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Vivien Chan

MA work

Assembling the Dai Pai Dong: Living and Occupying the Street in Hong Kong, 1950s to the present

The dai pai dong is a street-food stall found in Hong Kong, most popular in the post-war period. Characterised by its flexibility, dai pai dong pitched on the kerbside all over the city, comprised of an assemblage of things – stools, folding tables, buckets of washing up, bamboo poles, fabric awnings and various pieces of cooking equipment. In the chaotic years after the Second World War, dai pai dong were a lifeline for the working-class, as an opportunity to make a living and as a cheap way to eat familiar foods when living space was scarce. As Hong Kong’s economy grew with the success of its light industry in the 1950s and 60s, the 70s brought a widespread ‘modernising’ of the city, dramatically changing the urban landscape, and dai pai dong within it.

This thesis traces the dai pai dong throughout this period, exploring the various typologies of dai pai dong, and how and why they inhabit these spaces, and how it has influences a specifically Hongkongese identity. Using components of the dai pai dong assemblage – the stool, the table, the roof and the walls – this research aims to de-construct the dai pai dong in four different contexts – the body, the street, the public housing estate and the indoor cooked-food centre. 


  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2017

  • Vivien Chan is a design historian with a background in illustration and animation. Her current thesis focuses on twentieth-century Hong Kong, analysing the dai pai dong as an architecture in the city, and an important aspect of everyday life for the working class. Vivien involves a combination of methodologies in her research process, engaging with objects, archives, spaces, and images. Her work is involved in a wide range of outcomes, producing books, films, exhibitions, and online platforms. With a focus on East Asia, her research interests involve a variety of topics, including the everyday, food culture, fashion and gender.
  • Degrees

  • BA Illustration & Animation, Kingston University, 2015
  • Experience

  • DHS Ambassador, Design History Society, 2017; Filmmaker, VARI, V&A Museum, London, 2016-present; Director and Editor of 'Thinking & Experiencing Techne' Documentary, V&A/RCA History of Design, V&A Museum, London, 2016; Editor, Unmaking Things, V&A/RCA History of Design, London, 2016–2017; Editorial team lead for 'Sooner, or later', V&A/RCA History of Design, 2016
  • Exhibitions

  • Reimagining Objects, Hockney Gallery, Royal College of Art, London, 2016; V&A Illustration Awards, V&A Museum, London, 2014; China Design Centre, London, 2014
  • Awards

  • The Clive Wainwright Memorial Prize, 2016; Student Runner-Up, V&A Illustration Award, 2014