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Old March 25th, 2006, 08:17 PM   #1
hkskyline
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Creativity in Hong Kong Architecture

Building with flair
20 March 2006
South China Morning Post





Designing a building in Hong Kong is not a very challenging job. There is not much room for creativity, and this is why I have focused my work on the mainland and overseas in recent years.

There is very limited diversity in our buildings. Look around the city: you'll find the architecture is much the same. The public-housing estates are all mass-produced, and private blocks are similar. When buying a property, consumers make choices about location and size rather than the types and designs of buildings.

This is mainly because land is very scarce in Hong Kong. When a developer buys a site, its chief concern is to maximise the use of space and build as much - and as luxuriously - as possible. That's why we have seen so many new, 40- and 50-storey high-rises in recent years.

Hong Kong's architecture has improved very little in recent decades, compared to other cities. If you compare new residential buildings to those of 20 years ago, the key differences are that the new blocks have a big "clubhouse" facility and some expensive granite in the lift lobbies. The main difference, in other words, is that they look more luxurious.

Few buildings in the city have thicker walls for warmth or double-glazed windows to cut noise and save energy. But such features are already pretty standard in many other developed countries. In such nations, or even on the mainland, people can choose to live in a house, flat or loft apartment converted from a godown - without paying a lot more money. Here, only multimillionaires enjoy such choices.

Hong Kong city planning is old-fashioned. Sites are classified according to their use, such as residential, commercial or governmental. You will not find a site that combines apartments, offices and shopping malls. But such mixtures are the latest and most popular approach to city planning in many cities elsewhere.

My biggest interest as an architect is working on such mix-and-match plans. I am now working on a project in Singapore, designing a marketplace for medical services. The idea is to group Chinese herbalists, doctors and other therapists in the same open area, mixed with restaurants and shops - making a visit to the doctor a more relaxed experience. I am also designing a "forum" space in Lijiang city , Yunnan province , combining different elements in an open area.

I do not believe that a piece of land should be put to a single use. For the same reason, I don't think our harbourfront areas should all be turned into public parks or promenades, as many people are campaigning for. We need diversity and variety. The harbour will not be very attractive if there are just parks or promenades there. I do not see why offices or residential blocks shouldn't be built by the harbour, as long as they look nice.

I think what we need most, in architectural terms, is diversity. If developers and urban-renewal authorities keep pulling old blocks down and replacing them with big high-rises, the city will not look good.

Hong Kong has passed its peak in terms of rapid economic growth, and is already in a relative decline. I seriously doubt whether we need so many high-rises. Such a decline is not necessarily a bad thing. Look at London: it has declined in importance for over a century, but it is still very nice.

We need to maintain Hong Kong as a good place to live, and diversity in architecture is a key to doing so.

Christopher Law Kin-chung is the director of Hong Kong-based architectural firm The Oval Partnership
Interview by Quinton Chan
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Old March 25th, 2006, 10:23 PM   #2
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I think that this article has some good points although I do not agree with it whole-heartedly...

Hong Kong has hundreds of mix used developments. I also think Hong Kong is a leader in Urban Planning. Just because many cities in Europe adopt mixed use schemes DOES NOT necessarily mean that it would work in HK. HK is an extremely unique place with different criteria.
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Old March 26th, 2006, 03:14 AM   #3
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i very heartedly agree with architectural constraints in hong kong ...
there needs to be a major project that the residents would respond to
the added value of better design or else i don't see this trend changing anytime soon ... however that doesn't mean you should entirely give up ...

as for mixed use i don't totally agree ...
To some extent hong kong invented hyper mixed use
just look at mongkok ...
however modern developments does have problems ...
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Old March 26th, 2006, 03:31 PM   #4
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I hate those modelled Gov't built buildings. So boring in design!
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Old March 26th, 2006, 06:07 PM   #5
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Hong Kong's architectural selection is quite varied and diverse. While there are many internationally-acclaimed buildings such as HSBC and the Bank of China, there are a lot of mass-produced government public housing buildings. It's not possible to put everyone in special architect-designed masterpieces, and this applies to any city in the world, but the contrast is nevertheless much more emphasized in Hong Kong due to the scale than in other cities.
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Old March 27th, 2006, 04:55 AM   #6
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I agree with HK's creativity in building design even with The Jardine House with it's round windows.

The Kowloon Walled City itself is very creative in terms of grit

Anyway, as with HK's residential towers, their design is being copied in other cities like Manila or Guangzhou
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Old March 27th, 2006, 04:59 AM   #7
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Agree. The trend is towards more innovative design. Look at Union Square. You may not like the design of the buildings there but they surely are quite innovative.

I don't think there is a building quite like the Arch anywhere else in the world. ICC will also be a shining beacon for the city as well. When it's complete, HK skyline will be elevated to "pee-in-your-pants-wowzer" level.
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Old March 27th, 2006, 05:32 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skybean
Agree. The trend is towards more innovative design. Look at Union Square. You may not like the design of the buildings there but they surely are quite innovative.

I don't think there is a building quite like the Arch anywhere else in the world. ICC will also be a shining beacon for the city as well. When it's complete, HK skyline will be elevated to "pee-in-your-pants-wowzer" level.
I don't get hyped that much on residential skylines especially the ones in Union Square, though The Arch is innovative. When it comes to residential skyscrapers, Tregunter 3 attracts me the most.

Also, the ICC's design is world quality but I don't find it as creative or unique as The BoC, HSBC Building, Lippo Centre or even the 2-IFC. I even find The Jardine House more creative!!!
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Old March 27th, 2006, 06:02 AM   #9
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My favourite residentials are Highcliff & Summit. Their designs are quite unique and difficult to implement. It's hard to believe such narrow buildings can survive on the slopes exposed to the winds, but the architect made it happen.

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Old March 27th, 2006, 06:07 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline
My favourite residentials are Highcliff & Summit. Their designs are quite unique and difficult to implement. It's hard to believe such narrow buildings can survive on the slopes exposed to the winds, but the architect made it happen.

I like the building design but I don't they they're the best designed residential scraper in HK. Well we all have our opinions on which is the best.

But the engineering of both scrapers are some of the best in HK like what you said, can withstand the slopes and winds. Also, both buildings doesn't ruin HK's skyline at all.

Now if HK is on the earthquake belt, I doubt you'll see The Highcliff and Summit in there or even most of the city's high-rises.
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Old March 27th, 2006, 06:34 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WANCH
Now if HK is on the earthquake belt, I doubt you'll see The Highcliff and Summit in there or even most of the city's high-rises.
Hong Kong actually experiences earthquakes now and then :

Minor earthquake shakes Hong Kong

HONG KONG, April 22, 2001 (AFP) - A minor earth tremor shook Hong Kong for a few seconds early Sunday, the Hong Kong Observatory said.

There were no reports of damage or casualties.

The tremor, at 1:53 am (1753 GMT Saturday), was felt by a few residents in Hong Kong, the Observatory said in a statement.

The epicentre of the earthquake, which measured about 4.6 on the Richter scale, was about 260 kilometres (160 miles) southwest of Hong Kong, in the vicinity of Yangjiang in China's Guangdong province, it said.

Earthquake Hits Hong Kong
1 January 1995
South China Morning Post

HONG KONG experienced a short but sharp tremor yesterday, apparently related to an earthquake which hit southern China. The Royal Observatory, which was inundated with calls from concerned members of the public, said the tremor lasted for about 30 seconds and was estimated to measure four on the Richter scale. It was the second tremor felt in Hong Kong this year in connection with earthquakes centred elsewhere in the region. In September, the strongest earthquake to rock the territory for 76 years shook buildings and alarmed thousands of people. It was centred near the Pescadore Islands, between Taiwan and China, and measured 6.5 on the Richter scale. The worst earthquake to hit the territory since records began was in 1918 on the third day of the Lunar New Year. It measured eight on the Richter scale and caused minor structural damage.

Moderate Earthquake Shakes Hong Kong
27 January 1986
The Associated Press

Hong Kong was jolted Tuesday by a rare earthquake, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties, the Hong Kong Observatory reported.

The observatory said the quake, recorded at 7:14 a.m. (6:14 p.m. EST Monday), measured 5.1 on the open-ended Richter scale. Its epicenter was located near Yangjiang, 177 miles west-southwest from Hong Kong in the neighboring southern Chinese province of Guangdong, the observatory said.

The Richter scale measures the total energy of an earthquake, and an quake with a rating of 5 can cause considerable damage in populated areas.

The observatory said some Hong Kong residents reported the quake shook items off tables and shelves. It said Hong Kong experiences an average of three earthquakes a year, but most are too small to be felt by people.
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Old March 27th, 2006, 09:12 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline
Hong Kong actually experiences earthquakes now and then :

Minor earthquake shakes Hong Kong

HONG KONG, April 22, 2001 (AFP) - A minor earth tremor shook Hong Kong for a few seconds early Sunday, the Hong Kong Observatory said.

There were no reports of damage or casualties.

The tremor, at 1:53 am (1753 GMT Saturday), was felt by a few residents in Hong Kong, the Observatory said in a statement.

The epicentre of the earthquake, which measured about 4.6 on the Richter scale, was about 260 kilometres (160 miles) southwest of Hong Kong, in the vicinity of Yangjiang in China's Guangdong province, it said.

Earthquake Hits Hong Kong
1 January 1995
South China Morning Post

HONG KONG experienced a short but sharp tremor yesterday, apparently related to an earthquake which hit southern China. The Royal Observatory, which was inundated with calls from concerned members of the public, said the tremor lasted for about 30 seconds and was estimated to measure four on the Richter scale. It was the second tremor felt in Hong Kong this year in connection with earthquakes centred elsewhere in the region. In September, the strongest earthquake to rock the territory for 76 years shook buildings and alarmed thousands of people. It was centred near the Pescadore Islands, between Taiwan and China, and measured 6.5 on the Richter scale. The worst earthquake to hit the territory since records began was in 1918 on the third day of the Lunar New Year. It measured eight on the Richter scale and caused minor structural damage.

Moderate Earthquake Shakes Hong Kong
27 January 1986
The Associated Press

Hong Kong was jolted Tuesday by a rare earthquake, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties, the Hong Kong Observatory reported.

The observatory said the quake, recorded at 7:14 a.m. (6:14 p.m. EST Monday), measured 5.1 on the open-ended Richter scale. Its epicenter was located near Yangjiang, 177 miles west-southwest from Hong Kong in the neighboring southern Chinese province of Guangdong, the observatory said.

The Richter scale measures the total energy of an earthquake, and an quake with a rating of 5 can cause considerable damage in populated areas.

The observatory said some Hong Kong residents reported the quake shook items off tables and shelves. It said Hong Kong experiences an average of three earthquakes a year, but most are too small to be felt by people.
These are mild quakes though. I never felt the ground shaking unlike what you can experience in Tokyo or San Francisco
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Old March 27th, 2006, 05:17 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WANCH
These are mild quakes though. I never felt the ground shaking unlike what you can experience in Tokyo or San Francisco
As the first article noted, the observatory was inundated with calls about the tremor. A Richter 4+ earthquake can generally be felt. In fact, all three reports indicated residents felt the tremors.
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Old March 28th, 2006, 01:10 AM   #14
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It is nice that earthquakes are a rare event. For the most part, in my opinion, HK's environment is fairly stable (except for typhoon situations and landslides).

I forgot about highcliff + summit. The glassy look is catching on and it looks quite good. I'm sure engineering considerations have to be made with strong glass to protect against typhoon winds.



I took a few shots of these beauties from the HK Jockey Club at night. The wonderful thing is that the night lighting is superb and many of the showcase buildings have a lighting scheme (i.e. Harbourfront Landmark). In this area, certainly HK has no shortage of creativity.
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Old March 28th, 2006, 04:43 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skybean
It is nice that earthquakes are a rare event. For the most part, in my opinion, HK's environment is fairly stable (except for typhoon situations and landslides).

I forgot about highcliff + summit. The glassy look is catching on and it looks quite good. I'm sure engineering considerations have to be made with strong glass to protect against typhoon winds.



I took a few shots of these beauties from the HK Jockey Club at night. The wonderful thing is that the night lighting is superb and many of the showcase buildings have a lighting scheme (i.e. Harbourfront Landmark). In this area, certainly HK has no shortage of creativity.
Landslides had been a problem in HK especially what happened to the Baguio Villas complex years back. But I don't think it's much of a serious problem anymore.
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Old March 28th, 2006, 05:43 AM   #16
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There is a government agency that takes care of major slopes. Each slope has its own code. Highcliff and Summit are actually not in a very risky area. There is a little more flat land behind it with buildings, so if a landslide does occur, those ones will get hit first.
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Old March 28th, 2006, 05:54 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline
There is a government agency that takes care of major slopes. Each slope has its own code. Highcliff and Summit are actually not in a very risky area. There is a little more flat land behind it with buildings, so if a landslide does occur, those ones will get hit first.
I think the risky areas in HK Island were Pok Fu Lam and Tai Tam. But again, I don't think it's much of a problem anymore.
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Old March 28th, 2006, 06:07 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WANCH
I think the risky areas in HK Island were Pok Fu Lam and Tai Tam. But again, I don't think it's much of a problem anymore.
Those are not major populated areas, while Western has a lot of buildings along the hillsides.
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Old March 28th, 2006, 06:11 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline
Those are not major populated areas, while Western has a lot of buildings along the hillsides.
But if a landslide occurs, those affected first will be the ones within Conduit Rd.
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Old March 28th, 2006, 06:23 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WANCH
But if a landslide occurs, those affected first will be the ones within Conduit Rd.
The western section near HKU is still protected since Po Shan Road loops around Conduit Road.
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