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Posts tagged “Exchange Square

SIX ARCHITECTS, SIX ICONS OF CENTRAL (中環), Hong Kong

For Hong Kong, skyscrapers in Central have always played bigger roles than just making money. The combined efforts of developers and architects redefine the city’s skyline for each era. [Photo: View of Central taken in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
Buildings in Central have been going through cycles of urban redevelopment since the 19th century. [Photo: China Building 華人行 (top), Entertainment Building 娛樂行 (right), Central Tower 中匯大廈 (middle), Edinburgh Tower and Gloucester Tower of The Landmark 置地廣塲 (left), 2020]

Ever since the British set foot on the Island and found the City of Victoria, Central (中環) has always been the centre stage of commercial development in Hong Kong. Since 1841, the business district has never ceased evolving and expanding. In cycles of urban reincarnation, company headquarters keep on reinventing themselves every few decades. Every time a commercial building is torn down and redeveloped, company owners and commissioned architects would find an opportunity to consolidate their corporate identity and design visions, creating architecture with a certain style and building technologies that defines the zeitgeist of an era.

Apart from a few preserved colonial buildings, the current skyline of Central is pretty much defined by Modernist and curtain wall structures erected since the Central Redevelopment Scheme of 1970’s. The completion of Jardine House in 1972 as the tallest structure in Asia manifested the arrival of city’s golden period. Then came 1980’s when different design styles flourished in Central, from the geometric beauty of Exchange Square, stunning high-tech HSBC Main Building, to the complex interlocking twin towers of Lippo Centre. 1990’s and 2000’s saw the Hong Kong handover and the city’s maintaining its status as the financial hub of Far East, with Bank of China Tower and Two International Financial Centre (2IFC) challenging the height limits of the sky. From Jardine House to the IFC, six architects were responsible for contributing a small piece of his design vision to the architectural scene of Hong Kong. Their works have defied the test of time and remain as the urban icons of Hong Kong.

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JAMES HAJIME KINOSHITA (木下一) OF PALMER & TURNER (P&T): Jardine House 怡和大廈 (Formerly Connaught Centre 康樂大廈)

Completion Date: 1972, Height: 178.5m (52 floors)

From the Japanese internment camp at Slocan of British Columbia during WWII to the architectural office Palmer & Turner (P&T) in Hong Kong in 1960’s, Canadian Architect James Kinoshita has come a long way to find his destiny. Intended to come for a short visit of his girlfriend (now his wife) in 1960, Kinoshita ended up staying in Hong Kong ever since. During his 28 years at P&T, Kinoshita brought a wave of Modernist architecture to the city when colonial buildings still dominated the skyline of Central. Apart from Modernist buildings such as Hilton Hotel, AIA Building, The Landmark, Electric Headquarter and Sui Wo Court, Kinoshita’s most well known work is probably Jardine House, the 52-storey office tower with the iconic round windows. When opened 50 years ago, Jardine House was the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia. The project opened up the contemporary era that completely transformed Central. Half a century later, Jardine House remains as an integral part of the city’s skyline.

Architect Kinoshita credits his wife Lana as the source of inspiration for the circular windows of Jardine House. [2020]
Jardine House was the pioneer project that initiated the network of Central Elevated Walkways. [2020]

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REMO RIVA (李華武) OF PALMER & TURNER (P&T): Exchange Square 交易廣塲

Completion Date: 1988, Height: 188m (Tower 1 – 52 floors – Tower 2 – 51 floors)

In the East Galleries of M+ Modern Art Museum, the axonometric drawing of the Exchange Square twin towers by Remo Riva is prominently on display. Remo’s drawing of the embracing geometries is part of Things, Spaces, Interactions, an exhibition that presents design objects with profound influence in Asia over the last 70 years. Similar to James Kinoshita, Swiss architect Remo Riva came to Hong Kong during the city’s blooming years and joined Palmer & Turner (P&T) in 1972. Responsible for 15 building projects in Central, such as Standard Chartered Bank Building, Entertainment Tower, the Landmark, and the Exchange Square, almost every visitor in Central would come across Remo’s works. Fully utilizing the advantages of the Central Elevated Walkways, Exchange Square opens its entrance and forecourt at the raised pedestrian network, leaving the ground floor for a transportation interchange. Apart from international banks, law firms, and foreign consulate offices, the most well known tenant in Exchange Square was the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

West of Jardine House stands the towers of Exchange Square. [Photo: Lung Wo Road, 2020]
Adjacent to the Exchange Square and Jardine House, the empty site and temporary footbridge of the Central Reclamation Phase 3 will soon be developed into a commercial complex. [Photo: Man Yiu Street, 2020]
From Connaught Road Central, entrance plaza of the Exchange Square is connected to the Central Elevated Walkways. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2022]

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NORMAN FOSTER: HSBC Main Building 香港上海滙豐銀行總行大廈

Completion Date: 1985, Height: 178.8m (44 floors)

A client briefing of creating “the best bank headquarters in the world” summed it all up. Norman Foster won the commission of the HSBC project in 1979, which was his first project outside the UK, and also his first over three stories tall. Billed as the world’s most expensive architecture at its time and a showcase of expressive steel structure and innovative building technologies, it is no surprise that the HSBC Main Building is one of the world’s most recognizable examples of high-tech architecture, along with Centre Pompidou in Paris and Lloyd’s Building in London. The current bank building is the fourth generation headquarters of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in the city. Famous for its steel suspended structure, column free interior, high level of access to natural lighting, giant mirrors that reflect sunlight into the building, a 40m atrium, lightweight movable floor panels, and prefabricated components from all over the world (such as the five steel modules prefabricated by Scott Lithgow Shipbuilders in Scotland, glass, aluminium cladding and flooring from United States, and service modules from Japan), the HSBC will remain as a historical milestone for Foster and one of Hong Kong’s most iconic buildings for many years to come.

With a building cost of roughly US$668 million, HSBC Main Building was the world’s most expensive building at its time. [2021]
After 37 years, HSBC Main Building remains as a great example to exemplify innovative solutions of building technologies. [2020]
Eight steel masts and five double-storey trusses hold up a steel suspension structure to carry the load of the building, allowing a column free spaces in the middle. [2020]
The ground floor of HSBC Main Building serves as a covered plaza where pedestrians can freely walk from Des Voeux Road Central to Queen’s Road Central. [2020]
With the mega steel suspension structure, the heart of HSBC Main Building is free of columns. [2020]
Commissioned in 1935 from Shanghai based British sculptor WW Wagstaff, the two bronze lions at Des Voeux Road Central have been the guardians of the bank tower since the third generation of the HSBC Building. Near the end of WWII, the lions were shipped to Japan to be melted down. Before the lions’ planned demise, the war ended. The statues were saved by an American sailor at the dock of Osaka and eventually returned to Hong Kong. [2020]
In the past, a large Christmas tree used to be erected at Statue Square outside HSBC Main Building.

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PAUL RUDOLPH: Lippo Centre 力寶中心 (Formerly Bond Centre 奔達中心)

Completion Date: 1988, Height: Tower 1 – 172m (44 floors), Tower 2 – 186m (48 floors)

Hongkongers are fortunate to have at least one prominent work of late Modernist master Paul Rudolph. There were originally three architectural proposals by Rudolph for Hong Kong, but only Lippo Centre was realized. Studied under Walter Gropius with classmates I.M. Pei and Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph was widely considered to be a master of Modernist and Brutalist architecture. After leaving Yale where he chaired the Department of Architecture for six years (with students such as Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Robert Stern, Muzharul Islam, etc.) and erected some of his famous Brutalist buildings, Rudolph shifted his focus to international projects in Asia in his latter career. Lippo Centre was one of his final realized projects. Rudolph wrote: “The aesthetic intent is to…give the building ‘presence’ when seen at a great distance, from the middle distance, and from close distance, and from close hand. At the same time, it is intended that the building inhabit the sky, and become dematerialized by reflecting the ever changing light.” Unlike Rudolph’s concrete buildings from his earlier years, Lippo Centre is highly reflective, perhaps to suit the taste of commercial clients in Asia. To some people, the interlocking massing of the hexagonal twin towers resemble koalas climbing a tree. The playful tower design has created 58 different office plans and many corner windows, and expressed the aesthetics of complexity and layering that still impress spectators of today.

Lippo Centre presents the complex planning and rich spatial qualities of Rudolph’s projects. [Photo: Queensway, Admiralty, 2020]
The scene of Lippo Centre’s giant pillars and stacked massing have become an iconic feature in Admiralty. [2022]
Some see the facade of Lippo Centre resembling koalas climbing up a tree. [Photo: Garden Road, 2020]

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I.M. PEI (貝聿銘): Bank of China Tower 中銀大廈

Completion Date: 1990, Height: 367.4m including roof feature (72 floors)

From JFK Presidenial Library, Le Grande Louvre to Miho and Suzhou Museum, Chinese American I.M. Pei was one of the most well known Modernist architect of his era. As Aaron Betsky writes in 2019, “with I.M. Pei’s death, the last of the modern monument makers has passed.” Pei was certainly a man who made monuments. In 1982, Pei received an offer from the Chinese government to design the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, the city where Pei spent the first decade of his childhood. Designated as the signature project to showcase China’s modernity, economic strength, and open engagement with the world, the project was more than just making a pretty bank tower, especially during the time when the British colony was preparing for its Chinese handover in 1997. When completed in 1990, It was the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia, and the first supertall skyscraper (300m+) outside United States. Structurally, the tower was also the first composite space frame highrise with triangular frames transferring the load to the four corner columns. The powerful geometry and structural framing bring out a timeless design language that expresses the aesthetics of purity and elegance. Nothing fancy. Not a single line is unneeded. It stands as an urban monument overlooking the bustling activities of Central and Admiralty over the past three decades.

Viewing from Central, the cross framing of Bank of China Tower still looks smart and elegant after three decades of time. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2020]
No matter from which direction, Bank of China Tower will stand out from the background instantly. [Photo: The Cenotaph, 2020]
The bracing structure of Bank of China has become an icon that all Hongkongers can recognize. [Photo: Hong Kong Park, 2020]
From the street, the stone motifs near the base reveal a sense of tradition and solemnity in the design. [2022]
The design has successfully incorporated traditional motifs into the building. [2022]
Traditional Chinese gardens were used by Pei to create a green buffer from the adjacent traffic. [2022]
From Victoria Harbour, the structural frame of Bank of China Tower has stood out in Hong Kong’s skyline since 30 years ago. [2020]

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CESAR PELLI: Two International Finance Centre (2IFC) 國際金融中心二期

Completion Date: 2003, Height: 415m including roof feature (88 floors)

As property prices and rents in Hong Kong skyrocketed in 1990’s and 2000’s, office architecture has tilted even more towards maximizing the lettable square footage than making a design statement. Notable for designing the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, World Financial Center (now Brookfield Place) in New York, One Canada Square Tower at Canary Wharf in London, Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, Wells Fargo Tower in Minneapolis, UniCredit Tower in Milan, Torre Banco Macro in Buenos Aires, and the list just goes on and on, Argentine-American architect César Pelli seemed to be the perfect fit for designing another iconic skyscraper in Hong Kong after the millennium. Before the completion of International Commerce Centre (ICC) in 2011, Pelli’s Tower Two of the International Finance Centre (2IFC) was the city’s tallest building and remains as the most notable element in today’s skyline. Apart from attracting institutions such as Hong Kong Monetary Authority or companies like Ernst & Young, Financial Times and Henderson Land Development, 2IFC is also a popular movie shooting spot, where both Lara Croft in Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003) and Batman in The Dark Knight (2008) chose to jump off from the very top. Apart from its height, the skyscraper is specialized for housing financial institutions, with 22 trading floors, advanced IT equipment, raised floor facilities and column-free spaces.

2IFC under final stages of construction back in 2003. [Photo: Cheung Kong Centre, 2003]
Three former tallest buildings in Hong Kong from left to right: Mandarin Oriental Hotel – 26 storeys, 1963-66; Jardine House – 52 storeys, 1972-80; 2IFC – 88 storeys, 2003-10
2IFC can house up to 15,000 people at work, and is equipped with double-deck elevators. [2020]
2IFC is home to some of the city’s most prestige financial institutions and businesses. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2020]
Due to its height, 2IFC is prominently visible from many places in Hong Kong, including the Mid Levels on the slope of Victoria Peak. [Photo: Hornsey Road, Mid Levels, 2020]
The roof feature and uplights of 2IFC serves like a beacon for the city’s skyline. [Photo: Connaught Road West, Sheung Wan, 2020]

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Across the street from I. M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower, construction of a new 36 storey office tower had begun. World renowned design firm Zaha Hadid Architects aims to create a glassy urban oasis at this prominent location. Would this be the next generation of architectural icons in Central? [Photo: Queensway of Admiralty, 2022]

FLOATING WAY: Central Elevated Walkways (中區行人天橋), Central (中環), Hong Kong

In March 1992, Space Design, a Japanese monthly journal of art and architecture published a special feature on “Hong Kong: Alternative Metropolis” as its Issue 330. One of its articles was “Ue-no-michi”: Floating Way – Central New Town, which introduces to Japanese readers the Central Elevated Walkways, an extensive footbridge network that connects a significant numbers of office towers and shopping centres in the central business district of Hong Kong. The authors mapped out the system, and examined its significance on master planning and urban development of the city. In fact, this pedestrian circulation system has long been a well known reference case for urban planning studies around the world. Without touching the ground, one can pass from one office tower to another, or transfer from a ferry pier to a bus terminal, or access to restaurants, shops, services, hotels, apartments, post office, banks, or ascend to the Mid Levels from the harbourfront. Not only does the network enhances pedestrian connectivity in Downtown Hong Kong, it also offers a safe, weather protected, well lit, clean, convenient, and sometimes air conditioned public space network several metres above the dust, noises and air pollution of the streets. Separating pedestrian and vehicular circulations is also beneficial to vehicular traffic on the streets, where pedestrian traffic lights can be placed much further apart.

The Central Elevated Walkway began in 1970’s, when developer and Central’s biggest landlord Hongkong Land (置地) constructed a footbridge between Connaught Place (now Jardine House), Swire House (now Chater House) and the General Post Office. From then on, the government, developers and banking corporations continue to expand the network to include more buildings and bridge connections. Similar strategy has been adopted elsewhere in the city, notably in business districts Admiralty and Wan Chai, entertainment district Mong Kok, industrial district Tsuen Wan, etc. In 2012, architects and scholars Adam Frampton, Jonathan Solomon and Clara Wong published Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guidebook. The three architectural scholars provide a detailed analysis of the elevated walkways in Hong Kong with beautiful isometric maps. Apart from pedestrian circulation, the book also celebrate the social aspects of the raised spatial system as an essential and integral layer of the city.

Navigating the labyrinth of elevated walkways in Central is not as difficult as one may think, as users can always rely on the clear signage and street scenes below to orient themselves. Elevated several metres above ground, the walkways offer a unique vantage point to enjoy the urban scenery of the financial district. Every Sunday, the covered elevated walkways and adjoining podiums would be turned into a gathering point for foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Sitting in small groups on folded cardboard, the domestic helpers (mainly from Philippines and Indonesia) would gather and eat, chat, pray, dance, sing karaoke, tell jokes, watch smartphone videos, play card games, make long distant video calls, etc. The walkways where normally dominated by quick pace pedestrians would suddenly become a vibrant social hub as if a public park.

Built in the 1970’s by developer Hongkong Land (置地), the elevated walkway between Connaught Place (now Jardine House), Swire House (now Chater House) and the General Post Office at Connaught Road Central. [Photo: Connaught Place, 2021]
The walkway can be accessed via footbridge from Jardine House, or via a staircase from the building’s plaza. [Photo: Connaught Place, 2020]
Horizontal LED screens have been installed at the 1970’s walkway recently. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2022]
Across from the 1970’s walkway, a newer footbridge connecting Worldwide House and Exchange Square was erected by the government in 2000’s. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2022]
A range of footbridges span across the major thoroughfare Connaught Road Central. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2020]
Compared to the aluminium enclosure of the 1970’s walkway, the glassy canopy of the 2000’s footbridge represents building technology from a completely different era. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2020]
Fritted lines on the glass canopy provides a certain degree of sunshading for the footbridge. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2015]
Since 1970’s, Hongkong Land has linked up its office buildings and luxury shopping complex Landmark Atrium with footbridges. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2022]
Being the biggest landlord in Central, Hongkong Land was the first company to construct footbridges between its buildings. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2022]
The bridge at Standard Charter Bank is cladded with a similar stone material as the bank tower. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2022]
The elevated walkways offer a different urban vista from the streets below. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2022]
Views from the walkways of Hongkong Land are often dominated by signage of international fashion brands. [Photo: Pedder Street, 2022]
On Sunday, the elevated walkways in Central would be occupied by groups of domestic helpers, including the footbridges at Hang Seng Bank Tower. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2020]
Moving up and down hillside Central via the Central to Mid Levels Escalators to watch the urban scenery unfolding in front of our eyes is like entering a bustling motion picture as silent spectators. [Photo: Cochrane Street, 2021]
The longest elevated walkway is located at Connaught Road Central, where it links Exchange Square in Central all the way to Shun Tak Centre in Sheung Wan. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2022]
The elevated walkway goes in parallel with Connaught Road Central. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2021]
Across Connaught Road Central, the walkway passes by a series of small commercial towers packed tightly together. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2020]
The elevated walkway merges with the podium and upper entrance of Exchange Square. [Photo: Exchange Square at Connaught Road Central, 2020]
From the walkway, pedestrians can access the podium of Exchange Square. [Photo: Exchange Square at Connaught Road Central, 2020]
The podium of Exchange Square is popular with groups of domestic helpers on Sunday. [Photo: Exchange Square at Connaught Road Central, 2021]
Owned by Hongkong Land, the 5-storey Forum is a new addition to the podium of Exchange Square. [Photo: Exchange Square at Connaught Road Central, 2021]
As part of the International Finance Centre (IFC) Mall, the neat footbridge links the Four Seasons Hotel with the main mall complex. [Photo: IFC Mall and Four Seasons Hotel, 2020]
Apart from Landmark Atrium, IFC Mall is another high end shopping centre in Central fully connected with the elevated walkways in a number of directions. [Photo: IFC Mall and Four Seasons Hotel, 2022]
At its north, a footbridge links the IFC Mall with Central Piers. [Photo: IFC Mall and Central-Wan Chai Bypass, 2014]
The footbridge passes over the newly completed Central-Wan Chai Bypass before arriving at the Central Piers. [Photo: IFC Mall and Central-Wan Chai Bypass, 2020]
At the IFC Mall, even the department store Lane Crawford is serving as a pedestrian linkage over a busy street. [Photo: IFC Mall, 2022]
Further west of IFC Mall, the walkway network extends towards Shun Tak Centre and Hong Kong and Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan. [Photo: Man Kat Street, 2020]
The walkway makes a bend towards Victoria Harbour as it approaches Rumsey Street Car Park in Sheung Wan. [Photo: Rumsey Street Car Park, 2022]
Across the Harbour, the International Commerce Centre (ICC) stands like a monumental totem pole in West Kowloon. [Photo: Rumsey Street Car Park, 2022]
Have a view of West Kowloon Cultural District before entering Hong Kong – Macau Ferry Terminal at Shun Tak Centre. [Photo: Rumsey Street Car Park, 2022]