it refers to those people grew up with internet, have an easier access to travel and adopt quite a rupture of lifestyle with their parents. In Hong Kong, this population is really diverse, people from all around the world and all social backgrounds. As limited by the project timeline, I chose to study my close network of friends as informants, including classmates, members of the rowing team and other people I have met during the year.

MDes Talks: What Is Home for Hong Kong Millennials

Summer Adventure – What is Home

During the three months, I managed to conduct research in the form of interviews, portraits, and photo reportage of my surroundings. Informants and I had really interesting discussions around the topic of home, the relationship with Hong Kong and some visions of the future. 

One of the interesting insights came out is that both foreigners and locals share a definition of home. To me, it was quite unexpected as home has the reputation of being incredibly different from one person to another. For both groups, home is not the house where the family is, which used to be the basic meaning of home.

Let me explain here: in the past, people barely moved during their lives; so home, family and residence were happening at the same place. When urbanisation took place, people started moving from the countryside to the cities and even abroad, most of the time to find work. Little by little, the system – residence = family = home – started fading. Today with new technologies like Skype or Facebook available on laptops or mobile devices, the meaning of home is changing once again as the way we carry relationship evolves too. 

MDes Talks: What Is Home for Hong Kong Millennials

But you may say here that Hong Kong families still tend to live together. It is true but it is another kind of issue – the feeling at home. Flats in this city are too small for everyone to feel comfortable.

Among the information gathered, here is the definition I could get from the interviews that the millennials could relate most regardless of their geo and social background: home is where one can express their true identity. For foreigners, it may be a link to their culture or friends and family through internet and in this case, laptops and mobile devices become important. For locals, it is often a place where they practise a hobby like the rowing centre, a band practice room, a personal work desk at school… it can take many shapes but they all allow a comfortable freedom to the person.

MDes Talks: What Is Home for Hong Kong Millennials

Exploring Around – How We Make A Home

Coming away with this finding, I started to focus my work on one of those places: the rowing centre of Shek Mun where the PolyU rowing club train all year long. We spend so much time there, many teammates see this place as a home.

Although the building should enable people to practise their activities optimally, it is not the building itself that is important. What is important is the small details appearing through time. Here are some examples: the personalisation of the boathouse with some photos, trophies and spare items, the appropriation of some lockers for the team shower gels and sunscreens, the marks on the ground due to repeated actions…

Those rituals, those little details slowly build a physical home around us where we can feel at ease. In addition, some intangible things make the spiritual home: the relationships with people, the time shared together, the memories made… those are also extremely important.

MDes Talks: What Is Home for Hong Kong Millennials

With all these, you become a local – you are familiar with the place and faces around so much as that you stop noticing some details as you know your surrounding by heart – and at this point, you have made a home.


Photo Credit: Mathilde Gattegno

Posted by Mathilde Gattegno – from Paris and love to see the world. Graduated from architecture with an option in civil engineering. Curious about everything, a huge bookworm, a little bit geek and also enjoy music, sports, going outside to take pictures. Hong Kong is a brand new playground!
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MDes Talks is a series of Student Blogs contributed by students in different specialisms under the Master of Design Scheme. It is set out to share students’ first-hand experience in the d-school pedagogy, their projects, takeaways, and student life in general.