Architecture of Hong Kong
The Architecture of Hong Kong features great emphasis on Contemporary architecture, especially Modernism, Postmodernism, Functionalism, etc. Due to the lack of available land, few historical buildings remain in the urban areas of Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong has become a centre for modern architecture as older buildings are cleared away to make space for newer, larger buildings. It has more buildings above 35m (or 100m) and more skyscrapers above 150m than any other city. Hong Kong's skyline is often considered to be the best in the world, with the surrounding mountains and Victoria Harbour complementing the skyscrapers.
Prior to the British settlement of Hong Kong in 1841, architecture in Hong Kong was predominately Chinese. With the majority of the population being fishers at the mercy of typhoons and pirates, numerous Tin Hau Temples were dedicated to their patron Goddess. Likewise farmers built fortified villages to defend themselves from bandits.
After the British established the entrepôt of Victoria City (now Central and Western District on Hong Kong Island), the local population increased substantially, and as a result Tong Lau (Chinese tenement) began to appear. These were three-to-four storey buildings, tightly packed in city blocks, and combining Chinese and European architectural elements. The ground floor were typically shops, with apartments and small balconies upstairs. These buildings had stairs but no elevators, and sometimes had neither toilet facilities. These Tong Lau remained the mainstay of Hong Kong architecture until at least World War II; a number of these building survive to this day, albeit often in a derelict state.
Meanwhile, the British introduced Victorian and Edwardian architecture styles from the mid-19th century onwards. Notable surviving examples include the Legislative Council Building, the Central Police Station and Murray House. One building that has since been demolished was the Hong Kong Club Building; it was built atop a smaller structure designed in Italian Renaissance Revival style in 1897. The building was the subject of a bitter heritage conservation struggle in the late 1970s, which ultimately failed to save the building.
The first building in Hong Kong to be classified as the first high rise was constructed between June 1904 and December 1905. It consisted of 5 major buildings, each stacking 5 to 6 stories high. The structures were raised by the Hong Kong Land company under Catchick Paul Chater and James Johnstone Keswick.
Most high rise buildings to be built afterwards were for business purposes; the first true skyscraper in Hong Kong was built for HongkongBank in 1935, which was also the first building in Hong Kong to have air conditioning; however this has since been replaced with the HSBC Main Building, Hong Kong of 1985. Likewise the few examples of 1930s Streamline Moderne and Bauhaus architecture in Hong Kong, such as the Central Market and the Wan Chai Market, are facing imminent demolitions despite protests from heritage conservation groups.
In the residential sector, multi-story buildings did not appear until the Buildings Ordinance 1955 lifted the height limit of residential buildings. This change was necessitated by the massive influx of refugees into Hong Kong after the Communist revolution in China in 1949, and the subsequent Shek Kip Mei slum fire in 1953. Public housing estates, originally seven-storeys high with notoriously cramped conditions, public bathrooms and no kitchens, were hastily built to accommodate the homeless; meanwhile private apartments, still tightly packed into city blocks like the Tong Lau of old, had grown to over 20 stories high by the mid-1960s.
The private housing estate began in 1965 with Mei Foo Sun Chuen. The first major private construction came from Swire properties in 1972 with the development of middle-class estate of Taikoo Shing. With little space wasted on statues or landmarks that consumed unnecessary real estate, Taikoo Shing's design was the new standard.
Until the late 1990s, the primary demand for high-end buildings was in and around Central. The buildings of Central comprise the skyline along the coast of the Victoria Harbour, a famous tourist attraction in Hong Kong. But until Kai Tak Airport closed in 1998, strict height restrictions were in force in Kowloon so that airplanes could come in to land. These restrictions have now been lifted and many new skyscrapers in Kowloon have been constructed, including the International Commerce Center at the West Kowloon reclamation, which has been the tallest building in Hong Kong since its completion in 2010.
Many commercial and residential towers built in the past two decades are among the tallest in the world, including Highcliff, The Arch, and The Harbourside. Still, more towers are under construction, like One Island East. At present, Hong Kong has the world's biggest skyline with a total of 7,681 skyscrapers, placing it ahead of even New York City, despite the fact that New York is larger in area. Most of these were built in past two decades.
Hong Kong's best-known building is probably I. M. Pei's Bank of China Tower. The building attracted heated controversy from the moment its design was released to the public, which continued for years after the building's completion in 1990. The building was said to cast negative feng shui energy into the heart of Hong Kong due to the building's sharp angles. One rumour even went so far as to say that the negative energy was concentrated on the Government House as a Chinese plot to foil any decisions taken there. The two white aerials on top on the building were deemed inauspicious as two sticks of incense are burned for the dead.
One of the largest construction projects in Hong Kong has been the new Hong Kong International Airport on Chek Lap Kok near Lantau, which was the most extensive single civil engineering project ever undertaken. Designed by Sir Norman Foster, the huge land reclamation project is linked to the centre of Hong Kong by the Lantau Link, which features three new major bridges: the world's sixth largest suspension bridge, Tsing Ma, which was built in 1997, connecting the islands of Tsing Yi and Ma Wan; the world's longest cable-stayed bridge carrying both road and railway traffic, Kap Shui Mun, which links Ma Wan and Lantau; and the world's first major 4-span cable-stayed bridge, Ting Kau, which connects Tsing Yi and the mainland New Territories.
The HSBC Headquarters Building (left) and its neighborhood at night.
Architectural exhibit at the HK Planning & Infrastructure Exhibition
Jardine House and Exchange Square
- List of buildings and structures in Hong Kong
- List of tallest buildings in Hong Kong
- Housing in Hong Kong
- Heritage conservation in Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Institute of Architects
- List of cities with most skyscrapers
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